She was born Juanita Earlynne Morris in Owensboro, Kentucky, 1937, but country music
fans came to know her as Nita Lynn. Two years later the family moved
to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she could begin to develop her talents.
Nita was the youngest of the three girls in the family and she also had a brother.
Each of them knew a bit of music, including a few chords on a guitar.
However, Nita's fingers were too tiny to play until the guitar until
she was about seven years old. But, from then on, her sisters and brother
could not keep up with her.
The family got her on a television show called the "Kiddies Klub" when she
was just three years old. This show aired on KARK, where
she was quickly chosen "Queen Of The Arkansas Parade Of Youth" and began to reach a
large audience. She recalls getting "tons" of fan mail, perhaps more than
any other entertainer on the station.
She was known to the listening audience as "Little Miss Juanita Morris"
when she was working with Little Shoe and Charlie Dial over KLRA. She was only
nine or ten years old at the time.
Nita recalls from those childhood days that Little Shoe and Charlie Dial waited
for her to come to the station every Saturday. They told her they knew she would
be singing the very newest country songs that Nita's sisters had taught her
that week. Nita fondly remembers showing Charlie the chords to Eddy Arnold's hit
record back then, "Don't Rob Another Man's Castle"
the week that it came out. Imagine the talent a nine year old must have to be
teaching another entertainer many years older?
During those early childhood years, Nita recalled she also appeared on other shows
that were hosted by Dick Hart and Jack Hunt over radio station KARK. She told
us this would be about the mid-1940s.
As she grew older and became a teenager, she moved her talents over to KLRA or KARK in
Little Rock. She found another receptive radio audience and seemed to be the
artist getting the most fan mail.
Nita spoke of appearing at a venue in Little Rock, known as the J. T. Robinson
Auditorium. Looking at the city of Little Rock's web site, it was first opened
in 1939 and was at the corner of Markham and Broadway Streets. The auditorium
was named after a former Arkansas governor, senator and later a Democratic
candidate for vice-president in 1928, J. T. Robinson. She notes that on one occasion,
she was booked there with Jimmie Davis by Chick Webb of the Barnyard Frolics.
She would later return to the auditorium many times performing by herself. For
those appearances, she received the sum of $40.
Around that time, another new act was beginning to make a name for itself and appearing
with Nita - J. E. Brown and Maxine Brown (who later performed with their sister, Bonnie,
when she became old enough and were known as the Browns). At that time, J. E. (fans probably
know him better as Jim Ed, though his name really was J. E.) and Maxine were not paid
for their performances.
Her father was transferred to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana
when she was 13. She signed her first management contract with
Governor Jimmie Davis a couple of years later, when she was just 15.
That was also about the time she changed her professional name to Nita Lynn.
When she was 17, she signed a new contract to work under the
management of Grand Ole Opry star, Paul Howard and work with
his band, the Arkansas Cottonpickers.
In addition to signing up with Paul Howard, it moved her to working with the
station and show that was known as the Cradle of Stars, the KWKH
Louisiana Hayride, a fierce rival and at times, a stepping stone to
the popular WSM Grand Ole Opry.
While in Shreveport, Nita had her own television show over KSLA, channel 12,
"Nita and the Country Gentlemen". When Maxine and J. E. came to Shreveport
to make their first Louisiana Hayride appearance, Nita had
them on her show. That happened to be the very first television appearance
for what Nita recalls as two scared little kids! She remembers sitting in
their hotel room showing J.E. the chords to the bridge of "Blue Moon".
Then, they added 15 year old sister, Bonnie, and became The Brown's.
Nita began appearing on the Hayride occasionally, when she wasn't on the road,
Pappy Covington, who was head of the Artists Service Bureau, would give her a spot
on the stage with many, many, of the biggest names in the industry to ever
Back then they had what was called "packaged shows", which meant that in order
for ANYONE to make any money the booking agent had to have several acts
or stars on one show to draw enough people to pay for costs associated
with putting those shows such as the rent of an auditorium,
hotels and gasoline.
Nita shared the stage with all the big stars, all over the country,
and 'pulled' her own, as the booking agents would say. Many of the package shows
in the Shreveport area included, Kitty Wells, Johnny and Jack, Elvis Presley,
Mac Wiseman, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Caroline Bradshaw, Jim Reeves,
Hank Williams, Margie Singleton. Jimmy Fautheree and Johnny
(Country Johnny Mathis) Jumpin' Bill Carlisle, Goldie Hill, Slim Whitman,
Floyd Cramer (who was staff pianist on the Hayride then), and of course,
Paul Howard and The Arkansas Cottonpickers.
She was vocalist for Paul Howard's band for 8 years and he became
her agent / manager.
Paul took her to Nashville where she recorded, made many appearances on
WSM Grand Old Opry, and toured with literally every star of that
era that you could think of including
Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Little Jimmy Dickens, Cowboy Copas, Dottie
West, Willie Nelson, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Hank Snow,
Bob Wills, Larry Butler, Lonzo and Oscar, Homer and Jethro, Johnny Cash,
The Carter Family, George Jones, Carl Smith, Marty Robbins and well, you
get the picture.
On one occasion when she and Paul Howard did some appearances with
the king of Western Swing King, Bob Wills, he stated that
Nita was the best female vocalist in the business.
Some would agree with Bob and will even take it farther and say she was a great performer on
stage, not just an entertainer. When Miss Lynn worked and performed, you knew you had
gotten your money's worth.
Nita was a lovely, friendly young lady and very outgoing in nature. So
much so that it was said she made anyone around her feel like they were
an old friend. That personality prompted The Houston Chronicle's
Maxine Messenger to tell her readers in one interview:
"She exudes sunshine
to all who are near her, and a contagious smile that will leave you smiling
after she has left."
She was at one time a staff writer for Buddy Killen and Jack Stapp
at Tree International Publishing Company which now owned by Sony.
After having a few hits, it was a time that she also left country
music for about four years to work in private clubs in the Houston area.
She went there at the behest of Ernest Palmisano, with whom she had worked
with during her days in Shreveport, Louisiana.
But after about four years of that type of work, she found she was ready
to return not only to her country roots, but also Shreveport.
However, she worked very little in the music business then. That was
because she met a man who changed her life a bit; she almost immediately
married Dave Vosbury, who was a prominent swimming pool builder in the ArkLaTex area.
Nita and Dave had two sons and Nita was the proverbial "supermom, room mother,
den mother, choir assistant, and anything else a mother could be to support
the interests of her two sons.
She loved meeting her fans and the public, and would spend quite a bit
of time before and after personal appearances signing autographs and chatting with
In the early 1980s, she sang and co-hosted a television show for
four years in Dallas. When the red light came on the camera, Nita "came on", too.
It was as though she made love to the camera, and she made every viewer feel as
though she was singing just to them.
Back in Houston she met her next husband, Bob Zahn, an engineer with Halliburton.
They both retired in 1992, and are currently living in Shreveport
to be close to the kids and grandkids. Her husband plays a saxophone,
and the only place you can see them perform now is at the local churches.
They are gloriously happy to be back in Shreveport, among old friends and
children. Drop by and say 'Hi" (That is, if you can catch Nita not sleeping! She
says she lost so much sleep on the road in her younger days that she
is still trying to make up for it!)
She wants her fans to know that her sons are two of the greatest musicians
to ever hit the country—Robin and Keith Vosbury. Today, there is 15 year-old
grandson, Cole Vosbury.
She laughs that you can tell you are a has-been
when the boys used to be introduced as 'Nita Lynn's sons; now
it's "This is Keith's and Robin's mother, or Cole Vosbury's grandmother!"
But comments like that only make her proud of her musician sons. They can play just
about any instrument. Nita proudly says they left her sitting in the shade many years ago
and she can't even hold their picks.
Perhaps that may sound a little strange,
considering the King of guitars, Chet Atkins, once said that Nita plays more
guitar than any female he had ever heard.
But that kind of brings to the surface a secret resentment that built
up over the years for her when anyone stated that she played good
guitar, "for a woman". But when the person dishing out the complimentary
comments was the GREAT ONE, she could set aside those feelings.
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Nita Lynn herself for
contacting us and providing us with details about her musical career and photos
along with her rememberances of Paul Howard.