CINCINNATI (CelebrityAccess) — Bonnie Lou, one of the first recognized female rock & roll singers and one of the first country artists to attain crossover success, moving from country to rock, has died. She was 91.
According to WVXU, Bonnie Lou died on December 8, at Hillebrand Nursing And Rehabilitation Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. She suffered from dementia and was in hospice care at the time of her passing.
Born Mary Kath, Lou started out as a 'sweetheart yodeler' learning the art from her grandmother and by the age of 16, was performing professionally on n WJBC in Bloomington, Illinois.
After graduating from high school, Bonnie Lou signed a contract to perform on a barn dance show, the Brush Creek Follies under the stage name Sally Carson, both as a solo artist and with the show's regular performers such as the Rhythm Rangers. The show, broadcast on CBS Radio, was a smash hit with pre-war America.
The show propelled Bonnie Lou to further success, landing her work on Cincinnati-based WLW where she was prominently featured on the Midwestern Hayride Country & Western Radio Program, as well as live tours. On the weekends, she frequently traveled to Nashville, where she performed live, including several engagements at The Grand Ole Opry.
In the 1950s, Lou signed her first record deal and started recording hits such as "Tennessee Wig Walk" and "Seven Lonely Days" before altering her style into a form that would later come to be known as rockabilly, with hits such as "Two-Step Side-Step" and "Daddy-O".
Lou easily made the transition from radio to television in the 1960s and became a featured artist and co-host on the "Paul Dixon Show and on country-oriented programming such as NBC's televised version of Midwestern Hayride.
Following the death of Paul Dixon in 1974, Lou partly retired from show business, but still performed live and hosted a regular country music radio show in Cincinnati where she lived with her second husband Milton J. Okum.
Bonnie Lou was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Nashville.
According to the New York Times, Bonnie Lou was survived by Mr. Okum, as well as Connie Wernet, a daughter from her first marriage; a sister, Eleanor McConkey; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. – Staff Writers