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Bonnie Lou, a pioneer country rocker, dead at 91.

NEW YORK - Bonnie Lou, a country singer from the US Midwest who was one of the first female voices to shape rock, has died. She was 91.

The singer, who lived in a Cincinnati nursing home after a stroke, died peacefully on Tuesday, her husband told an online fan site.

Born as Mary Joan Kath, the future star grew up on an 80-acre (32-hectare) farm in central Illinois, where she learned yodeling from her Swiss grandmother.

"It came naturally," she told the central Illinois newspaper The Pantagraph in an interview earlier this year.

"I used to go out in the evening and call the cows in by yodeling, and they would come in," she said.

But she also learned to play violin and her father bought her a cheap guitar. She was drawn by the records of Patsy Montana, a country music pioneer.

As a teenager, she started singing on Illinois radio, eventually gaining national exposure.

Taking the stage name Bonnie Lou, she had a series of country hits including "Tennessee Wig Walk."

But by the 1950s she had crossed over to rockabilly, the R&B-infused take on country music that helped give birth to rock 'n' roll.

She had a nationwide rock 'n' roll hit in 1955 with "Daddy-O," becoming one of the first female stars in a genre that soon would be a global sensation.

"No, I didn't realize it was part of the rock 'n' roll revolution," she told The Pantagraph.

Bonnie Lou also saw the rising importance of television, becoming a fixture on "Midwestern Hayride," a live country show in Cincinnati that was broadcast nationally.

Despite such exposure, she remained in her Cincinnati base, then the home of influential country mark King Records, rather than sign with a major New York-based label.

Her first husband died in a car accident in 1964. She later married a Cincinnati furniture store owner, Milton Okum, and the two staged magic shows together.

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Title Annotation:Uncategorized
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Dec 10, 2015
Words:325
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