Leona Williams

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Leona Williams
Leona Williams.jpg
Background information
Birth nameLeona Belle Helton
Born (1943-01-07) January 7, 1943 (age 78)
OriginVienna, Missouri, U.S.
GenresCountry, Honky Tonk
Bass guitar Acoustic Guitar
Years active1958–present
Associated actsMerle Haggard, The Strangers

Leona Belle Helton (born January 7, 1943 in Vienna, Missouri, United States) is an American country music singer known professionally as Leona Williams. Active since 1958, Williams has been a backing musician for Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard and The Strangers. (She and Haggard were married between 1978 and 1983.) She also charted eight times on Hot Country Songs, with her only Top 40 hit being a duet with Haggard titled "The Bull and the Beaver."


Leona Belle Helton was born January 7, 1943 in Vienna, Missouri.[1] Active in her family's band since childhood, she had a radio program on KWOS in Jefferson City, Missouri when she was fifteen.[1] Later on, she worked as a bass guitarist and backing vocalist in Loretta Lynn's road band. By 1968, Williams signed to the Hickory record label and released two singles: "Once More" and "Country Girl with Hot Pants On."[1] In 1976, she recorded the album San Quentin's First Lady for MCA Records with The Strangers, which was the first country album recorded by a female artist inside a prison.[1] She also joined Merle Haggard's road band The Strangers in the mid-1970s, supplanting his estranged wife, Bonnie Owens. Leona wrote two of Merle's No. 1 hits, "Someday When Things Are Good", and "You Take Me For Granted". She also wrote songs for Connie Smith--"Dallas", Loretta Lynn--"Get Whatcha Got And Go", and others. Between 1978 and 1983, she was married to Haggard, and in 1978, the two charted in the country Top Ten with the song "The Bull and the Beaver."[1] She recorded two singles for Elektra Records in 1981, and charted another duet with Haggard titled "We're Strangers Again."[2] She later married singer-songwriter Dave Kirby in 1985,[2] and remained married to him until his 2004 death. From 2005 she was with Ferlin Husky, and remained with him for the last six years of his life. Williams continues to tour with her son, Ron.[3]

In 2017, Williams won the Honky Tonk Female honour at the Ameripolitan Music Awards.[4]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Leona Williams among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[5]



Year Album information Chart Positions
US Country
1976 San Quentin's First Lady (with The Strangers)
1983 Heart to Heart (with Merle Haggard) 44
2001 Old Love Never Dies (with Merle Haggard)
2002 This is Leona Williams Country(including 11 duets with Merle Haggard)
  • Label: Ernest Tubb Record Shops
  • Released: 2002
  • Format: CD
2004 Honorary Texan
  • Label: Heart of Texas
  • Released: 2004
  • Format: CD
2005 I Love You Because
  • Label: Heart of Texas
  • Released: 2005
  • Format: CD
2008 Sings Merle Haggard
  • Label: Ah-Ha
  • Released: July 2008
  • Format: CD
2008 New Patches
  • Label: Heart of Texas
  • Released: September 2008
  • Format: CD
2011 Grass Roots
  • Label: Loveshine
  • Released: 2011
  • Format: CD
2011 Duets
  • Label: Loveshine
  • Released: 2011
  • Format: CD
2011 Melted Down Memories
  • Label: Loveshine
  • Released: 2011
  • Format: CD
2012 By George This is...Leona Williams
  • Label: Ah-Ha Music Group
  • Released: 2012
  • Format: CD
2013 Yes Ma'm, He Found Me in a Honky Tonk
  • Label: Bear Family
  • Released: November 5, 2013
  • Format: 3-CD set


List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak
US Country
"A Woman's Man" 1968 That Williams Girl
"Papa's Medicine Show"
"They'll Never Take His Love from Me" 1969
"Once More" 66
"Baby, We're Really in Love"
"When I Stop Dreaming" 1970
"Yes Ma'am, He Found Me in a Honky Tonk" N/A
"Watch Her Go"
"Somewhere Inside" 1971
"Country Girl with Hot Pants On" 52
"Country Music in My Soul"
"Happy Anniversary, Baby" 1972
"Out of Hand"
"I'd Rather Die" 1973
"I Can't Tell My Heart That"
"Your Shoeshine Girl" 93
"Anything Goes ('Til Everything's Gone)"
"I'm Not Supposed to Love You Anymore" 1974
"Just Like a Prayer"
"Shape Up or Ship Out" 1975
"I Wonder Where I'll Find You at Tonight" 1976 San Quentin's First Lady (with The Strangers)
"San Quentin"
"Mama, I've Got to Go to Memphis" 1978 N/A
"Bright Morning Light"
"The Baby Song" 1979 92
"Good Nights Make Good Mornings"
"Any Port in a Storm" 1980
"I'm Almost Ready" 1981 54
"You Can't Find Many Kisses"
"Always Late with Your Kisses" 84
"Rock Me to Sleep" 1986 A Taste of Life
"No Love Line"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Collaborative singles[edit]

List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart


"The Bull and the Beaver"
(with Merle Haggard)
1978 8 25 N/A
"We're Strangers Again"
(with Merle Haggard)
1983 42 Heart to Heart
"Waitin' for the Good Life to Come"
(with Merle Haggard)
"It's Cold in California"
(with Merle Haggard)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  1. ^ a b c d e Loftus, Johnny. "Leona Williams biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. pp. 467–468. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.
  3. ^ "Leona Williams". Leona Williams. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  4. ^ Vinson, Christina. "2017 Ameripolitan Music Awards Winners Crowned". The Boot.
  5. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  6. ^ "Search results for Leona Williams under "Country Singles"". RPM. Retrieved 13 July 2014.