Anita Bryant was born in Oklahoma and began singing in beauty pageants as a teenager. She became the second runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 1959 and then began recording for Carlton Records.
Her first single to reach the charts was Till There Was You, a song from the Broadway play, The Music Man. Anita’s single reached #30 on the Hot 100 in 1959. The Beatles performed the song in their early concerts and covered the song on their second studio album.
Two more singles followed that year that missed the top forty. Her next hit record was Paper Roses. The million-selling single reached #5 in 1960, and she got to perform the song on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. Marie Osmond’s version of the song was her first recorded single and also reached #5 in 1973 (and topped the Country and Easy Listening charts as well).
Anita had another top ten record in 1960 with the release of My Little Corner Of The World. Her next two singles again missed the top forty.
One of the biggest records of 1961 was Bert Kaempfert’s chart-topping instrumental Wonderland By Night. A second nearly identical instrumental by Louis Prima also charted, but that version stalled at #15.
Anita’s version of Wonderland By Night finally gave us a version with lyrics. The single didn’t prove to be as popular as the instrumental versions and it peaked at only #18 in 1961. Despite many singles that followed, it proved to be Anita’s last visit to the Hot 100 top forty. By 1964, she had three more singles reach the Hot 100 and a few others that failed to chart, but after that, she didn’t get close to the Hot 100 again.
Anita accompanied Bob Hope on many of his visits to US troops throughout most of the sixties. She also sang the national anthem at Super Bowl III in 1969.
Anita continued recording albums through 1985, although beginning in the seventies, she focused primarily on Christian and Christmas albums. She also got work advertising orange juice in television and magazine ads.
Anita became a focal point for the battle for acceptance of the LGBTQ community. She became very involved in publicly opposing laws that embraced equal rights and anti-discrimination beginning in 1977. Her efforts made her appearances toxic and shut down her career.
She opened small venues first in Branson and later in Pigeon Forge to restart her singing career, but those attempts drove her into bankruptcy in 2001. She retreated to Oklahoma and worked for ministries and charities.
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