Brenda Lee has given her priceless lifetime cache of career memorabilia to the permanent collection at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. The collection includes stage costumes, vintage photos, magazine cover stories in many languages, awards, show posters, advertisements, personal correspondence, a Brenda Lee comic book and paper doll set, and a trove of career-spanning audio and video documenting the life and international impact of the big-voiced and famously petite star, who earned her first chart hits at age 11. Lee’s gift is accompanied by a significant donation from Pat O’Leary, the star’s close friend and longtime fan.
Lee announced her gift last week at an informal lunch celebrating the success of the exhibit Brenda Lee: Dynamite, Presented by Great American Country Television Network, a biographical salute that included the donated items. The exhibit closed in June after a ten-month run. At least once a week, while the exhibit was open, Lee brought visiting friends and family to see her display and lingered to chat with astonished fans.
“I wasn’t so much honored by the exhibit, as by the fact that you wanted to do the exhibit,” Lee said. She thanked the Museum for an exhibit “that fulfilled my dream and captured me as an artist, a mother, a friend and a fan. [My husband] Ronnie and I are very pleased to leave our collection in your hands because this is the safest and best place for it. We were familiar with the Museum and respected your work before, but now, after having worked so closely with you, we see what others cannot see, and that is the tremendous talent, dedication, commitment, knowledge and daily hard work that has made you a great museum and a trustworthy repository for our history.”
“These special and incredibly important gifts from Brenda and Pat will help us to preserve Little Miss Dynamite’s own story and many other country music stories,” said Museum Director Kyle Young. “With these treasures, Brenda and Pat show us how both the past and the future should be respected in the present.”
Lee was accompanied at the luncheon by Ronnie Shacklett, her husband, manager and archivist; daughter Julie Clay and granddaughters Jordan Keene and Taylor Clay; and close friends Anna Page, State Representative Janis Sontany, Janet Wilcox, Pat O’Leary and Phil Plant. Also in attendance were Sarah Trahern, Senior Vice President, Programming, Great American Country; the Museum’s Chairman Emeritus E. W. “Bud” Wendell, Chairman Steve Turner and Board Member John Seigenthaler. In addition to Young, staff attending included Vice President of Museum Services Carolyn Tate, Curatorial Director Mick Buck, Vice President of Museum Programs Jay Orr and Senior Vice President of Public Relations Liz Thiels.