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Rose Lee Maphis (1922–2021), country singer known as “Mrs. Country Music”

by Linnea Crowther

Rose Lee Maphis was a country singer and guitarist who performed with her husband, Joe Maphis, as “Mr. and Mrs. Country Music.”

Bakersfield to Nashville

Maphis got her start singing on “The Old Dominion Barn Dance” out of Richmond, Virginia, where she met her future husband. They relocated together to California in 1951, where they became pioneers of the burgeoning Bakersfield Sound. There, they co-wrote the song “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music),” a honky-tonk standard that they first recorded in 1953. Their other popular songs included “Whiskey Is the Devil in Liquid Form” and “Where Honky-Tonk Angels Spread Their Wings.” Maphis released a number of records with her husband, as well as two solo albums, a self-titled debut in 1961 and 1964’s “Hootenanny Star.” The family relocated to Nashville in 1968, where they continued recording together until Joe’s 1986 death. Maphis also began working in the costume department at Opryland. In later years, she became a beloved greeter at the entrance to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Maphis on working at the Country Music Hall of Fame

“I knew most of the people that’s in the Hall of Fame [who] have their memorabilia displayed there. I’m familiar with them. It was just, again, ‘What am I qualified for? Right now, I’m 91 years old’ [when I applied].” —from a 2015 interview for the Herald-Mail

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Tributes to Rose Lee Maphis

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