Every year at Christmas time, we’re reminded of what a phenomenal performer Brenda Lee has been over the years! Lee, who was born in 1944 broke into the music business with her first professional appearances when she was just 12 years old in 1956. She was only 14 when she recorded the rockin’ rockabilly Christmas classic, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and the song has become a must-have standard to lovers of Christmas music. It’s just one of the many accomplishments in Lee’s career.
Lee’s voice was amazingly mature for such a young girl and she could use it like no one else had ever heard anyone sing before. It didn’t take Lee’s career long to kick into overdrive after her initial recordings and she began to take the musical world by storm. She signed her first record contract with Decca Records in that same year, 1956 and her first Decca record was “Jambalaya”/”Bigelow 6-200.”
She hit the charts for the first time in early 1957 with the song “”One Step At a Time” which reached #43 in the Billboard charts and #15 on the country charts. Brenda Lee had hit the scene and was on her way! But it was her next single, “Dynamite,” that gave Lee the nickname Little Miss Dynamite, a moniker that fit her extremely well!
In December of 1957, she appeared on The Grand Ol’ Opry for the first time and it happened to be the same night that a young rockabilly singer named Elvis Presley made one of his very rare Opry appearances. There’s a great picture of the two of them standing together back stage and the picture reminds you of what a young girl Lee really was at the time.
After the legendary Owen Bradley became her producer (a relationship that lasted well into the mid 70s), Lee had her first top ten smash hit with “Sweet Nothings” which was followed quickly by her first #1 chart topper, “I’m Sorry.” Both of these hits came in 1960. “I’m Sorry” also became Lee’s first gold record. Little Miss Dynamite had certainly arrived!
Like many other rockabilly and early rock and roll stars, Brenda embarked on an international tour and quickly became an international sensation too. In 1961 she recorded several songs in German, Italian, and French and saw these songs sky rocket up the charts in those countries. And she wasn’t even 20 years old yet!
In 1965 she embarked on her first tour of Japan to more resounding success. She also recorded songs in Japanese and the Japanese market ate it up.
Lee has 29 gold records to her name, including “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” which has sold seven million copies worldwide and “I’m Sorry” which has sold an astonishing 15 million copies! She has achieved more double-sided hits than any other woman in pop music and has charted in more categories (including pop, country, R&B, easy listening, etc.) than any other woman in music history. She’s #9 on the list of most consecutive top-10 hits and #21 on the list of most charting singles of all time. She’s been nominated for four Grammy awards (though she’s never won) and is nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1997 she became the youngest person ever inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
All of these accomplishments and accolades lead up to an obvious fact that anyone who’s ever heard her sing knows instantly: Brenda Lee has been one amazing performer! John Lennon summed it up simply enough when he said, “She has the greatest rock and roll voice of them all.”