She was born Brenda Mae Tarpley in Atlanta and grew up in Conyers and Lithonia. She won a talent show at age five and appeared on local radio and TV. After moving to Augusta, she shortened her last name to Lee.
Lee's big break came in 1956 when country music star Red Foley invited her to appear on his TV show. She was an instant hit and the 14-year-old was on her way. Decca Records signed her to a contract, and in 1958 she recorded the classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” that remains a holiday standard. Her 1960 hit “I’m Sorry” went to # 1 and became her signature song.
She was the most successful female performer of the 1960s, with 55 Billboard hits. The only female singer in both the Country and the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame was born in Atlanta on December 11, 1944, Today in Georgia History.
Kelly Clarkson played Brenda Lee on two episodes of NBC's American Dreams.