Born Dorothy Marie Marsh, October 11, 1932, in McMinnville, TN; died in an automobile accident, September 4, 1991; daughter of Hollis Marsh; married Bill West (an electronics engineer and musician), 1952 (divorced, 1969); married Byron Metcalf (a drummer), mid-1970s (divorced, 1980); married Alan Winters (a manager and sound engineer), c. 1983; children: Four from first marriage, including daughter Shelly and son Kerry. Education: Graduated from Tennessee Technological University during the 1950s.
Singer-songwriter Dottie West, a glamorous pillar of country music, first garnered widespread attention for her duet work with late country star Jim Reeves. After writing the hit "Is This Me?" for Reeves, she recorded "Love Is No Excuse" with him. In addition to duets with other artists, including Don Gibson and Kenny Rogers, West, who died in 1991, made a name for herself as a solo performer; she scored hits with "Here Comes My Baby" and "A Lesson in Leavin'" and became known for her trademark performance apparel, which usually consisted of high-heeled boots, tight jeans, and low-cut blouses. A regular feature of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, she also turned her award-winning commercial jingle for Coca-Cola, "Country Sunshine," into a country chart-climber.
West was born Dorothy Marie Marsh on October 11, 1932, in McMinnville, Tennessee. Though she was the eldest of ten children and had to work hard in cotton and sugar cane fields to contribute to the family's finances, her parents also exposed her to country music, which she loved from an early age. West sang in the church choir, and her father taught her to play the guitar before he deserted the family when Dottie was 13. While managing to help her mother in a family-owned restaurant, West was also able to continue her music lessons and after graduating from high school, entered Tennessee Technological University with the goal of majoring in music.
At the university West studied many genres of music, but country remained her favorite. She met another country fan there among her fellow students--Bill West, who majored in engineering but enjoyed playing steel guitar as a hobby. The two began performing together at campus functions and married while still completing their mutual degrees. After both graduated, the couple moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Bill West landed a job with an electronics firm. The Wests, however, still pursued their interest in playing country music and made appearances at local clubs. They were so successful in the region that they made regular appearances on the Cleveland television program Landmark Jamboree.
By 1959 Dottie West had attracted the attention of the small record label Starday, which signed her to a contract. Moving to Nashville, West and her husband were able to mix with famous or soon-to-be-famous country singers, including Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and Patsy Cline. At get-togethers with these friends, West began learning to write songs. The first one she finished, "Is This Me?," caught the notice of Jim Reeves. Reeves not only recorded it but brought West to the attention of his label, RCA, which signed her to sing duets with Reeves and to record solo albums.
Around the same time, both West and her husband were hired as songwriters by Tree Publishing Company. Together they penned "Here Comes My Baby," a song that not only garnered West her first Grammy Award for vocal performance but was recorded by many other artists, including Perry Como. During the same period, she cut "Love Is No Excuse" with Reeves. But this lucrative vocal partnership came to an end when Reeves was killed in a plane crash in 1964.
West's next major duet pairing came when she recorded an album with Don Gibson in 1968. The title track from the effort, Rings of Gold, reached Number One on country charts. Though Gibson did not wish to tour, West did, and the duo split after only one record. West continued to have success as a solo artist during the late 1960s with such songs as "Would You Hold It Against Me?," "What's Come Over My Baby," and "I'm a Country Girl." The last hit garnered West an offer to write a commercial based on it for Coca-Cola in 1970; the soft drink company liked the result so much that it signed her to a lifetime contract as a jingle writer.
In 1973 West provided Coca-Cola with another, even more successful ad featuring a song called "Country Sunshine." The immense popularity of the commercial prompted West to release the song as a single, and it became one of her biggest hits. The ad itself also netted West a prestigious Clio Award for commercial of the year; she was the first country artist ever to win that particular honor.
At about the same time, West's first marriage ended in divorce and she married her drummer Byron Metcalf, who was 11 years her junior. According to the Washington Post, West once commented, "Older men have been chasing around young girls for years, so it should be OK for women to be involved with younger guys." Her marriage to Metcalf ultimately dissolved because, West told Jim Albrecht of Country Style, of Metcalf's drinking problem. In the early 1980s, West wedded for the third time to another younger man, sound engineer Alan Winters. She told People' s Dolly Carlisle: "We're a perfect match. He's very mature for his age, and I grew up to be a kid."
In 1976 West signed with the United Artists label. Her friend, country star Kenny Rogers, recorded on United Artists as well, and one evening in 1978 both he and West were scheduled for recording sessions. Rogers was early for his own and sat in on West's; he decided to sing with her on the cut "Every Time Two Fools Collide." Studio executives liked the results and persuaded the duo to cut an entire album together. Released in 1978, Every Time Two Fools Collide earned Rogers and West a Country Music Association (CMA) award for duo of the year. The following year brought them the same award, this time for the album Classics. In addition to "Every Time Two Fools Collide," Rogers and West had hit singles with "Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight," "Til I Can Make It on My Own," and "All I Ever Need Is You."
During the 1980s, West continued to generate solo hits, most notably "A Lesson in Leavin'." Her popularity as a featured performer on the Grand Ole Opry endured as well. Also in that decade, West had the pleasure of watching her daughter Shelly West achieve country stardom with her hit "Jose Cuervo."
On September 4, 1991, West was killed in a car accident on her way to a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Her car had broken down, and she was picked up by a businessman who lost control of his vehicle while driving 30 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. Frantic about getting to the Opry on time, she had urged him to speed. West, in fact, had always shown such determination throughout her singing career, and with her resolve, she helped clear the way for other women performers to become prominent in the country music industry. According to country great Tammy Wynette, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, "[West] paved the way for so many of us." Country Music' s Rich Kienzle summed up West's significant musical accomplishments: "A master composer and vocalist, in the last three decades [of her life] she helped many new artists who had a major impact on where [country] music was headed. And in a nation where much of the population is aging, she proved glamour and style didn't end with youth."
by Elizabeth Wenning
Dottie West's Career
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Performed with husband, Bill West, in the Cleveland, OH, area, during the late 1950s; appeared on local television show Landmark Jamboree; signed with Starday Records, 1959; featured artist on the Grand Ole Opry, c. 1964-91; commercial jingle writer and performer for Coca-Cola, beginning in 1970. Appeared on television shows, including The Jimmy Dean Show, Country Music Hall, Faron Young Show, and the Tonight Show; and in films, including Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar and There's a Still on the Hill.
Dottie West's Awards
Writer's Award, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), c. 1961, for "Is This Me?;" Grammy Award for best country vocal performance, 1964, for "Here Comes My Baby;" nominated for several Grammy Awards; Clio Award for best commercial of the year, c. 1973, for "Country Sunshine;" Country Music Association (CMA) awards for vocal duo of the year, 1978 and 1979, for recordings with Kenny Rogers.
- "Here Comes My Baby," RCA, c. 1964.
- (With Jim Reeves) "Love Is No Excuse," RCA, c. 1964.
- "Would You Hold It Against Me?," RCA, 1966.
- "Paper Mansions," RCA, 1967.
- (With Don Gibson) "Rings of Gold," RCA, 1968.
- "I'm a Country Girl," RCA, c. 1969.
- "What's Come Over My Baby," RCA, c. 1969.
- "Country Sunshine," RCA, 1973.
- "When It's Just You and Me," United Artists, 1976.
- (With Kenny Rogers) "Every Time Two Fools Collide," United Artists, 1978.
- (With Rogers) "Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight," United Artists, c. 1978.
- (With Rogers) "Til I Can Make It on My Own," United Artists, c. 1979.
- (With Rogers) "All I Ever Need Is You," United Artists, c. 1979.
- "A Lesson in Leavin'," United Artists, 1980.
- "You Pick Me Up," United Artists, c. 1980.
- "Leavin's for Unbelievers," United Artists, c. 1981.
- "Are You Happy, Baby?," United Artists, 1981.
- Here Comes My Baby RCA, 1965.
- Dottie West Sings RCA, 1966.
- Suffer Time RCA, 1966.
- With All My Heart RCA, 1967.
- Sacred Ballads RCA, 1967.
- I'll Help You RCA, 1967.
- (With Don Gibson) Rings of Gold RCA, 1968.
- Country and West RCA, 1970.
- Legend in My Time RCA, 1971.
- Careless Hands RCA, 1971.
- Have You Heard RCA, 1971.
- I'm Only a Woman RCA, 1972.
- (With Kenny Rogers) Every Time Two Fools Collide United Artists, 1978.
- (With Rogers) Classics United Artists, 1979.
- Special Delivery United Artists, 1979.
- Wild West United Artists, 1981.
- Collector's Series RCA, 1985.
- Stambler, Irwin, and Grelun Landon, The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country, and Western Music, St. Martin's, 1984.
- Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1991.
- Country Music, November/December 1991.
- Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1991.
- New York Times, September 5, 1991.
- People, September 12, 1983.
- Washington Post, September 5, 1991.