“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” is a gem of a country music cheating song if I’ve ever heard one.
The album was released in 1993 and was apparently spearheaded by Dolly. All three of these ladies started their careers in the 60’s and were easily convinced to sign on to the project after Dolly approached them about it. I mean, who could say no to her? More importantly, why would you?
Ultimately, it only produced one single for the trio, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” which was nominated for a Grammy award in 1995.
The song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” was originally recorded by Kitty Wells in 1952 and written by J.D. Miller. Kitty makes an appearance on Dolly, Loretta and Tammy’s version, too. At the time of its original release, the song became the first Billboard country hit by a solo female artist.
Kitty was reluctant to even record it because the content was quite suggestive for the time, but went ahead with it mainly because she wanted to get paid. I respect that. And it definitely seemed to work out for her, because it basically launched her career and sent her into country music superstardom.
As it turns out, the song was created as a response to Hank Thompson’s 1952 song “The Wild Side Of Life”, where he laments his supposed cheating wife.
In Thompson’s song, he sings:
“I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels, I might have known you’d never make a wife, You gave up the only one that ever loved you, And went back to the wild side of life”
The chorus in Wells’ version goes like this:
“It wasn’t God who made honky tonk angels, As you wrote in the words of your song, Too many times married men think they’re still single, And that has caused many a good girl to go wrong”
The searing, unapologetic sass in the chorus is genius. Ladies, how many times have you felt like the crazy one in a relationship when it turns out, you were right about whatever it was the entire time?
We’ve probably all felt like that before, and this song sums up all those feelings perfectly. If women felt like that in the 50’s, don’t hold your breathe that it will ever change… but at least it makes for really good music.
Dolly Parton also recorded a solo version of it for her 1963 tribute album Hits Made Famous By Country Queens, which was created to honor Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline. She was only 17 at the time that album was released, and it’s nearly impossible to find audio of any of the tracks from it.
You can hear a short sample of it on her website, though her voice is hardly recognizable way back then when she was just a teenager.
And here’s Kitty singing her song at the Grand Ole Opry in 1952: