Your Music, My Music, Our Music: Cincinnati Women Musicians at King Records and Today

Bonnie Lou

Bonnie Lou, born Mary Jo Kath in Talawanda, IL, took up yodeling after her Swiss grandmother. She began to take violin lessons at five years old, and her father bought her a “two dollar and a half pawn shop guitar” by the time she was 11.

She went through several stage name changes— from “Mary Jo the Yodeling Sweetheart,” to “Sally Carson,” to “Bonnie Lou.” At age 16 she began performing on local radio shows in Bloomington, Illinois and later Kansas City, before being hired as a singer and yodeler for WLW Cincinnati’s country and western radio show Midwestern Hayride.

Bonnie Lou achieved success as a recording artist after signing with King Records in 1953. Not only were her early country recordings immensely popular, with both “Seven Lonely Days” and “Tennessee Wig Walk” making the Top 10 charts in the year 1953—she also successfully made the transition into the rock n’ roll genre, recording several rockabilly hits with King such as “Daddy-O,” which hit #14 on the Billboard charts in 1955-1956.

Bonnie Lou later signed to Fraternity Records, another local Cincinnati label. She co-hosted WLWT Cincinnati’s weekday programs The Paul Dixon Show and Midwestern Hayride. While signing to a bigger record label, such as RCA, might have taken her to a higher degree of fame nation-wide, Bonnie Lou opted to stay in Cincinnati, OH until the end of her life.

Works Cited:
Hay, Lee. "King Records: Cincinnati Legacy, Part
"Bonnie Lou."

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