Born on August 19, 1966, in Jacksonville, TX; daughter of Aubrey and Ann Womack; married Jason Sellers, 1990; divorced, 1997; married, Frank Liddell, November, 1999; daughters, Aubrie Lee (with Sellers), Anna Lise (with Liddell). Education: South Plains Junior College, Levelland, TX, 1984; Belmont College (now Belmont University), 1985-90. Addresses: Manager--The Erv Woolsey Company, 1000 18th Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37212, phone: (615) 329-2402; Buddy Lee Attractions, 38 Music Square, Suite #300, Nashville, TN 37203, phone: (615) 244-4336, fax: (615) 726-0429. Website--Lee Ann Womack Official Website: http://www.leeannwomack.com.
After working in the music industry as a promoter and songwriter for a number of years, country music singer Lee Ann Womack released a debut album of her own in 1997. With one-half million records sold in the first year, Womack ranked as a solid hit-maker by the end of the decade, with three albums and several hit singles to her credit. By the end of the decade, Womack had collected an impressive cache of awards from major music associations, including best new female vocalist of 1997, favorite new country artist of 1998, and single of the year along with song of the year in 2000. She had barely exceeded the status of a newcomer, yet already she had amassed a battery of attentive fans, attracted by her fresh talent. Critics hailed her forthright and traditional approach to country music. The younger generation of country musicians identified with her uncluttered singing style and her capable guitar playing. Womack's twangy vocals further imbued her recordings with a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of great country music crooners, and her songwriting efforts have brought her into collaborations with some of the classic country artists of the late twentieth century.
Womack was born on August 19, 1966, in Jacksonville, Texas. She was the second of two daughters of Ann and Aubrey Womack. Her mother was a schoolteacher; her father was a full-time high school principal and a part-time disc jockey. As a young child, Womack's love of music was apparent. She studied piano and enjoyed her many trips to the radio station with her father. Womack in fact harbored a steadfast dream of going to Nashville and might otherwise have grown discontented with life in her small Texas town. Instead, she was attracted to the local celebrity status of her father in his radio career at KEBE-AM Jacksonville, and she resolved to emulate his success in her own way by joining the ranks of country musicians whose voices drifted across the radio waves all day long.
After graduation from Jacksonville High School in 1984, Womack enrolled in a country music curriculum at South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas, against the advice of her parents and counselors. As a college student she toured as a vocalist with the school band, County Caravan, yet by the end of her first year at South Plains--overpowered by her own eagerness--she abandoned the associate degree program and quit the junior college. At 18 years of age and determined to head for Nashville, she made a compromise with her parents and enrolled at Tennessee's Belmont University (then Belmont College) in Nashville for the following school year. At Belmont she studied commercial aspects of the music business and lived in a dormitory at the insistence of her parents.
Womack entered Belmont as a sophomore and was beside herself with enthusiasm at being in Nashville. She wasted little time in securing a student internship in the A&R department at MCA Records, a job geared to upper classmen, but one that she secured nonetheless through unflappable persistence. Although she continued her studies until 1990, she left school shortly before securing a degree. She was in fact on the verge of graduation when she quit her final class requirements to pursue an affair of the heart; that same year she married her college sweetheart, musician Jason Sellers. As a newlywed, Womack worked as a waitress, and for a brief time, at a day care center following the birth of her first child. Overall, though, Womack remained focused in pursuit of her career. In 1995, she signed with Sony/ATV Tree Publishing as a songwriter. There she co-wrote songs both for and with some of the prominent personalities in country music. She collaborated with Whisperin' Bill Anderson on occasion, and Ricky Skaggs picked up one of her songs, "I Don't Remember Forgetting," for inclusion on an album.
Ultimately it was the breakup of her young marriage that left Womack as a single mother in the mid 1990s and spurred her to pursue her aspiration in earnest. She held tenaciously to her desire to sing and secured a simple, acoustic audition for MCA Nashville chairman Bruce Hinton. Hinton spoke nothing but praise for the promising talent of the young Womack, according to Billboard's Chet Flippo, and soon afterward Womack accepted a contract offer from Decca Records.
Early in 1997, Womack appeared live in her debut in which she was introduced by her father via videotape at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. The introduction by her own father left Womack emotionally charged for her performance at the seminar with attendees numbering approximately 2,500 industry members, many of which were disc jockeys. Thus, by the release of her debut album on Decca in the following May, her advance single, "Never Again, Again" had made playlists and charts already since early March. Advance play of a subsequent single, "The Fool," generated a renewed swell of anticipation mere weeks before the ultimate release of the self-titled album.
The traditional country-style inflection of Womack's singing struck a chord with country music lovers and earned her the title of Best New Female Vocalist of 1997 from the Academy of Country Music (ACM). She was nominated as the Horizon Breaking Artist at the Country Music Awards (CMA), and Billboard named her the top new artist that year. Womack's debut album produced a bevy of hit singles, including "A Little Past Little Rock" in addition to "The Fool" and "Never Again, Again." The single "The Fool" secured a spot at number one on the charts. David Hajdu cited her debut album among the top three country albums of 1997 in Entertainment Weekly. The following year Womack secured the title of Favorite New Country Artist at the American Music Awards (AMA) and released a follow-up album, Some Things I Know. Sales of her earlier album meanwhile topped 500,000 units that year.
When Decca Records shut down in 1999, Womack migrated to the MCA Nashville label. Her third album was released on the new label in 2000 and met with instant success. The recording, I Hope You Dance, made its debut at number one on the Billboard country music chart. I Hope You Dance and its popular title track earned Womack an impressive six CMA award nominations that year; she won two of them: Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Soon afterward, early in 2001, the announcement was made that I Hope You Dance had earned six additional award nominations from the Academy of Country Music. The nominations included Best Album, Best Single and Best Song for the title track by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, and Best Video, also for the title track. Additionally, "I Hope You Dance" received a nomination for Best Vocal Event for the title track performance with Sons of the Desert. Womack received a sixth nomination for Best Female Vocalist.
According to Time, Womack's professional tenacity had earned her the status of a permanent fixture in country music. Her unmistakably countrified voice has been compared to Tammy Wynette. In 2000, People's Ralph Novak called her an "erstwhile Texas firebrand" and declared I Hope You Dance as Womack's best effort at that point. Hinton called the record "a career record," according to Deborah Price and Chuck Taylor in Billboard. Jamie Schilling Fields noted in Texas that Womack "works a sob" with her "cake-sweet soprano that sings like it talks in small-town cain't's and git's," and commented candidly that, "her songs are great." Although Womack admits that much of her music presents an underlying theme relating to so-called cheating hearts, she voiced disapproval at such a lifestyle and earned a reputation for moralizing to her band and entourage about marital fidelity.
From the first appearance of her debut album in 1997, Womack created a stir among established country music superstars. Among them, Loretta Lynn was inspired to write possible songs for her, and Womack received a gift of a trademark red, white, and blue guitar from cowboy crooner Buck Owens. Other popular singers eagerly collaborated with Womack as word of her talent rippled throughout the country music industry. She has made recordings with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, and Mark Chesnutt.
by Gloria Cooksey
Lee Ann Womack's Career
Student intern with MCA Records, late 1980s; songwriter, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, 1995-96; signed with Decca Records, 1996; released debut album, Lee Ann Womack, 1997; released Some Things I Know, 1998; signed with MCA Nashville, 1999; released I Hope You Dance, 2000.
Lee Ann Womack's Awards
Best New Female Vocalist, Academy of Country Music, 1997; Favorite New Country Artist, American Music Awards, 1998; Single of the Year, Country Music Association, 2000; Song of the Year, Country Music Association, 2000.
- Selected discography
- "Never Again, Again," Decca, 1997.
- "The Fool," Decca, 1997.
- "A Little Past Little Rock," Decca, 1998.
- "I Hope You Dance," MCA Nashville, 2001.
- Lee Ann Womack , Decca, 1997.
- Some Things I Know (includes "If You're Ever Down in Dallas" and "The Man Who Made My Mama Cry"), Decca, 1998.
- I Hope You Dance , MCA Nashville, 2000.
- As songwriter
- "If You're Ever Down in Dallas" (with Jason Sellers), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, 1998.
- "The Man Who Made My Mama Cry" (with Billy Lawson and Dale Dodson), Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, 1998.
November 15, 2005: Womack won the Country Music Association award for album of the year, for There's More Where That Came From; she shared the award for vocal event of the year with George Strait, for "Good News, Bad News". Source: CMA Awards, www.cmaawards.com/2005/nomWin/, November 16, 2005.
- World Almanac & Book of Facts, 2000, World Almanac Education Group, Inc.
- Billboard, April 5, 1997, p. 1; August 23, 1997, p. 100; August 22, 1998, p. 25; May 31, 2000, p. 5; July 1, 2000, p. 68; March 10, 2001, p. 6.
- Entertainment Weekly, January 2, 1998, p. 162.
- People, June 19, 2000, p. 45; July 31, 2000, p. 129.
- Texas, October 1998, p. 80; October 2000, p. 24.
- Time, August 14, 2000, p. 80.
- "Lee Ann News and Facts," Country.tzo.com, http://www.country.tzo.com/public/law_news.htm (April 10, 2001).
- "Lee Ann Womack: I Hope You Dance," MCA Nashville, http://mca-nashville.com/leeannwomack/bio.htm (April 9, 2001).