Brenda Lee was born Brenda Mae Tarpley in the charity ward of Grady Memorial Hospital, part of the Emory University Hospital complex, in Atlanta, Georgia, the second daughter of Rubin and Grace Tarpley. Her father, a carpenter and semi-professional baseball player was killed in a construction accident in 1953.
In 1962, during a Jackie Wilson concert at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Nashville, Brenda met her future husband, Ronnie. They were married on April 24, 1963 while Brenda, still in her teens, was at the height of her record chart popularity.
Brenda Lee's marriage had been one case of a show business teaming that has endured ... she and her husband have passed their third decade milestone. They have two daughters, Julie (born in 1964) and Jolie(born in 1969). Both daughters are married.
On the personal side of her fame, Brenda Lee is a tireless supporter and spokeswoman in the organizational levels of Nashville's music community, as well as for the numerous charitable organizations on the local and national levels that Brenda lends not only her name, but her personal energies. She had served on the Country Music Association Board of Directors (8 years) and, is presently on the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
The Kidney Foundation, American Cancer Society, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and The March of Dimes are among the organizations that Brenda had lent not only her time and talents, but more importantly, her heart.
Accolades and Recognitions
Brenda's first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry came on December 22, 1957, the same night a young performer named Elvis Presley made a rare Opry appearance.
Brenda Lee is credited with more double sided hit singles than any other woman in the history of pop music.
Charted in more categories (pop, rock easy listening, country and rock) than any other female in the history of recorded music.
In retrospect of the entire decade of the 1960s, Brenda is the top charted female act, and fourth overall charted act, with Elvis, The Beatles and Ray Charles completing the top four.
Brenda Lee ranks #9 in "Most Consecutive Top Ten Hits Of All Time," a category shared by both male and female artists.
In 'Newsweek' magazine's 1977 compilation of "Top 20 Artists Of The Past 20 Years," Brenda's accomplishments placed her in the #7 position. 'Newsweek' also credited her as one of the five leading American artists that had best survived the British Invasion of the early '60's.
In 1989, Brenda was nominated for the "Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame"
October 3, 1987 was officially proclaimed "Brenda Lee Day," in her native Lithonia, Georgia.
On September 6, 1984, Brenda was presented the prestigious "Governor's Award," by the National Academy Of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) in Nashville. The occasion, marking the fourth time the award was bestowed by NARAS for lifetime career contributions to the recording industry, was heralded by a glittering award celebration, appropriately titled, "A Tribute To A Legend." It was proclaimed "Brenda Lee Day," by both the Mayor of Nashville and Governor Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
Brenda Lee was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame on September 23, 1982, and was presented the "Georgy Award," by her homestate in recognition of a lifetime of accomplishments by the state's native daughter.
Brenda performed a 'Royal Command Performance,' before Queen Elizabeth II of England on November 2, 1964, in London.
In October 1994, Brenda Lee headlined a sell-out concert at the historic 'Royal Albert Hall,' in London -- a performance that marked the crowning jewel of a month long European concert series.
On a whimsical note, a miniature rose was named for Brenda Lee by the American Rose Society in 1990. The 'Brenda Lee' rose is yellow with pink to red edges, depending on the amount of sun it receives. In the words of the Rose Society, it is described as, "A Little Beauty That Is Exceptionally Hearty, Smaller Than Other Miniature Roses, And An All-Round Winner!" Obviously, a perfect tribute to it's namesake.
Published with permission of Rockabilly Hall Of Fame