Known as “The Entertainer’s Entertainer,” Karen Wheeler delivers a song with a voice so strong and true, comedy with such innocence, and a natural stage presence – you know she has been in the music business all her life. Karen’s parents, successful performers in their own right, paved the way. Her mother, “Little Jean,” was a masterful vocalist and all-around entertainer who, at age 16, had her own radio show on KWOC Radio in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Karen’s famous father, Onie Wheeler, respected worldwide not only for his hit records in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but for his songwriting, harmonica playing and being a member of the Roy Acuff Show for 22 years until his untimely death on May 26, 1984 from a massive heart attack while singing on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
At the age of 11, Karen began her professional career, singing harmony on her parents’ records. By age 12, she signed her first recording contract with K-Ark Records in St. Louis and made her first television appearance on the “St. Louis Hop.” Signing with Columbia Records at 15, she made her move to Nashville. During this monumental time, she also made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and continued to do so until the late 80s. It has been reported that Karen has more encores on the Grand Ole Opry stage than any other female artist in the business today!
In addition to Columbia Records, Karen has released music on RCA and Capitol, as well as Chart, Boone, Hilltop, Starday, Fox Fire and Raindrop Records. Her dynamic live performances have pleased audiences around the world including numerous USO shows for troops in Vietnam, Thailand, Puerto Rico and Greenland. Additionally, she has opened for most of the legends in country music such as Conway Twitty, Cal Smith, Mickey Gilley, Sonny James, Hank Williams Jr., Bill Anderson, Don Williams, The Statler Brothers, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, George Jones, Billy Walker, Johnny Russell, Gene Watson, Johnny Duncan, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Ed Brown, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Johnny Cash, Nat Stuckey, Marty Robbins, Tommy Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Dolly Parton. She has even graced the stage with “Little House on the Prairie’s” Michael Landon.
While she has a passion for singing and performing, Karen loves to write, too, a talent she takes seriously, writing most of her own songs, and publishing two cookbooks. She is currently in the process of writing a memoir about her and her dad entitled, My Father’s Daughter. Combining those talents of writing and performing, Karen often takes the stage at songwriter’s nights in Nashville.
With a career still going strong, Karen recently filmed a gospel video for her self-penned song, “When We’re Made Perfect,” produced and directed by Richard Daniel Clark. She also has a recent gospel CD release on her own record label, Fox Fire Records, entitled Softly And Tenderly and a new country CD entitled, Too Good To Be Bad on Raindrop Records, which includes “I’m Gonna Beat This Thing,” a very personal song written by Karen, a breast cancer survivor and her friend, Tom Grant, also a cancer survivor. These CDs and others are available at karenwheelermusic.com
Karen is very active in country and gospel music, serving as secretary on the Board of Directors for the “Music City Christian Fellowship” for three years. She credits her faith in God for surviving breast cancer, life, and sustaining her musical career, and comments, “I can do all things through God who strengthens me!”
Her performances and skills go beyond music, and include acting – beginning with a TV appearance as Johnny Paycheck’s wife on “Nashville 99” starring Claude Akins and Jerry Reed. Most recently, Karen starred as “Tootsie McCoy” in “One Kiss Café,” a brand new musical with a three-week run at the beautiful Ford Theater inside the Country Music Hall Of Fame.
Whether singing, performing, writing or acting, Karen Wheeler is an accomplished artist and continues her reign as “The Entertainer’s Entertainer!”