According to a press release from Shepard's publicist, "Jean was born Ollie Imogene Shepard in Oklahoma and raised one of ten children in Visalia, California. At age 14 she was spotted by country star Hank Thompson singing and playing bass in the all-girl band she’d formed called the Melody Ranch Girls. Thompson brought her to the attention of Capitol Records and soon the trailblazing Shepard was setting the precedent in country music for a young woman recording and touring on her own rather than as a member of a family act, a duo, or a band’s 'girl singer.'"
Jean became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and in November of 2015 became the only female to reach 60 years of Opry membership and earned the name the "Grand Lady." In 2011, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame alongside Bobby Braddock and Reba McEntire.
In one of her final interviews, Shepard shared her thoughts on today's country music and makes it clear that country music isn't the same today as it used to be.
“Sixty years ago, I loved what the Grand Ole Opry stood for,” she said during an interview inside the “Women of Country” dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry House. “I still love what it stands for, but not quite so much. Isn’t it terrible being so truthful?”
Jean is survived by husband Benny Birchfield and sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II and Corey Birchfield. Funeral arrangements are pending.
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