Norma Jean Beasler (b. January 30, 1938), better known as Norma Jean, is an American country music singer who was a member of The Porter Wagoner Show from 1961–1967. She had 13 country singles in Billboard's Country Top 40 between 1963 and 1968, recorded twenty albums for RCA Victor between 1964 and 1973, received two Grammy nominations, and was a Grand Ole Opry member for a number of years.
Norma got her start performing on radio stations in the Oklahoma City area. By age 12, she had her own radio show on KLPR-AM. She toured Oklahoma with various bands, starting with the Oklahoma Night Riders at age 16, followed by the Bill Gray Band at age 18. Norma was the Bill Gray Band's full-time vocalist, and made guest appearances with major country stars.
In 1955 she got a regular spot on the popular ABC-TV show Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Mo., where she stayed for two years and received her first national exposure. Host Red Foley suggested calling her simply "Norma Jean" and the name stuck. She met Porter Wagoner on the show, and also signed a recording contract in 1959 with Columbia Records. A string of unsuccessful singles followed, and she headed for Nashville, Tennessee. Wagoner invited her to audition for his new weekly TV program which became The Porter Wagoner Show. She became a regular on the show in 1961, where she stayed for six years. She toured and performed across the country with Wagoner, and legendary RCA producer Chet Atkins signed her to a recording contract with RCA.
She continued to be very successful on Porter Wagoner's show. On television, she projected a wholesome image, singing hurting and cheating songs which were relevant to her personal life. Norma Jean left the show in 1967 after marrying Jody Taylor (whom she later divorced) and was replaced by newcomer Dolly Parton, who went on to become one of country music's leading female stars. Parton said later that she had a hard time replacing Norma because she was so well-loved by country fans.
That year, her single, "Heaven Help the Working Girl" (an early feminist song) was a Top 20 hit, and proved to be the last one of her career. Despite a lack of major country hits, her albums continued to sell, like 1967's Jackson Ain't a Very Big Town, which peaked at No. 11 on the "Top Country Albums" list.
Norma Jean moved back to her home state of Oklahoma. By the late 60s, her career was winding down. She charted her last record, "The Kind of Needin' I Need," in 1971 and soon left RCA records.
In the later years of her life, Norma Jean struggled with an addiction to alcohol, then committed herself to Christianity. She inched back into the music industry in the 1980s with a few recordings and some personal appearances. She made a minor chart appearance with Claude Gray with a remake of her 1963 hit, "Let's Go All the Way."
In recent years, Norma Jean has been associated with Cowboy Church in Branson, Missouri. She released her first album of new music in 15 years in 2005, The Loneliest Star in Texas. This album contains a biographical song about her titled, "Pretty Miss Norma Jean", written by singer and performer Debbie Horton from Branson On The Road and recorded by rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson. Her accomplishments include performing at New York's Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden.