Brenda Lee, a professional singer by age six and a recording artist by twelve, boasts a remarkable career spanning over six decades, seamlessly crossing between pop and country music genres. She is also renowned for her iconic Christmas single, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

Early life
Born Brenda Mae Tarpley in Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, Lee demonstrated extraordinary musical talent from a young age. By three, she could sing songs after hearing them just twice.

At five, her sister entered her in a school talent contest where she captivated the audience with her rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” winning first prize. This performance led to her regular appearances on local radio and TV shows.

Tragedy struck when Lee was nine as her father passed away following a construction site accident. After her mother remarried, the family moved to Cincinnati and then Augusta, Georgia.

Despite these challenges, Lee quickly became a local TV star. A producer, finding her surname Tarpley difficult to remember, renamed her Brenda Lee.

Child Star to Lifetime Icon and How She Looks Like Today
In February 1956, a local DJ introduced Lee to Red Foley, who was so taken with her talent that he invited her to join his TV show, Ozark Jubilee, in Springfield, Missouri. This show aired nationally on ABC, boosting Lee’s exposure and leading to performances on multiple shows hosted by Steve Allen, Perry Como, and Ed Sullivan.

Her third single, “One Step at a Time,” produced by Milt Gabler in New York, became her first chart success, reaching #15 on the country charts and #43 on the pop charts in 1957. This song was her only entry on the country charts for the next twelve years, but it marked the beginning of a lasting and influential musical journey.

Brenda Lee today at 79
Her timeless Christmas hit, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” remains a festive favorite, toping charts every year and cementing her legacy in music.

 

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