About The Artist
Kathy Dee was a stage name for Kathleen Dearth, who was born Kathleen Potts in Moundsville, West Virginia in 1933. Her entry into professionalism began on local TV in Cleveland, Ohio which also was a starting point for Dottie West.
In 1957, Kathy Dearth (as she was known then) became part of a television show in Cleveland that would eventually be called the Landmark Jamboree on WEWS-TV (Channel 5) in Cleveland. Originally, it was known as the Farm Bureau Jamboree. The emcee was Tommy Edwards and regulars included Kathy as well as Randy King and Dottie West. She was a part of the WWVA Jamboree when she agreed to be on this show in Cleveland. Reportedly she stayed with it for three years and returned to the Wheeling show.
Some of the articles contain little nuggets of information. In June of 1957, Wendy Blevins and Don Morris joined the host, Tommy Edwards along with "pretty little" Kathy Dearth and Dottie West along with the jamboree dancers. Kathy sang, "Rock Love"; Dottie and Kathy did a duet on "I'm Wondering Why." Later, Wendy, Dottie and Kathy did a trio number called "I've Got A New Heartache."
By the end of 1958, articles were calling the show the "Landmark Jamboree". In a December 1958 article, it noted that Kathy and Dottie would do a duet of "Christmas Island."
The show did have the occasional guest star making appearances as well. March 1959 saw Pee Wee King on one show and Conway Twitty on another. In May of 1959, the Osborne Brothers san their latest hit on MGM - "Give This Message To Your Heart."
Other regulars on the shows over the years were Tommy Mayersky, who called the square dances, Randy King Sanders and the Country Rhythm Boys and later, Rudy Thacker and the String Dusters.
By the time Kathy first joined WWVA in the mid-1950's, she had married George Dearth and was so identified by that surname on the cast photo. In a later photo from 1962, Kathy had shortened her last name to Dee and would be so identified thereafter. She was a Jamboree member off and on for the rest of her life, although she would be plagued by recurring health problems.
One of her early recordings was a song she wrote herself when she was just 14 years old - "Trail of Tears." b/w "The Ways of a Heart." The label of the 45 rpm shows Kathy wrote both songs using "K. Dearth" but the artist name was Kathy Dee.
Throughout her career Ms. Dee was managed by Quentin Welty who had the B-W Record label. Her first discs included a revival of "Teardrops in My Heart," a hit for the Sons of the Pioneers in 1947. In 1964, an album of her songs, Dee-Lightful, was released on the budget Guest Star label which apparently came from B-W masters as some the titles had appeared on singles.
Kathy also cut a single for Carlton Records. She and her manager Quentin Welty had gone to Nashville for a recording session. From that session in July of 1961, Carlton Records signed her. Her voice was a sincere, but soft one that was quite accommodating to the emerging "Nashville Sound." She wrote both songs on the Carlton label.
In 1962, Quentin released a new tune by Kathy on the B-W label during the annual Nashville convention, "If I Never Get To Heaven." The song became an instant hit in the Chicago market, even getting air play on pop stations such as WLS and featured by DJ Dick Biondi. In Chicago alone, the record sold 10,000 copies. That success led to her signing by the United Artists label.
Sometime in 1962, Quentin and Kathy formed a publishing company called "WelDee Music Co."
Dee's later recordings consisted of three singles on United Artists and one on Decca. The first single produced a genuine hit in "Unkind Words," passed on to her by fellow Jamboree artist and composer Jimmy Walker who eighteen years earlier had the first recording of the country standard. "Unkind Words" climbed to number 18 on the charts and was followed by "Don't Leave Me Lonely Too Long (written by Roy Drusky)," peaking at 44. A third single failed to chart and she moved on to Decca where her only single did not chart either.
In 1965, Kathy appeared with her band, Kathy's Klowns, at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, NV for a six week stint. The four member group backing her then was Jim Stump (drummer), Frankie Haven (bass), Bill Willis, Jack Leymon and Gene Hoover.
Kathy did extensive engagements at United States Military bases. She earned a "Knights of the Blue Nose" certificate for spending at least three months inside the Arctic Circle entertaining troops in Thule, Greenland. She also appeared at Goose Bay in Labrador and the Sondrestrom Air Force Base. Her entourage arrived back in the USA on January 18, 1967 only to receive a phone call from the NCO Club at Sondrestrom; they wanted her back there starting February 2. She fixed her schedule and she returned! On one of her appearances in Greenland, she worked with The Country Gents - Jack Turner and Tom Donahue.
After doing one nighters and fairs during the summer of 1967, Kathy had a week's engagement at the Golden Nugget in Sudbury, Ontario in Canada and then followed that up with an appearance at the Country Palace in Montreal, Quebec. She also appeared at the Horseshoe in Toronto during her career as well.
She appeared at other military bases such as the Naval base in Halifax, Nova Scotia and also the bases in Alaska. All told she did six tours of Greenland.
Kathy lost her eyesight due to her diabetic condition while she was appearing in Montreal on June 1, 1968. Her 17 year-old daughter, Sharon, was with her at the time. In August, a benefit show was held in Wheeling, WV on August 22, 1968 for Kathy, sponsored by Decca Records and RCA Victor. The Jamboree Hall, which could seat up to 10,000, was the selected venue as halls and auditoriums in the Cleveland and Akron areas were booked on that date. Stars that were giving their time and talent for the show were Bill Anderson and the Po' Boys, Hank Cochran, Jeannie Seely, Mel Tillis, Merle Travis and her former duet partner, Dottie West. The WSM Trust Fund also gave $2,500 to benefit Kathy as well.
Dottie noted that when she heard about Kathy losing her sight, she invited Kathy do sing with her during her June 1968 appearance in Akron, Ohio. She said Kathy did two of her tunes, "IF I Never Get To Heaven" and "Only As Far As The Door" in such a touching way that many in the audience burst into tears. That last appearance was on June 30, 1968. The show was held at the Akron Civic Theater. Other stars on the show were Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings and Tex Ritter along with Dottie. There were two shows on that Sunday - 3pm and 8pm.
In August 1968, Bill Anderson told the audience at the Owego Free Academy auditorium in Sayre, PA that he had appeared at the benefit concert for Kathy and said he had learned that since that time, Kathy had also suffered a stroke and a heart attack. A September 1968 article in The Tennessean indicated that Kathy had also developed kidney trouble that resulted in the removal of a kidney.
When Kathy went on stage at the benefit concert, she was in tears when she said, "I can't believe so many people would go to this trouble for me, and all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart. I only wish I could see you because you must all be beautiful."
Glenn Pullen wrote of Kathy's spirit in the article about the benefit show. Kathy said, "When my health improves I will start taking Braille reading lessons and learn how to walk with a Seeing-Eye dog as my companion." Decca had planned to have her do an album. Her last release was a tune called "Funny How Times Slips Away" which was written by Willie Nelson.
Despite some high points in her career, having been diagnosed with diabetes since age twelve, her condition grew worse. First, blindness crippled her progress which was followed by death a few months later. Kathy apparently made her last public appearance at the deejay convention in mid-October 1968. At the time of her demise she lived in Aurora, Ohio. She was survived by her husband (George) and daughter (Sharon).
Her long time manager, Quentin Welty (B. March 27, 1925; D: November 21, 2006) passed away in 2006 in Wooster, Ohio.
Credits & Sources
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