Billie Jo Spears
Born: Jan. 14, 1938 in Beaumont, Texas
Died: Dec. 14, 2011
Sultry-voiced, blues-influenced singer/songwriter Billie Jo Spears made her professional debut at the age of 13 at an all-star country show in Houston featuring George Jones and Jean Shepard. With help from songwriter Jack Rhodes, Spears signed to Abbott Records in 1953 and released "Too Old for Toys, Too Young for Boys," which appeared on the B-side of Mel Blanc's "I Dess I Dotta Doe." On the single, she appeared as Billie Jo Moore and later sang the song on the Louisiana Hayride.
After high school, Spears became a nightclub singer. She signed with United Artists in 1964 and worked with producer Kelso Herston. Spears then moved with Herston to Capitol Records and recorded "Harper Valley P.T.A." She scored a hit with her single, "He's Got More Love in His Little Finger." "Mr. Walker, It's All Over," hit the top five on the country charts.
Spears had to curtail her career when a nodule was discovered on one of her vocal cords. She spent six months unable to speak, and it took a full year for her to recover. Upon her return, Spears recorded on different independent labels. In 1974, polyps were discovered in her larynx, and doctors feared she would lose her voice for good. Although she spent another six months in silence, Spears returned to United Artists at the end of the year and recorded "See the Funny Little Clown." Her biggest recording success came with her first number one hit "Blanket on the Ground," in 1975.
The next year was Spears' most successful, beginning with a major trans-Atlantic hit, "What I've Got in Mind." She finished 1976 with five hits, including "Sing Me an Old Fashioned Song." She continued to perform until she passed away in 2011.