Given name Kay Toinette Oslin; born ca. 1942, in Crossit, Arkansas; daughter of a lab technician; unmarried, no children. Education: Studied drama at Lon Morris College, Jacksonville, Fla. Addresses: c/o RCA Records, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036.

Kay Toinette Oslin's sudden success as a vocalist marks a new trend in country music. Well into her forties--and just slightly overweight--Oslin hardly projects the image of beauty and submissiveness long associated with female country singers. Her songs too follow a different path: rather than "standing by her man," she extols the virtues of ogling young cuties and offers tributes to mature womanhood. Oslin labored in obscurity and poverty for more than twenty years, and was on the verge of quitting before her 1987 album, 80's Ladies, went gold. Since then she has ridden the top of the country charts, both with her debut effort and with her follow-up album, This Woman.

"With K.T.'s years of struggle as their foundation," writes a Ladies Home Journal contributor, "both 80's Ladies and This Woman give the perspective of a mature woman of experience." Oslin writes her own songs, drawing upon her life as she ages for themes. Life magazine correspondent Karen Emmons describes Oslin's work as "laments for girlhood, bleats of woe and wrenching love, but the voice and the point of view are distinctive and anything but forlorn. She may be a hurtin' woman, but she still knows how to have fun." Emmons adds that the number one song "80's Ladies," Oslin's first chart-topper, "[swept] a generation of former girls like a subliminal anthem." If there is anything subliminal in Oslin's songs, it is the suggestion that women can continue to have passion and promise as they enter middle age. Country music fans--both male and female--seem ready to embrace that idea.

Oslin was born in Crossit, Arkansas, to a working-class family. Her father died when she was five, and she was raised by her mother and grandmother, "two women who had to make their own way in life," to use her words. Oslin's mother had had show business ambitions, but she put them aside to work as a lab technician. Oslin was not so inclined. After studying drama at a small Texas college, she landed a job with the chorus of the Hello, Dolly! touring company. Eventually she found her way to New York City, where she earned chorus roles in such Broadway musicals as West Side Story and Promises, Promises. "New York spelled terror for me," Oslin told People magazine. "I'm from the suburbs. I'm from yards. My first apartment had five locks on the door and a bathtub in the kitchen."

Oslin soon found herself making television commercials, many of which pictured her as a happy housewife "babbling about my husband's hemorrhoids." Such work paid the bills--barely--but it did not satisfy Oslin's creative longings. Surprising even herself, she began to write country songs. She had never been a great fan of country music, she told People, but when she began to write, her pieces "were very definitely country.... They just came out that way." Oslin sold several songs to other recording artists before landing an Elektra contract in 1980. The single she released for Elektra, an early version of "Younger Men," failed to make the charts, so she lost her contract. At that point, Oslin told People, she was almost ready to give up. "I got real fat and I got real depressed," she said.

In a last-ditch effort to launch a career, Oslin borrowed $7000 from her aunt and mounted a showcase for Nashville's record executives. The 1986 production was well attended, but it failed to win her a contract. Desperate, she sent a copy of 80's Ladies to RCA Records, and within months her first album was released. Nine years after writing her first song, Oslin found herself in the limelight at last. Her debut album climbed the country charts at a record-setting pace, she won the coveted Grammy Award for country vocal performance, and she was invited to tour with Alabama. She was forty-four at the time. Oslin has no illusions about her success. "There are a million beautiful young women singers," she told People. "I am not one of them. Writing is the key to all of this success for me." Oslin's themes--once deemed too depressing by at least one Nashville executive--are indeed the strong point of her work. However, she possesses a strong, well-trained voice and a charming stage presence, both of which add to her performance. Her backup band, "Live Bait," consists of four handsome young men. Oslin tells audiences that her band members were chosen for their looks, because "I spend a lot of time on the bus, and I ain't gonna look at no ugly boys."

Oslin actually believes that her age has worked to her advantage in an industry where youth has traditionally been a prerequisite. "I let people know forty isn't the age to pack it in," she told the Ladies Home Journal. In People she expressed her gratitude and wonder another way. Now, when she performs, she said, "young 20-year-old boys come up to me and give me flowers. I'm talkin' real cuties." Asked if she regrets all the years she spent in obscurity, Kay Toinette Oslin responded, "I'd rather be starting now than ending now."

by Anne Janette Johnson

K. T. Oslin's Career

Worked in television commercials, doing vocals and acting, and travelled with touring company of Broadway musicals, 1967-80; signed with Elektra Records, 1980, released single "Younger Men"; signed with RCA, 1986, released first album, 80's Ladies, 1987.

K. T. Oslin's Awards

Grammy Award for best female vocal performance in country-western format, 1988.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 5 years ago

I sure hope you read this, K.T. I just had to say that I've been a fan of your music since you debuted in '87. We're all getting older and I've read about your health problems. Just wanted to let you know that your songs fit so much of my life; so much that I could have written them. Not possible, though because I have no talent but thank goodness you do. I wish you good health and thanks again for creating all that great music!

over 5 years ago

Dear K.T. You have been our idol for so long1 I come from a family of strong women and we call ourselves the YA-YAs. We have so many of your songs that related directly to us and we just know great music when we hear it. We travel around the country in our YaYa truck (Winabeago)with your music blaring and all uf us singing along. Your voice is golden and so many of your songs seemed to have been written just for us. We have seen you in concert a couple of times and yes we did sneek back stage to meet you once in Dallas. I cherish my autographed photograph of you. I have been a teacher for 25 years and one day I was teaching Drivers Ed I was braggin on you and your music and a girl named Casey Kirkwood said that is my aunt. I almost had a heart attack! (Of course she passed with flying colors) You are so talented just as a woman, songwriter and a person. You put on a hell of concert and we can't wait to see you again. You are a class act! Thanks for sticking with it and giving us so many wonderful songs and good times. I hope all is well with you and I hope that you tour again. If not....you will always be ouf favorate and our kids will aleays remember all of us singing to your songs to the top of our lungs. We Love you! Bunches and Gobbs Debbie Doo and The Ya-Yas

over 5 years ago

Dear K.T. As a member of strong, southern women I have loved everything you have ever written. Have seen you several times in concert and your presense on stage is so beautiful! All my sisters are the "YA-YAs" and you are our hero. I was bragging about you to one of my Drivers edication class and Casey Kirkwood said "thats my aunt" I could not believe it. (Of course she passed with flying colors). We all know all the words to every song and it is our traveling music as well. So happy you stuck with it and gave us so many wonderful hours, years and decades of strong, beautiful mucic to help us get thru our lives. Can't wait to meet you again....yes I snuck backstage in Dallas and met you once. You are a real lady and are loved by more fans than you will ever know. I am one of the BIGGEST! May you always have peace happiness and health. When you come to Dallas, please let me take you out for a Ya-Ya night. Bunches and Gobbs Debbie Wood

over 5 years ago

i love your singing, you are a very pretty lady in my mind. beautiful voice.

almost 6 years ago

Ms Oslin.... I have REdiscovered you after too many years gone by. Thank YOU so much for sharing your soul with us with your music. I simply cannot listen to your music and not feel a bit more hopeful about so many things. Will you ever perform again? I would love to be there............

almost 6 years ago

Where are you K.T.? I have you singing to me right now. I need more from you. Get working. :-) We miss you. M

over 6 years ago

just wanted to drop a line and say hello to K.T., just in case she ever read these comments, i to am a K.T. fan, loveeeeeeeeee anything you sing! you loved and missed....i'm not sure if you sing anymore, but i bet you can still belt out mean tune....:) and no doubts at all that you can still pen a mean lyric...would be great to hear something from you....if you do pen something...make sure it gets on a karaoke track, ok? lol, i sing ALL of your songs that are on karaoke track...anyways...just wanted to let you know you are loved and missed.

over 6 years ago

Hello K.T. Oslin come come out of retirement we all miss you singing i will you i have a tape of one of your concerts and some my tape ran out in the middle of taping it i believe it was on cmt channel years ago i have your cd,s in my car and when i feel down i put them on and i feel good again i am fourty years old and i am in a point in my life where i am at a crossroad and i really would love to just take a chance and give acting a try i have never acted in anything before but i feel i could become somebody i would love to make people laugh if i ever become famous but for i am not sure i was thinking of maybe going to a tech school and because i also love to fix anything mechanical i have to say you are a great talent and a very pretty lady and it would be an honor to meet you one day if possible warmest regards From John Grisanzio

over 6 years ago

k t today purchased a new cassette player, rummaged through my cassettes, found 'love in a small town', played it, enjoyed it more than i did 20? years ago. these songs really hit home for me back then and now. thanks for sharing your talent

over 6 years ago

KT Oslin is my grandfathers sister.

over 7 years ago

K.T., over the 23 years that you have been a star I have followed your career and have seen you in concert 3 times. I am 39 now, so I was 16 when you debuted and I love love love you. Come on back, none of the current females offer your approach to music.

over 7 years ago

I'll never forget the night I was watching Hee-Haw and you were on there...they said.."Salute" and you said my hometown of Crossett, Arkansas....I almost fell out..it's mine also; and I'm proud of it and you. I've always related to your songs and loved them. Hope all is good with you.

over 7 years ago

Hi K.T., Remember me? Twylia from Crossett. It has been a long time. I was looking through some old memorabilia of your dad, Harold Oslin, and other family members from Crossett today....found it tucked away in a closet and had forgotten all about it. I would love to hear from you sometime. Miss your music...as you know, I loved it!! Hope all is well with you. Please contact me if you ever have the opportunity...would love to talk to you again sometime. Twylia

over 7 years ago

I have just rediscovered my casette entitled Love in a small town. I play it over and over front to back and find that it moves me to such compassion that it invokes tears and joy and compassion that incites me to write this plea please let us hear from you.I love your voice and lerics thank you so much for your contribution.

over 7 years ago

I really miss your style of singing and song writing.Wish you would crank it up again.Our generation needs your music. The Best to you.

over 7 years ago

I am 64 and a hugh K.T. Oslin fan. Her voice is golden that that sexy smile is a real turn on. Is she still performing and will she ever play in Kansas City?

almost 8 years ago

K.T. such a classy lady as the song says ''come back'' AMERICA'' needs you Janis and i love your songs so much! 'MAY ''GOD BE WITH YOU ALWAYS thanks so much for sharing your life with all of 'AMERICA' bobby&Janis story in mobile Alabama

almost 8 years ago

hey K.T. wow im probably the youngest on here writing you!! im only 25 and i loved you since i was a kid. i have all ur cds and listen to them everyday at work and on the drive home. i would so love if you would come to CMA fest 2010 so i could see you .. i would love to meet you to ur just a great inspiration to me.. i love you K.T !!!

almost 8 years ago

I can never thank you enough for "80's Ladies". I cannot believe that it was all that long ago, while I was manuevering my 2 hour commute home and I popped in my "new" tape. I laughed out loud, played that song over and over until I had memorized the lyrics and bellowed it out all the rest of the way home... I had heard you were ill, and then I kind of lost touch with your music. Found my old tape the other day and I've been playing it ever since. Retired now (I'm 2 years older than you are) I no longer commute 2 hours to anywhere I don't want to go.. but you travel with me along with all the other 80's Ladies. Thanks again!

about 8 years ago

I love every song you have ever sang. You are one of the most classy ladies I have ever seen perform. My wife and I love your music. We really miss you and your beautiful voice. God bless you, Jim

over 8 years ago

Hi K.T. I just love your music. I try to sing some of your songs (karaoke) but certainly do not do them justice. I would like to see "Old Pictures" go to CDG so that I could perform that one at our AMVETS Post. It's my favorite because of the lyrics. You're the best! I'd like to see you make a return to a TV special or something as I do not have the funds to go to all these music shows. Take care. ...Margie

over 8 years ago

I too saw you way back on Austin City Limits, went right out and bought your Songs From An Aging Sex Bomb, Greatest Hits CD. Loved it. Seems like I can relate to most of those songs myself. Thanks, it helps to know there are more of us out there. Jane

over 8 years ago

Dear " K.T." I had also saw you on Austin City way back. I was hooked right away. My two favorites are " Come Next Monday" & my all-time-fav !! "New Way Home". I get teary-eyed everytime I hear it. Your songs are truly from the heart. Please let us know when you will be coming soon to the Chicagoland area. We'll be there for sure. Thanks for touching our lives !! Michael ...

over 8 years ago

KT is a great talent, a wonderful role model but she went to school at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville TEXAS, not Florida

over 8 years ago

I've watched your career over the long haul. As in life, every thing in life is not fair. I've admired and felt your innner struggle voiced so very well in your song. Not many singers have that heart-felt experience expressed so intimately in their songs as you do. I followed you in the videoes on your USO tour and others adventures you went on. Count me as a lifelong fan. Myron

over 8 years ago

I first saw you on Austin City Limits around about 1989 (I think) and I taped the show as it was repeated the next day. I thought: "What a lady, what a voice and what lyrics". I have been a fan ever since. Take care of yourself and God Bless. Peter

over 8 years ago

You, K.T., are one of the classiest women to perform as well as being a real classic! I was lucky enough to see you opening at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for Randy Travis in the late 80's, and have loved you ever since. Your beautiful voice, your beauty, your stage presence--all winners. I would love to know if you ever perform locally, and if so, when and where? You are an absolute favorite of mine and I would travel to hear you again!

over 8 years ago

KT, I have loved you and your music for many years and I was truely blessed to see you in concert you are on classy broad, sure hope you are doing well sweetie, you remind me sooooo much of Patsy Cline in your looks,and also your "BOLDNESS", keep on keeping on my sweetie!! God Bless, Margaret

over 8 years ago

Wow! Just happened to come across "Do Ya" while doing some other research. It brought back so many memories. Your voice along with the message of your music is phenomenal! Got a chance to look over your bio and 20/20 interview--great stuff. What are you doing now?

almost 9 years ago

WE ARE NOW AGE 62 AND 71. PLAYED HEY BOBBY AT OUR WEDDING IN 1993. It is our song and you are the only one who can sing it. Love your music. Looking for where you will be performing. Can't find a tour schedule. Please come back.

almost 9 years ago

Hi...love you music...been a fan forever...thats about it....bye

over 9 years ago

When are ya coming back and join the party? We miss you. We need you on that stage. We want your sass, your fire.