Leona WilliamsView in iTunes
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Leona Williams was born Leona Belle Helton on January 7, 1943, in Vienna, MO. She sang in her family band as a child and by 1958 had landed her own radio show on Jefferson City's KWOS called Leona Sings. This outlet brought her to the attention of Loretta Lynn, who asked Williams to join her touring band as a bassist and backup vocalist. Williams signed as a solo artist with Hickory in 1968 and cut a few minor hits for the label, including "Once More" and "Country Girl with Hot Pants On." She bounced from Hickory to MCA, where she recorded the landmark San Quentin's First Lady in 1976. (It was the first country album recorded by a female inside a prison.) Williams had joined Merle Haggard's backing band in 1975, but she soon replaced his estranged wife Bonnie Owens as featured vocalist. She and Haggard's professional and private lives were merged for several years. While their brief marriage was stormy, the duo was more successful as a songwriting team. Released in 1978, "Bull and the Beaver" cracked the country Top Ten; "We're Strangers Again" charted in 1983, but the song also marked the dissolution of her relationship with Haggard. Williams continued to record and contributed vocals to albums by Vince Gill and Johnny Bush. She released the solo effort Melted Down Memories in 1999 and appeared as part of the Us Girls! music variety show in Branson, MO. In what seems like a smart and obvious move, she released Leona Williams Sings Merle Haggard in 2008. ~ Johnny Loftus