This month's spotlight is on "Little Miss Dynamite," Brenda Lee. This dynamic perfomer sang
rockabilly, pop and country music, and had 37 US chart hits during the 1960s, a number surpassed only by Elvis
Presley, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis. She is best known for her 1960 hit "I'm Sorry",
and 1958's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", a US holiday standard for more than 50 years.
At 4 ft 9 inches tall, she received the nickname Little Miss
Dynamite in 1957 after recording the song "Dynamite"; and was one of the earliest pop stars to have a major
contemporary international following.
She was born in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1950, at the age
of 5,Brenda represented
Conyers (Georgia) Grade School in an annual talent contest at the Spring Festival conducted among several
elementary schools in the area. Brenda donned a home-made evening gown and sang "Slow Poke" or "Take Me Out To The
Ballgame" (according to different sources). Brenda won first prize in the talent contest and runner-up in the
1956 Brenda got her first big break when she visited her favorite country singer, Red Foley. She was invited
to sing a song on his show and Brenda performed "Jambalaya." She continued to sing song after song to
the amazement of Foley who was quoted as saying "I felt guilty not going to the box office and buying a ticket to
watch her perform."
On May 21, 1956 at
the age of 12, Brenda signed her first recording contract with Decca records. Her first recording session was on July 30, 1956. She recorded seven songs that
day with Paul Cohen as her producer. The songs were: "Jambalaya," "Bigelow 6-200," "Some People," "Your Cheatin'
Heart," "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus," "Doodle Bug Rag," and "Christy
"Jambalaya"/"Bigelow 6-200" was released as the
first single on September 17, 1956. There was moderate chart success
in early 1957 with Brenda's third release, "One Step At a Time." It climbed to #43 in the Billboard charts. The
song peaked at #15 on the country charts.
The next single, "Dynamite," has importance because it gave her the nickname of
"Little Miss Dynamite". . . because of her explosive stage act. The title is still used today to describe Brenda.
"Dynamite" was the last chart success for the next 2-1/2 years.
In 1957, Dub Albritten became her personal manager and remained so until his death in
1972. Brenda and her family also moved to Nashville in
On August 13, 1959, Brenda recorded "Sweet Nothin's." The song was released on
September 29, 1959. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard charts in late April 1960. This single became the first of
many top 10 songs for Brenda. "Sweet Nothin's" was Brenda's first chart success in England climbing to #4 and the
first chart success in Germany, peaking at # 34.
Brenda's first number
one song was released in May 1960. "I'm Sorry" stayed on the charts for 6
In 1959, Dub Albritten decided it was time to book her on an international level. He arranged a
booking in Paris, France. On February 18, 1959 Brenda opened in Paris, France at the Olympia Music Hall with
Gilbert Becaud. She was originally signed for 3 weeks and was held over for another 5 weeks. The appearance almost
ended before it started. Publicity pictures had been sent over and showed Brenda dressed in her typical schoolgirl
clothes. The theatre kept writing asking for more recent pictures because they could not believe that such a big
voice could come from such a little girl. Albritten kept writing and said that these were recent pictures. Then Dub
had an idea to manufacture a story which ran in the French paper, La Figaro, that Brenda was actually a 32 year old
midget. Albritten denied the story. The result was great publicity for her. La Figaro compared Brenda favorably to
The response of the Paris engagement lead to more European dates in Germany, Italy,
and England followed by a tour of South America. Jack Good's Oh Boy! TV show introduced Brenda to the British
audience. In Brazil, she received the greatest reception ever accorded an American entertainer as she made a
month-long tour with 21 performances. The tour netted 51 front page newspaper stories and features in nine
magazines. Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitshek de Oliveira said she was "the best goodwill ambassador the U.S.
ever had." After these tours Brenda returned to the states an international star.
All of Brenda Lee's albums have been certified gold or platinum.
On November 30, 1961, Brenda recorded her first records sung in German, ("Anybody But
Me" and "Fool # 1"), Italian ("Fool # 1"), and French ("Fool # 1") in Nashville, Tennessee. On February 26, 1963,
Brenda recorded four songs sung in German. The recording took place in West Germany with Bert Kampfert as producer.
Brenda recorded six more songs in German on March 26, 1964 in Nashville, Tennessee. Several songs which became hits
in Germany including "No My Boy," "Wiedersehn Ist Wunderschen," and "Ich Will Immer Auf Dich Warten" which became
Brenda's highest charted record in Germany reaching #13 in the charts by the end of 1964.
On September 17, 1964, Brenda recorded "Is It True" and "What'd I Say" in England
with Mickey Most as producer. "Is It True" was released in England and then in the States and become a very big hit
and gained gold record status. "What'd I Say" was released in Europe but never in the United States.
In July 1965, Brenda conquered Japan with her first of many tours. Her first Japanese
recording was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee on February 16, 1965. The song was "One Rainy Night in Tokyo" sung
in English and Japanese. This song became one of Brenda's many gold records and one of many standards in Japan. On
July 13, 1965, Brenda recorded three Christmas songs ("White Christmas", "Silent Night," and "Jingle Bells"),
originally released on the "Merry Christmas" album, in Japan. These three songs were never released in the United
States. Two live albums have been released in Japan. The first was "Live in Tokyo" in 1965 and the second one was
"Live in Japan" in 1975. On October 13 and 14, 1977, Brenda recorded twelve songs in Japan which were originally
released on the Japanese album "Just for You, Something Nice."
Richard Barstow was a top national choreographer and was Brenda's choreographer for
many years starting in 1963 and lasting until his death in 1982. Barstow is also known for the choreography for
Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland. He was the choreographer for Judy Garland in A Star Is Born. A signed
picture of Richard Barstow and Judy Garland that Brenda has hanging on her wall states: "To Dear Brenda Lee Ñ A
Marvelous Artist. Another "Great" in My Life. Love from Richard Barstow."
Brenda made summer stock appearances in the Wizard of Oz (1963) as Dorothy and Bye
Bye Birdie (1962) as Kim. Brenda starred for 3 highly successful seasons at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. In
the 1988 and 1989 seasons, she performed in Music, Music, Music. In the 1990 season, Brenda starred in Spirit of
America. Brenda performed in 754 shows during the 3-year run, NEVER missing a
This artist still makes performances today. She will always remain in our heart as "Little