Originally named Charlotte, Charly McClain
was given her masculine moniker by neighborhood friends in Memphis, and she also used it when she started playing hotel lounges. When Epic Records decided it sounded catchier than Charlotte, it became a permanent professional banner. McClain
's father had tuberculosis when she was eight, and, since she was underage for visitation rights at the hospital, she had to communicate with him through a tape recorder. That inspired her interest in recording, and by age 17 she was a regular on the club circuit. Signed to her first recording contract in 1976, McClain
's distinct vocal sound provided an edge in recognizability -- as did her appearance. She hit country's Top Ten for the first time in 1978 with "That's What You Do to Me," followed up with 1980's "Men," and hit the top spot one year later with "Who's Cheatin' Who." She stayed in the upper reaches during 1982 with "Dancing Your Memory Away" and "The Very Best Is You," then hit number one again in 1983 with her Mickey Gilley
duet "Paradise Tonight." McClain
married former soap star Wayne Massey
in 1984, and their own duet ("With Just One Look in Your Eyes") reached number five. Her last number one came with 1985's "Radio Heart," but she continued to chart until her last recording came in 1989.