NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Country singer-songwriter Jean Shepard has passed away at the age of 82.
The Country Music Hall of Fame confirmed her passing Sunday morning.
Shepard’s son Hawkshaw Hawkins said his mother was not only a trailblazing country music star, she was an amazing mother.
“The best memories I have was when we would stay on the road and play cards because that is when I would get to spend time with mama,” Hawkins said. “She was doing state fairs and stuff like that so they would always have someone there who would let us ride the rides and stuff.”
He continued, “It was a really great childhood, we were truly blessed.”
Born Ollie Imogene Shepard in Oklahoma, she later settled in Lebanon.
Her first hit, “A Dear John Letter,” a 1953 duet she recorded with Ferlin Husky, was the first post-World War II record by a woman country artist to sell more than a million copies.
Shepard was considered a pioneer for women in country music, paving the way for artists such as Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.
“She was a true icon in this industry,” her son Corey Birchfield said. “She had so many friends and peers who are going to miss her.”
She released a total of 73 singles to the Hot Country Songs chart.
Shepard has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1955 and is the longest serving female member of the Opry in history.
In 1963, she suffered a devastating tragedy when her husband Hawkshaw Hawkins was killed in a plane crash.
Also on the plane were Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Cline’s Manager. Following the deadly crash, Sheppard stepped away from performing for several months, before returning to the stage.
She then released her hit song “Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar)” in 1964 and it went to No. 5.
In 1968, Sheppard married bluegrass musician and road manager Benny Birchfield, who she remained married to until her death.
In 2011, Sheppard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.