County music has always been a family affair for Shelly West, the daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame member Dottie West. Career highlights include "Jose Cuervo" and other solo hits plus material recorded with her brother-in-law at the time, David Frizzell.
West was born on May 23, 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio, where her famous mother and steel guitarist father Bill West were charting careers that soon brought them to Nashville.
As a teenager, the younger West sang on her mother's road show, which featured Lefty Frizzell's youngest brother, guitarist Allen Frizzell. Shelly wed Allen in 1977. Soon after, she became the duet partner of a third Frizzell brother, David.
By the early '80s, the Shelly West and David Frizzell pairing became the successful act behind "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma," which was given a sales boost when it appeared in the Clint Eastwood comedy film Any Which Way You Can. Four of West's studio albums were collaborations with Frizzell, including 1982's, The David Frizzell & Shelly West Album.
Other hits by the in-laws (a possible term for more pop-friendly outlaws) included "A Texas State of Mind," "Another Honky Tonk Night on Broadway," "It's a Be Together Night," "Please Surrender" and "I Just Came Here to Dance."
West and Frizzell combined to win the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Vocal Duo of the Year award in 1980 and 1982, as well as 1981's Song of the Year for "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma." The Country Music Association (CMA) named the pair its 1982 Vocal Duo of the Year.
The West and David Frizzell pairing by chance took spots on the country charts held in the late '70's by Dottie West and Kenny Rogers.
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As a solo artist, West cut three albums in the '80's for Viva Records: West By West (1983), Red Hot (1983) and Don't Make Me Wait on the Moon (1984). She also released four compilations: Golden Duets (The Best of Frizzell & West) (1984), Greatest Hits: Alone & Together (with David Frizzell) (1994), The Very Best of David Frizzell & Shelly West (2009), and The Very Best of Shelly West (2009). Beyond number one hit and tequila company plug "Jose Cuervo," West's memorable singles include its top five follow-up "Flight 309 to Tennessee" as well as "Somebody Buy This Cowgirl a Beer," "Another Motel Memory" and "Love Don't Come Any Better Than This."
West's career as a country music singer ended around the time her mother passed away following a 1991 car accident. She returned as a live performer in 2012 so she and David Frizzell can continue "carryin' on the family names."
It's hard to separate West from the legacies of her mother or her ex-husband's siblings (she divorced Frizzell in 1985). Yet she achieved greatness on her own, as heard whenever "Jose Cuervo" gets a spin on the jukebox.
This post was originally published on March 31, 2020.