Pete Hartman

"When you write a song like "The Wild Side of Life" and the hit line of the chorus is "I didn't know God made honky tonk angels", you gotta realize you're speaking from the man's point-of-view and it just begs for a response. And Hank Thompson's song- oh man- did it get a response from none other than the ringleader of feisty female singers. I'm talking about the fabulous Kitty Wells. No sooner had Thompson been enjoying his success, than she recorded her response, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." Same tune, but very different words, and what a contrary, in-your-face viewpoint.

The song's been covered by many artists, but Kitty's is still the best.

And in a major way, she turned it around on Hank Thompson and opened the door to women being heard in country music. His version made women a little ashamed of the label, honky tonk angel, but Kitty's song and commentary made it something that certain- not all- women could wear with pride. And it opened the door to other songs that are strongly from the woman's point-of-view and don't apologize about it. Check out Loretta Lynn's You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man or Fist City or The Pill; or Jeannie C. Riley's Harper Valley P.T.A, all very controversial songs at the time. Rural women, after all, were supposed to be seen and not heard. But in the country, the women are strong (and the men, good lookin') and these songs were about "empowerment" long before Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique or Gloria Steinem thought about bra-burning. Go read up on the women's movement and every writer brings up that book, but nobody ever, ever mentions Kitty Wells or Loretta.

It just ain't right somehow.

As I sit here tonight the jukebox playin'
The tune about the wild side of life
As I listen to the words you are sayin'
It brings memories when I was a trusting wife

It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk Angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong

It's a shame that all the blame is on us women
It's not true that only you men feel the same
From the start most every heart that's ever broken
Was because there always was a man to blame

It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk Angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong

And were the women listening? Oh yeah! Go-after-your no-good-man-with-a-frying-pan they were listening! The song was never, ever forgotten and became a rallying cry for country women everywhere. Forty-one years after the original release- in 1993- it lead to an album called, Honky Tonk Angels, produced by Steve Buckingham and featuring none other than Loretta, Dolly, and Tammy.  Talk about a lineup of "Mister, I ain't taking none of your foolishness" women! And guess who makes a guest appearance on the cut of It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels? Yup, Kitty Wells.  That's her on the first two lines of the 2nd verse. Still kickin' butts and takin' names. Nice to see a little respect paid to the woman who kicked off the movement.

And finally, here's a neat little clip of Waylon and Jesse having fun with the back-and-forth with these two songs. Live from Austin, TX:

So when you go to the show on Saturday, just know that there's a ton of history behind the headline title of the evening, A Night of Honky Tonk Angels. Lots and lots of history there. That title wasn't just picked out of the blue by accident. Many early artists laid the foundation and richly deserve the credit for what they did a long time ago. Lest we forget...."

Thanks for adding some perspective on the show Pete.

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