In 1955, 10 year old Brenda Tarpey was invited to appear on the Red Foley TV show, where she became an instant hit, signing with Decca Records under the name you know her as: Brenda Lee. Foley was convinced to bring the young girl onto his show after an audition in which she sang the song “Jambalaya” unrehearsed. Foley later remembered:
“I still get cold chills thinking about the first time I heard that voice. One foot started patting rhythm as though she was stomping out a prairie fire but not another muscle in that little body even as much as twitched. And when she did that trick of breaking her voice, it jarred me out of my trance enough to realize I’d forgotten to get off the stage. There I stood, after 26 years of supposedly learning how to conduct myself in front of an audience, with my mouth open two miles wide and a glassy stare in my eyes.”
In 1958 she recorded “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and in 1960 her most well known song was released, “I’m Sorry,” which went to number one.
Brenda Lee has 55 Billboard hits, the largest number of any female performer of the 1960s; she was so successful, in fact, that only Elvis, the Beatles and Ray Charles had more hits than she did. Brenda Lee is also the only female singer to be named to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.
A side note: in 1962 Brenda Lee was performing at the Star-Club in Hamburg, West Germany. Her opening act: the Beatles.