The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will open a special spotlight exhibit dedicated to Dottie West on November 9. Dottie West: Country Sunshine will include costumes and relics spanning Dottie’s four-decade career and be housed within the museum’s permanent exhibit on the second floor. It will run through May 2, 2013.
The exhibit will trace Dottie’s journey from her humble beginnings in Tennessee and an abusive father to an award-winning member of the Grand Ole Opry, culminating with her death in 1991. Dottie charted dozens of singles, was the first female country artist to win a GRAMMY and helped launch artists such as Larry Gatlin, Jeannie Seely and Steve Wariner.
Born Dorothy Marie Marsh on October 11, 1932 in Frog Pond, Tennessee, she was the oldest of 10 children. She grew up playing guitar, even fronting a band with high school classmates. She married steel guitarist Bill West in 1952 and the couple moved to Nashville with their two children in 1961.
Chet Atkins signed Dottie to a record deal in the mid-1960s and produced her self-written single “Here Comes My Baby.” The song launched her career and earned a GRAMMY for Best Country Western Performance, Female. She co-wrote “Country Sunshine” in 1973 and though it was a jingle for Coca-Cola, it became her signature song.
Dottie is also known for her duets, especially with Kenny Rogers. The pair first met in 1977 and recorded “Every Time Two Fools Collide” which went on to be the first in a string of hits for them. By the late 1970s, Dottie was known for her signature glamorous, custom-designed wardrobe. Among the most well-known designs were her stage costumes created by Bob Mackie, whose list of clients included Cher, Diana Ross and The Carol Burnett Show.
After a few years off the charts and some bad investments, Dottie filed for bankruptcy in 1990. She continued performing on the Grand Ole Opry and during the following year, while on her way to an Opry performance, suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident. She died a few days later on September 4, 1991. She was 58.
Among the items on display in the Dottie West: Country Sunshine exhibit are the handwritten manuscript for “Frogpond Boogie,” a song she wrote in seventh grade, a Dottie West Fan Club card from 1961, several Bob Mackie creations, a selection of her rhinestone accessories and numerous career and personal photos, album covers and industry awards.
Spotlight exhibits are narratives that supplement the museum’s core exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey through Country Music. The short-term displays provide a closer look at a person, group or aspect of country music or spotlight recently donated items or special anniversaries. Other current spotlight exhibits focus on Garth Brooks, Jack Greene, Minnie Pearl, Hargus “Pig” Robbins and Connie Smith.