- 11:55 AM, Jun 25
Gretchen Wilson grew up in Pocahontas, Illinois without the love of a father since her dad left when she was just two years old. Living in poverty with her mother in a trailer park, she was forced to drop out of school in the 9th grade to help her mother earning more cash. While her peers woke up in the morning to get dressed for school, she had to work as a cook and bartender everyday.
When she was seventeen, Gretchen started to sing at small bars in St. Louis, Missouri. She was found by a talent scooter Susie Osburn when she covered one of the Patsy Cline's songs. She was then pursued to move to Springfield and play at the Townhouse.
Her music career was not an easy one and so was her personal life. She tied the knot with Baywolfe's former bandmate Larry Rolens but later on got divorce. After moving to Nashville, she began dating Mike Penner and had a daughter named Grace Frances Penner with him.
Serving as back-up singer for other artists and recording samples, Gretchen got a chance to show off her music skill to broader audience when she met John Rich, a member of Big & Rich in 2000 and they became songwriting partner afterwards.
Three years later, she was signed to Epic Records and recorded "Here for the Party" within the year. Her debut single "Redneck Woman" was a hit, topping Billboard Country Singles chart and climbing to No. 22 on Hot 200. The unexpected success of the single prompted her first album to be released earlier.
It peaked at No. 1 on the Country Albums chart and reached No. 2 on Billboard Hot 200. Her star was shining and country crooners like Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn recruited her as Brooks & Dunn's supporting act. Another fellow country music duo Montgomery Gentry also tapped her to support them in live concerts.
Gretchen dropped a sophomore set "All Jacked Up" in 2005 and it passed the success of its predecessor by topping the U.S. albums chart, becoming her first No. 1 album on the list. In the same year, she broke U.S. record as the title track of the album debuted at No. 21 on Hot Country Songs charts, setting a record for the highest debut ever made by a female artist. Moreover, she got two Grammy nominations; Best Female Country Vocal