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Ms. Wanda Faye
WANDA FAYE, A SPUNKY RED-HAIRED SENIOR CITIZEN, chuckles when she pulls out a 1965 ad from Music City News. The advertisement is to draw attendance to the 40th anniversary of the Grand Old Opry and bears the names of Columbia Records' recording artists who'll be there. Some mighty big names, at that. Johnny Cash, Jimmy Dean, Marty Robbins, Stonewall Jackson, Little Jimmy Dickens.

And Wanda Faye.

Wanda Faye?

While she may not have aquired the fame of Lefty Frizzell or June Carter Cash, Wanda Faye indeed was a Columbia Records recording artist.

Looking back, it seems as though she lived a dream.

"How many people in this world ever get a telegram from a major recording company and offer a contract and pay you?" queries Faye.

Then she laughs, again.

Her time with Columbia was brief in the expense of her six-decade music career. The year 2007 marks her 60th year singing for others.

"I love singing and performing," said Faye.

In years past, Faye has sung with the best of them, including Glen Campbell and Ernest Tubb. Now she mostly performs in Escalon for senior citizens. She also enjoyed performing in the recent Guys and Dolls Show.

Faye has an incredible collection of photos that document her notable performances. She's pictured alongside some of the true country show business legends: Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Minnie Pearl, Glen Campbell, Ray Price, the Statler Brothers, Ernest Tubb and others.

"I wouldn't have had the experiences in my life if I hadn't met Lefty Frizzell," said Faye.

She met Frizzell as a teen in her native Roswell, New Mexico. He hadn't achieved his fame yet. Faye, who had honed her musical skills since learning piano and guitar since she was nine, and Frizzel began singing together on radio station KGFL.

After Frizzell left for Texas, Wanda teamed up with Bob Wolfe - whom she later married - and made their first recordings on the Folk Star, Flair and King record labels. The Wolfes formed the Sunset Westerners with Bessie Narmore in 1951, and they sung hillbilly, bluegrass, country and western.

The Sunset Westeners became regulars on a 50,000-watt station, WBAP, in Fort Worth, Texas by 1954. Those were the days when stations broadcast live. They were regulars on the All Star Country Road Show on that station. One night they sang to a crowd of 3,000 with Sonny James. The Sunset Westerners played venue after venue throughout Texas and Louisiana and along the east coast. They drove to their gigs, which included theaters and children's hospitals, pulling a trailer filled with band equipment.

Faye estimates that she has recorded 50 songs.

"I started out on the 78 RPM. I guess that makes me a pioneer."

The Westeners made the Nov. 10, 1951 Nation's Billboard Chart's top five with "Down Yonder," recorded on the Rich-R-Tone label.

She performed on the Louisiana Hayride, one which Elvis had appeared.

"We were already working with all these legends."

The Sunset Westerners eventually disbanded and so did her marriage.

Faye met up with an aspiring Arkansas musician named Glen Campbell who picked guitar for her1958 Jewell Records recording of "Everybody Wants You."

She played a Grand Old Opry traveling show with Faron Young and Mack Wiseman in Newark, N.J.

In 1963 Faye co-wrote the Carl and Pearl Butler hit, "I'm Hanging Up The Phone." The song was recorded by Columbia Records and was nominated for a Grammy award.

In the audience one night was Tillman Franks, who was a talent scout. She was performing at a 1963 show in Lubbock, Texas, with Buck Owens and Willie Nelson when. Franks referred her to a friend who was an executive with Columbia Records in Nashville. She sent a demo recording of her song, "The Longest Night."

In 1964 Wanda received a telegram in Lubbock from Columbia Records to become one of their recording artists. She was so excited so couldn't sleep that night.

"I danced all around the house, raised my hands and praised the Lord. I always dreamed about that but never thought it would materialize. They said I was an extraordinary good singer. We're talking the oldest record company in America. I was speechless."

She answered back and was on her way to Nashville. She spent time in the studio with Grady Martin and Floyd Cramer.

For a few short years Faye had the distinction of being a Columbia Records recording artist. She was packaged on tour with other Columbia artists, including Tex Ritter, Ernest Tubb, Johnny Cash and the Statler Brothers.

Two years later Butler introduced Faye to the stage of the Grand Old Opry.

She remembers the thrill of being invited to attend a special bash for the 40th anniversary of the Grand Old Opry. She found herself sitting down to a chicken dinner with the legendary Mother Maybelle Carter. The two talked about Carter's days of recording with the legendary Jimmie Rodgers.

"That was icing on the cake," said Faye. "I grew up with her all my life and I never thought I would get to meet her. She was so down to earth."

In 1965 she left Nashville to perform at the Lariat Club in Las Vegas. After a week of promoting her album, she stopped in Modesto's KTRB, where she got to see the record for the first time.

"It was a 45," said Faye. "I heard it on the radio and I hadn't got to see it yet. They were thrilled to meet me. They were playing me opn the turn table and just showed up in the studio."

While there, radio personality Glenn Stepp asked her to play with Tommy Duncan, lead singer of Bob Wills' band, in Ceres.

The very first place she performed in California was on a flatbed truck for the Ceres Harvest Festival.

"He was the first musician I met and played with in California," said Faye. "I believe it must have been right where the Courier is downtown. I believe it was the Ceres Harvest Festival."

The next day she played with Duncan at the Oakdale Rodeo.

Faye met Chester Smith, the legendary owner of many TV and radio stations. She also did a show with Smith a few years back to benefit the local VFW.

Faye settled in Redding from 1965 to 1968, where she had a local TV show, "The Weldon Rogers and Wanda Faye TV Show" on KRCR-TV in 1967 and 1968. Rogers was her second husband.

Since the 1970s, when she moved to South Modesto to live, Faye has only performed local gigs. In 1988 she sang with local legend Rose Maddox at the American Legion hall on Santa Cruz.

Renewed interest in Faye's and Rogers' recordings occurred when Bear Import Records in Germany released CDs of Faye when she was with husband Weldon Wolfe. The CD came with a commemorative booklet.

In 2003 she was inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame in Sacramento.