Bonnie Lou
1924 - 2015
{ "" }
Share
Share Bonnie's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Bonnie Lou, a pioneering country singer who was among the first to transition successfully into rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, has died. She was 91.

Her husband, furniture store owner and magician Milt Okum, said she died Tuesday morning at a nursing home in Cincinnati, Ohio. No cause of death was announced.

Born Mary Joan Kath Oct. 27, 1924, in Towanda, Illinois, she was raised to the sounds of country singer Patsy Montana and her Prairie Ramblers. By the time she turned 16, she was singing and playing the guitar on a local AM radio station.

In 1945, she was hired by Bill McCluskey of the station WLW in Cincinnati, who gave her the stage name Bonnie Lou. She performed on the radio throughout the 1940s. In 1953, she got her first record deal, with a label in Cincinnati, and cut “Seven Lonely Days” and “Tennessee Wig Walk,” which became top-10 country hits.

The following year, she expanded her singing style by singing a rockabilly song titled “Two-Step Side-Step,” which was penned by Murry Wilson, whose sons, Carl, Brian and Dennis, would later form the Beach Boys. Her first rock ‘n’ roll hit came a year later, when she cut “Daddy-O,” which reached No. 14, according to Billboard.

She eventually moved to local TV in Cincinnati in the 1960s and early 1970s, becoming a talk show co-host on the “Paul Dixon Show.” She also appeared on “Midwestern Hayride,” so much so that she became known as the Queen of the Hayride.

She retired from the entertainment business in the early ‘70s, settling down with Okum, her second husband, in a Cincinnati suburb. She did appear on TV, however, along with her husband in commercials for his furniture store.

Earlier this year, Bonnie Lou, a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, was honored by her Illinois hometown, which adopted a resolution honoring “the talent and remarkable achievements of the hometown girl who grew up to be a star.”
Published in The Cincinnati Enquirer on Dec. 9, 2015.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
77 entries
December 10, 2019
I always listen to my father talk about listening to Bonnie on the radio and how He was able to Buy Bonnies Gibson country and western guitar . Just wish that guitar could tell the stories it has seen in its day. Bonnie and her gift to music will truely be missed.
Tim Hamilton
December 10, 2016
Loved you Bonnie Lou.Lenny from WAIF FM 88.3 FM Radio
Lenny Carbonia
November 26, 2016
Valenda Newell
April 9, 2016
Bonnie Lou was my namesake, I even have a letter from her! I remember watching her on Midwestern Hayride and listening to her sing and yodel, what a voice! My regret is I never got to meet her. May she rest in peace.
Bonnie Lou
January 24, 2016
My heartfelt condolences to the family of Bonnie Lou and to all the many people who knew her. She will be greatly missed.
I first heard her sing on the Mid-West Hay Ride when I was a little girl and I loved her from the start. She was my reason to love Country Music.
Carolyn Derenberger
January 10, 2016
My dad named me Patsy Lou after his favorite singers. My mom took me to see Bonnie at a county fair in Nelsonville. I will always remember how nice she was. I have talked of her my whole life. Will see you in Heaven sweet Bonnie Lou!
December 30, 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWZTv0Pw3R4
Bonnie Lou brought many magic moments wherever I went, via her wonderful recordings. Growing up in Ohio, we invited Bonnie into our home as often as possible via her many WLW television shows, and King, Fraternity and Wrayco recordings...and I saw her in concert whenever she was fairly closeby. She was the definition of talent and joy, and that joy lives on in my sweetest memories.
Jim Stewart
December 25, 2015
We will miss you..
Jack Holt
December 22, 2015
To the Family and Friends of Bonnie Lou: The death of a loved one can bring sadness, and this will cause you to mourn for a season. You can lift your heads up because Bonnie Lou lived long and she lived well. Our desire is that you find comfort in the words of Luke 20:38, and be assured that her life is deeply stored in God's memory and can be recalled at will. You WILL be reunited as a family; it has been promised!
The Carter Family
December 19, 2015
Started my long career at CROSLEY/AVCO BROADCASTING IN 1958 AS A FLOOR DIRECTOR ON HAYRIDE AND BONNIE WAS ONE OF THE FINEST PERSON I EVER WORKED WITH..BLESS YOU BONNIE AND SING A PRAYER FOR ME....JIM MEYER
JIM MEYER
December 17, 2015
I remember her on the Paul Dixon Show when they would put one of the girls (usually Bonnie or Coleen) over in a large bin filled with postcards; they drew the daily winner. She was always a good sport .. very sweet and had a beautiful voice. Good memories. Rest in peace, Bonnie.
Linda Lane
December 17, 2015
we were sad see her go.we love&peace family friends&all who knew her.
KEN&MARY O'DANIEL
December 17, 2015
i loved watching her on the paul dixon show when i was a little kid. one time i got to take off from school cuz my mom and sister had tickets to see them at vets memorial.
nathan davidsson
December 16, 2015
In Deep Sorrow I'm Learning Of The Passing Of One Of My ALL TIME FAVORITE PERFORMERS!!! I Saw Her Often On THE MIDWESTERN HAYRIDE As Well As Several Times In Person. She Was Such A WARM, FRIENDLY PERSON & COULD SHE YODEL!!!! May GOD Be Kind To You, GREAT LADY!!!! Jim & Jenny
Jim Amrhein
December 16, 2015
Bonnie Lou 70s
There was no one funnier and more down to earth than Bonnie Lou on the Paul Dixon show. So many mornings I watched her, Coleen and Paul. What a great memory. Prayers to her entire family. She will live in our memories forever.
Dan
December 16, 2015
She brought so much joy to me and my Mother when we watched her on TV with Paul Doxon and Bob Braun. She was one in a million. May she rest in peace. My condolences to the family. Thank you for all the years that you brightened our days.
December 16, 2015
So sorry for your loss. When you find time to rest please find comfort in John11:11-14 The bible says she's sleeping. May this comfort you
Ros
December 16, 2015
Thank you Bonnie Lou for being such a wonderful person. You will be missed.
Geno Reddish
December 16, 2015
Milt, my condolences to you and your families. I will miss you coming into Hillebrand and sharing all your fun things with us (CD's, balloon figures, your "barking" dogs. What an honor it is to have gotten to know you and Bonnie Lou, whom with countless others, I grew up listening to. Thank you for choosing our company to be Bonnie's final home......Darlene Warren, Receptionist, Hillebrand Nursing & Rehab Center
December 16, 2015
It was my pleasure to direct both the Paul Dixon Show and Midwestern Hayride and work with the talented, hard-working and delightful Bonnie Lou. She brought fun and humor to everything she did.
Joe Lewin
December 16, 2015
Bonnie Lou was a neighbor when she lived on Robinet. Her daughter Connie and I were friends. All of the kids in the neighborhood would sit on her porch while she sang to us. She was a wonderful singer and a very good friend to us all.
Susan Frey-Martin
December 16, 2015
Dear Milt...

Please accept the sympathy of my entire family. Seeing you both in action - "My! What a team!"

Greg Gruenwald
Western Hills Press/Cincinnati Post
Schaumburg, IL
the late Walter Gruenwald & Family
Butterkist Bakery
Greg Gruenwald
December 16, 2015
As local kids in the early sixties, we were all inspired by Bonnie Lou to try yodeling. She spread happy times just being herself... and never forgotten.
J Q
December 15, 2015
Thanks and prayers to milt
Pat Madix
December 14, 2015
You have my deepest sympathy . I can remember watching Bonnie Lou on the Paul
Dixons Show, I still have the program from the chicken wedding. Bonnie was so great and they don't make show like that anymore .
Andy Lipps
December 14, 2015
I remember the Midwestern Hayride show even though I was only 5 or 6 years old. I loved watching Bonnie Lou on Paul Baby Dixons show. She was a hoot! I love her yodeling. My deepest sympathy to Bonnie'S family & friends
Tina Blair
December 13, 2015
My sympathy to Milt for the passing of his wonderful wife, who brought smiles to many people entertaining. She was such a down to earth person, always friendly.
Linda Goebel
December 12, 2015
My Dad loved Midwestern Hayride. I was young but I too remember her famous yodeling. Condolences to her family and friends. Bonnie Lynn
Bonnie Keys Eppert
December 12, 2015
Milt,our deepest sympathies, thoughts, and prayers go out to you and your family in the passing of Bonnie Lou. We are deeply saddened to hear of her passing. We received the two DVD's & letter enclosed with them just recently. Thank you very much for thinking of us and sending the DVD's and letter. Our family has been blessed by yours & Bonnie Lou's kindness, gifts, talents, and hospitality. We have fond memories of times spent with you both at our Fish Fry and the visit at your house during the Christmas holidays a few years ago. May God's loving arms comfort and carry you through this difficult time and loss. With our deepest sympathies, Hank, Barb, & Jenny Schmeltzer
Hank Schmeltzer
December 12, 2015
Her days on Paul Dixon are what I remember the best. What chemistry Paul Baby, Colleen and Bonnie Lou had! RIP
Melanie Miller
December 12, 2015
Beloveds, so sorry for your loss. What a good long life Bonnie Lou enjoyed. Many cannot say the same. She was one of those "especially strong." Psalm90:10
charlene
December 12, 2015
I will always remember Bonnie Lou
chabot reellover
December 12, 2015
Cynthia Crites
December 11, 2015
I loved watching Bonnie Lou on the Paul Dixon Show. I grew up with her music and loved hearing her yodel. She will be dearly missed. Prayers to Milt and the entire family. God has received a beautiful angel.
Carol Page
December 11, 2015
I loved Bonnie Lou, watched her and the whole crew on the Paul Dixon show. Those were the days. She had a great voice and a good heart. That show was once in a lifetime.
Judy Marks
December 11, 2015
I watched her on The Paul Dixon Show in the 60's and was on the show once when the hot pants were popular, we moved to Indy in 73. Bonnie Lou and Collene Sharp was a Godsent for Paul Dixon when he lost his son:( So sorry for Milt and families loss.
Janet Stern
December 11, 2015
I remember watching her growing up. My mom loved to watch the Paul Dixon show every morning and dad loved to watch the Hayride show. So sad to hear of her passing, she was a much loved by all in my house. God bless the family in their time of need.
Cathy Leach Ward
December 11, 2015
DO I EVER REMEMBER BONNIE LOU WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL I WOULD WATCH HER ON THE PAUL DIXON SHOW BONNIE MAY YOU R.I.P.
WANDA COLDIRON
December 11, 2015
My deepest sympathy to the family.

I worked with Bonnie in the early 70's at WLWT. She was a "class act" and very, very funny. She was one of my favorite Crosley/Avco Broadcasting people.
Steve Fisher
December 11, 2015
Greatest memory was
her yodeling. No one could do it like Bonnie Lou. She came to our house one evening with one of the Midwestern hayrides dancers. What a great person
Geri
December 10, 2015
Use to watch her on Midwestern Hayride and Paul Dixon Show, She was a very talented lady! Always cheerful and happy! God bless you for all the wonderful years you gave us.
December 10, 2015
I remember as a little girl watching her yodel on Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club. She was quite a talent and will be missed.
Kathie Russell
December 10, 2015
She was such a wonderful funny person on the Paul Dixon show. I just loved her. Much sympathy.
Dan Muston
December 10, 2015
We have truly lost a dear, dear friend...we've shared many good times together in Florida as well as in Cincinnati...a beautiful lady... Rest now angel....we'll miss you...
Joanie Yingling
December 10, 2015
My condolences to the family. She was a very gifted lady. My father liked her music. Wishing you strength and comfort in your time of need. Sincerely,
Anthony B Koistinen
Anthony Koistinen
December 10, 2015
Milt,
Bonnie was truly a treasure.
Magical!
God bless you,
Linda
Linda Moeller
December 10, 2015
grewup watching her on paul dixon and midwestern hayride loved her dearly super talented
cheryl rece
December 10, 2015
We are so sorry to the loss of your dear loved one. Our prayer condolences and prayers are with the family. He heals the brokenhearted; He binds up their wounds. PS.147:3
December 10, 2015
Another singing voice of my childhood is now gone. Love and prayers for the family
Troy Blankenship
December 10, 2015
Bonnie Lou at 17 in Kansas City.
The world has lost a legend and a great star. Media around the world are paying tribute to Bonnie Lou. The girl from Towanda, Illinois who went from tenent farmers daughter to international sensation will not be forgotten.
Nicolas Martin
December 10, 2015
When I was born in 1955, my dad named me Bonnie Lou. He loved Bonnie Lou's music and wanted me to be named after her. I am honored to have that privilege. I have listened to a couple of her songs and now know why Dad loved her so much. Thank you Dad!
December 10, 2015
What a wonderful lady she was. I remember her as a child both from the Hayride and she even signed her picture for me when she sang at one of the local fairs! Loved her. So very sorry for your loss.
Kathy (Orthman) Distel
December 10, 2015
Thank you for your fine contributions to country music. You will be missed.
December 10, 2015
My deepest condolences to you and your family. I was so sorry to learn of Bonnie's passing. She was the last of the great WLW television pioneer personalities. You are in our prayers and thoughts.
John Schlipp
December 10, 2015
B Corcoran
December 10, 2015
My heartfelt prayers go out to the family of Bonnie Lou. I grew up listening to her sing and perform on the Midwestern Hayride, Paul Dixion, and Ruth Lyons. To me....she was and is a legend. No one could yodle better. She will be missed. Tammy Murphy Erlanger, KY
December 10, 2015
You will be missed, all the good ones are gone. She wad a talented singer. A nice person when you met her. Loved her on the Paul Dixon show and the Ruth Lyons show.
Maxine Casada
December 10, 2015
will miss her. loved watching her on midwest hayride. great singer and a beautiful lady. R.I.P. Bonnie.
mary agosta
December 10, 2015
So sorry for the loss,may the God of peace be with you....
December 10, 2015
I will always remember Bonnie Lou from the Paul Dixon Show, she was so cute and sweet . So sorry for her family's loss.
Billie Price
December 9, 2015
Connie and family, what an amazing life your mother had. I remember us being girlfriends on Locust Log Lane in White Oak, listening to Elvis songs, going to your moms concerts. She had such a life of success. You and your mom came to my mom, Rosalie Beatty's funeral in Dec. 1991. We loved being neighbor's and friends with you. Sending you prayers and love. Your mom was a lov ly person. God Bless you, Karen Beatty Holleyhead, Houston TX, and Margot Beatty Kiehfuss, Baton Rouge LA.
Karen Beatty-Holleyhead
December 9, 2015
Evelyn Bradley
December 9, 2015
I always loved Bonnie in all the shows she appeared on. A real class act that will be missed. She was so talented and added a wonderful presence with whom she appeared with or just alone. I grew up watching her on telivision and saw her in many personal appearences.
Michael Pavelka
December 9, 2015
RIP Bonnie Lou - what a great singer! You helped to make the Paul Dixon Show one of the greatest local talk shows around.
Randy Boring
December 9, 2015
Rest in peace I remember you well with the rest on wlw The Mounts Family
Mark Mounts
December 9, 2015
Bonnie was my Aunt Bernice's neighbor at Atria Norhgate Park in Colerain as Bonnie was living there recovering from a fall. Bonnie and Aunt "B" would sing with the entertainment guy on Thursday nites. She was pure joy and all the residents loved her. She was also a great lady!
Connie Dorrmann
December 9, 2015
While growing up I could always make sure to watch her on the "Dixon Show"...Luv'd her spunkiness and innocence she projected...That is what made her "her".....Now she can rest in eternal peace.....
Ron Furbee
December 9, 2015
Having known Bonnie through my mother, Vicki, I felt extremely fortunate to be able to call her a friend. She was so talented and will be missed. But I bet the heavens are full of song.
Debbie and Glenn Heiber
December 9, 2015
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
December 9, 2015
j
Janice Russo
December 9, 2015
Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.
Harry Simpson
December 9, 2015
So sorry to hear about Bonnie. It is truly a blessing Bonnie lived a long life because so many people may never see her age. It reminds me of Psalm 90:10. Cherish her memories forever in your heart.
December 9, 2015
Matthew McGuire
December 9, 2015
Rest in Peace
Scott Chamberland
December 9, 2015
Loved her music - God bless her
Virginia Nance
December 9, 2015
ron beam
December 9, 2015
I grew up listening to Bonnie Lou on the Hayride, on the Paul Dixon show, and the Ruth Lyons Show!
She was miss personality, and had a beautiful voice! May she RIP. Beautiful lady!!!
Joyce king
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences