COUNTRY and western singer and rock ’n’ roll pioneer
Born: 27October, 1924, in Towanda, Illinois, US.
Died: 8 December, 2015, in Cincinnati, Ohio, US, aged 91.
Bonnie Lou, a pioneering country music artist and rock ’n’ roll singer and who later became a TV host, has died in a Cincinnati nursing home. She was 91.
Born Mary Joan Kath in Towanda, Illinois, Lou began playing the violin and guitar as a child. By age 16, she was singing and performing on local radio stations in the Midwest. Her big break came a year later when she was signed to a contract to perform on a barn dance show, the Brush Creek Follies. She was known as Sally Carson and her group was The Rhythm Rangers. The show was broadcast nationwide.
Known for her yodeling, she later was dubbed Bonnie Lou and was featured on a show that became the Midwestern Hayride, a country and western radio programme on WLW in Cincinnati. This led to tours and eventually several performances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
Bonnie Lou was a popular radio performer through the 1940s and some of her performances were cut to acetate and released to the public. In the 1950s, she signed with record companies as a country music singer. She had Top 10 country hits with Tennessee Wig Walk and Seven Lonely Days.
Later, she began recording rockabilly. In 1954, she recorded Two-Step Side-Step, written by Murry Wilson, whose sons became rock legends as the Beach Boys. A year later, her first rock ’n’ roll record, Daddy-O, rose to No.14 on the Billboard chart. She was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
WLW’s television affiliate allowed Lou to transition to TV. She co-hosted and sang on the popular local show, the Paul Dixon Show.
She performed in public occasionally into her 80s. There was a resurgence of interest in her music about 15 years ago. Compilations of her songs have been released since 2000 and most of her recordings are available on digital downloads.
Lou was married to Glenn Ewins from 1945 until his death in 1964. They had a daughter, Constance. She married her second husband, Milton Okum, a furniture store owner and magician, in 1966.