FULL NAME: Winford Lindsey Stewart (not Wynnford, as you will see in many places)
BORN: June 7, 1934, Morrisville, Missouri
PARENTS: Cleo Winford & Golden Stewart
SIBLINGS: Patty Wanderer and Beverly Mullins
Wynn picked up the guitar at age 8 and taught himself to play. At the young age of 13, Wynn had already appeared on KWTO in Springfield, which later became the host for the Ozark jubilee. His first recording was made at age 14. The song was Eddy Arnold's hit, "Anytime". It was at this early age that he started playing the clubs, with his father as a chaperone.
Carl Moore, a DJ in Huntington Park, who went by "Squeakin' Deacon", hosted regular talent shows and Wynn entered it often and won it everytime. At one of them he met a friend for life, Ralph Mooney, who is now in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. Ralph would later become a member of Wynn's band.
In February 1954, at the age of 20, Wynn made his first commercial record for the Aladdin A&R label. Legend has it that Wynn sung over the phone to Ken Nelson, Capitol's A&R man, and was offered a contract on the spot. Wynn made several records for Capitol, including his first hit, "Waltz of the Angels" and "Keeper of the Key".
Wynn met up with Joe Johnson, who had started the Challenge label with Gene Autry. Wynn was one of their first country artists to sign, on June 9, 1958. Wynn and Jan Howard were signed later as a duet and they recorded several albums together. Jan Howard went on to become a Grand Ole Opry regular and had several successful albums of her own.
The first record for the Jack-pot label (which was part of Challenge records) was "Come-On", a rockabilly tune. There were a few other attempts at cross-over songs like "She Just Tears Me Up" and "The Long Black Limousine", but in late 1958, Wynn decided to stick to hard-core country.
In May, 1959, he cut "Above and Beyond", which was later revived as a #1 hit for Rodney Crowell in the late 1980's.
In 1960, he recorded "Wishful Thinking", which he co-wrote with his sister, Beverly. Beverly also sang soprano harmony on the record. Ralph Mooney played steel guitar and Gordon Terry was on the fiddle. This recording is the ideal example of 60's west coast country music. It was Wynn's biggest hit so far, spending 22 weeks on the charts and peaking at #5.
Wynn was playing 6 nights a week at George's Roundup in Long Beach and appeared regularly on Cal's Corral, a Sunday afternoon TV show in L.A. He hosted a radio show 6 nights a week on KFOX as well.
In 1961, he moved to Las Vegas. He was a partner in a club, called the Nashville Nevada.
(click on picture for larger view)
At the time, his band consisted of Ralph Mooney, guitarist Roy Nichols, drummer Helen "Peaches" Price, bassist Bobby Austin, and pianist Jim Pierce (www.jimpierce.net). While in Vegas, Wynn also landed a TV show and worked as a DJ.
In 1962, Bobby Austin left the band to pursue a solo career, leaving Wynn without a bass player. Merle Haggard sat in with the band while Wynn was out of town. He liked him and hired him to be his permanent bass player. Merle was working on a singing career himself. He really liked one of Wynn's self-penned songs, "Sing a Sad Song". Being the generous guy that he was, Wynn gave it to him and it became Merle's first hit, peaking at #19 on the country charts. Merle played with Wynn for about a year.
Wynn continued to record for Challenge until 1963. "Big Big Love" was in the top twenty and "Another Day, Another Dollar" made it into the top thirty.
The Vegas band broke up and Wynn put together a new band and called them the Tourists. He took to the road in support of a new contract with Capitol Records, who had re-signed him.
In 1967, he hit the peak of his career with "It's Such a Pretty World Today". It hit Number 1 and was also voted Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.
Billboard survey for 9/2/67
In 1968, he moved his family to Mansfield, Texas, just south of Fort Worth and Dallas, to be centrally located for touring. He left Capitol and signed with RCA in Nashville, then moved on to Playboy Records, where he scored a top ten hit with "After the Storm" in 1976. He ended up on his own label, Pretty World Records. Wynn was a regular on a weekly television show in Fort Worth, Texas, called "Panther Hall".
On July 17, 1985, at the age of 51, he died of a heart attack while at his home. He was just about to leave for a tour of Louisiana, with a new band, a new bus, a new wardrobe, new songs, and a new manager. He had just recorded an album, as well, that never made it to print.
(webmaster's note: Wynn did not write "Above and Beyond" or "It's Such a Pretty World" as the above article states)
Wynn was buried in Willard, Missouri. Ralph Mooney called him "the best singer who ever lived". He was indeed, a little guy with a HUGE voice.
Wynn Stewart belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame !!!
If you are one of his fans, please sign the Guestbook as a petition for his induction. Thank you!
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