Prairie Crooner

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The music career of one of the greatest female jazz singers of all time began in the small, rural North Dakota community of Wimbledon. Peggy Lee launched her music career on wooden risers as a member of the town's church choir.

The prairie crooner went on to perform with the "King of Swing" - The Benny Goodman Band.

By 1950 she was named "the nation's most popular female vocalist" by Billboard Magazine.

"Manana" became Peggy Lee's first Billboard number one hit in 1948. The song, along with another 132 ballads, can be heard at the only museum in the world dedicated to the sultry singer.

"Her music is timeless, it's always going to be something that people love," said Mary Beth Orn, Peggy Lee Museum.

Lee was known as Norma Egstrom when she began her music career - singing in auditoriums all across North Dakota. Warren Ernie knew Egstrom in high school before she changed her name and became famous. He says her voice lit up rural dance halls.

"She was outgoing, pretty, not shy," said Warren Ernie of Wimbledon.

Lee is the only female singer to have top-ten hits in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. Her most popular song was "Fever," which soared to number-one on the music charts in 1956.

This museum is dedicated to the small town super star. The modest dining and living rooms the country girl grew up in and the bedroom where she slept have been restored.

"It's a small room and actually it was probably the colder of the two bedrooms because she wasn't above the coal furnace," said Orn.

An entire wing of the museum is dedicated to the starlet's singing and movie career. The sequined dresses she wore, eighty of her album covers and many, many other pieces of memorabilia are elegantly displayed.

"She was Wimbledon's daughter, not only Wimbledon's, she was North Dakota's daughter," said Orn. "We are all very, very proud of her. Here is one of our very own that made it so big she was a worldwide, international singer."

Lee won a Grammy for the song "Is That All There Is" and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as a blues singer in the movie "Pete Kelly's Blues." Walt Disney featured her voice and songs in the animated movie "Lady and the Tramp." Lee also lit up Broadway with her stage performance of "Peg," an autobiographical musical based on her life.

Peggy Lee died in 2002. Her life was celebrated with a concert at Carnegie Hall and this museum continues to pay tribute to her amazing achievements.

A movie based on Peggy Lee's life is in the works with Reese Witherspoon cast in the lead role. Witherspoon was instrumental in securing the rights to Lee's life story, but production of the film has been delayed and there is no timetable for the project to be produced.