She was trailblazer in country music, and though she never reached the heights of fame like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and other scions of the genre, she opened the gate for them. She smoked, WORE PANTS onstage when it wasn’t acceptable for women, and was a top Boss Lady. She wasn’t one of the guys: she was the epitome of strength and never understood the phrase “you can’t.” Her stubbornness and iron will set her apart not just from other women in country, but from the men, too.

Her song “What About Tomorrow?”, predated the Shirelles “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” by four years, with the same sentiment: although perhaps even rawer, and to a lesser audience in terms of Billboard success.

Texas-born country music artist Charline Arthur (September 2, 1929 – November 27, 1987) was an American singer and guitarist. In 1950, Arthur began work as a singer and a disc jockey at the Texas radio station KERB. She left three years later after the impresario Colonel Tom Parker discovered her, signing her with RCA Records. She was a regular performer on the Big D Jamboree radio program (broadcast out of Dallas, TX) throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She also performed and toured with Elvis Presley and others, but in 1956 RCA dropped her from the label and her career declined. Described as a “flash in the pan” and a “woman before her time”, Arthur was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and has, since the 1980s, found favor with critics who praise her vocal style, her stage presence, and her influence on artists such as Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline.

She was born into a poverty-stricken but musically inclined Pentecostal family, and music was a central part of her family life. Her ambition was to play guitar; she collected bottles and cashed them in to raise the money for her first guitar. By the age of 15, Charline was performing on KPLT radio station in Paris, Texas. She joined a traveling medicine show after winning the show’s talent contest. Charline married Jack Arthur, the show’s bass player, in 1948. He later performed on some of her records and managed her during the early part of her career. She was known for stirring up controversy wherever she went. Colonel Tom Parker, who discovered and managed Elvis Presley, was one of those who took notice of her. Parker got Charline into a recording studio in Nashville in 1952, where she signed with RCA Victor.

After touring extensively with various country music showcases and gaining national popularity, her record sales declined and RCA dropped her. She divorced her husband and continued touring, but her career never reached the heights it did in the mid-1950s.

In her later career, Arthur recognized that her image, one which did not reflect femininity or the domestic problems women encountered (and which other female artists were capitalizing on), was causing a disconnect with her fans and she became more subdued, altering her image to be more conventional.

In the late 1970s she performed for Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree show, and she retired in 1978, living near her sister in Pocatello, Idaho on a disability check. She died there on November 27, 1987, aged 58, due to natural causes.

I was shakin’ onstage long before Elvis even thought about it.”

Charline Arthur