She grew up listening to blues and gospel music and started writing songs and playing guitar when she was a teenager. She worked at a munitions plant during the Korean War.
She made her debut on the popular stage show, Grand Ole Opry, in 1963.
She married Shelby Singleton when she was thirteen years old and had her first child, Stephen, in 1950 before getting a divorce and getting remarried to Leon Ashley in 1965.
She recorded a cover of Bobbie Gentry's song, "Ode to Billie Joe," in 1967.