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PASSINGS: Johnnie Wright, Arch West

Johnnie Wright, country singer who also managed career of wife Kitty Wells, dies at 97; Arch West, Frito-Lay executive who helped launch Doritos, dies at 97

September 28, 2011

Johnnie Wright

Country singer also managed wife Kitty Wells' career

Johnnie Wright, 97, who had a string of country music hits as half of the duo Johnnie and Jack and guided the career of his wife, Kitty Wells, who is regarded as the first major female country music star, died Tuesday of natural causes at his Nashville home, said Eddie Stubbs, a family friend.

Performing with Jack Anglin, Wright placed 15 songs in the country top 20 between 1951 and 1962. Their successes included "Ashes of Love," "I Get So Lonely," "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" and the Latin-influenced "Poison Love."

The pair joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1952, where they remained until Anglin died in a 1963 car crash on his way to a memorial service for Patsy Cline and others.

Wright continued as a solo artist and had a No. 1 hit with "Hello Vietnam" in 1965.

He was born John Robert Wright on May 13, 1914, in Mount Juliet, Tenn., and began performing with Anglin in 1936.

The next year, he married Wells, who went on to have 23 top 10 hits in the 1950s alone. She is credited with paving the way for such other female country artists as Cline, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

"He managed her career and put her career ahead of his own," which included finding "all of her songs," Stubbs said.

The couple recorded an autobiographical duet, "We'll Stick Together," in 1968 and performed together until they were in their early 80s, touring with their three children as the Kitty Wells Family Show.

Arch West

Frito-Lay exec helped launch Doritos

Arch West, 97, a retired Frito-Lay marketing executive credited with creating Doritos as the first national tortilla chip brand, died Sept. 20 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, his family announced. The cause was not given.

West was a marketing vice president for Dallas-based Frito-Lay in 1961 when, while on a family vacation near San Diego, he found a snack shack selling fried tortilla chips. His daughter Jana Hacker said her father got a tepid corporate response to the tortilla chip idea but conducted marketing research that led to the Doritos rollout.

West had previously worked for both Lever Brothers and Young & Rubicam in New York as a liaison between the creative teams and clients that included Jell-O.

Born in 1914 in Indianapolis, West was placed in a Masonic home in Franklin, Ind., after the death of his father, a Mason, leaving his mother with two sons she could not support.

West received his bachelor's degree from Franklin College in Indiana, which he attended on a scholarship. He then started his career as a cheese salesman for Standard Brands.

He joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a gunnery officer aboard the Holt destroyer escort during World War II.

After the war, West resumed his career in Indianapolis and was later recruited by Lever Bros. in New York.

Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

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