Georgia Becker Bedwell has packed a lot of living into her life. The 1972 Miss North Dakota traveled the world, married twice, raised a son, lived and worked in Nashville, earned a college certificate, and moved back to North Dakota. Today she’s working full-time and learning to adjust to her life as a widow, something she’d rather not be doing.
Inspiring North Dakotan Musicians
Georgia, the oldest of seven children, was raised in a musical family in Napoleon where she was surrounded by the ever-present sounds of country music on her dad’s radio and stereo. Her high school music teacher, Gene Mosbrucker, encouraged her to pursue her passion of music. Both saw music as a way for Georgia to fund a college education. When she learned pageants provided scholarships for college, she entered. She won the Miss Kidder County pageant and then Miss North Dakota, including the talent portion, singing the popular, “Rose Garden,” recorded by fellow North Dakotan Lynn Anderson. Like many North Dakotans, Georgia watched Strasburg’s Lawrence Welk on his Saturday night show where Lynn performed regularly. Lynn became Georgia’s inspiration.
One Song, Many Opportunities
Georgia’s memorable performances of “Rose Garden” opened many doors for her. After receiving a non-finalist talent scholarship at the Miss America pageant, Georgia joined the Miss America USO tour and was a part of the Miss America pageant production the following year. Tom Bryant, a fellow Napoleon High School graduate who worked at Nashville’s WSM (AM) radio, home of The Grand Old Opry-the world’s longest running radio program, shared a tape of Georgia’s performance, landing her an invitation to perform there in 1973. Shortly thereafter she moved to Nashville and began a career in country music.
Country Music Career Takes Off
Georgia worked in the country music show at Opryland USA where she met two other female vocalists who together later became Roy Clark’s backup singers. Besides working many television shows like the Tonight Show, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Dinah Shore and the Merv Griffin show, in 1976 the group accompanied Roy on a cultural exchange tour to the former Soviet Union. They also toured the entire USA and Canada. After leaving Roy, the group returned to Opryland USA with their own show called “Three of a Kind.” In addition, Georgia started singing on writer’s demos; one was released as a single record on an independent label, which led to a second single. She toured with her own show until 1983 when she took a job in record promotion at Capitol Records where she stayed for 14 years. There she experienced the music industry from the inside out.
Georgia helped launch the careers of, and brought home number one records for many artists including, but not limited to, Trace Adkins, Garth Brooks, and Tanya Tucker.
Georgia acknowledges that today’s music industry has changed. Success still depends on one’s own determination and being a songwriter still separates one apart from others. However, playlists are tighter and now consultants rather than markets pick music. Her favorite performers include icons Garth, Reba and George and the song she often sings to herself is one written by Rodney Crowell and originally recorded by Emmylou Harris, “Till I Gain Control Again.”
Her husband of 22 years, Byron L. Bedwell, III, played this song on his guitar while she sang. She misses that, and him.
Georgia’s life partner, Byron, was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer in February 2015 and died July 17, 2015. It’s her greatest heartache and one she’s learning to cope with today. She understands her life has been blessed and continues to be blessed. But, if she had a magic wand, she’d wish for Byron to return so they could grow old together. Like many who’ve lost a loved one, Georgia feels like a piece of her is missing and she’s working hard to figure out how to become a whole person again.
Georgia recently finished college classes and earned a human resources certification she’s using at her Bismarck bank job. She knows it’s never too late to change “horses and find a new career.” She understands that all of us have the choice to be who we want to be and that it is up to us to make it happen. Georgia also serves on the Board of Directors for the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization as their talent coordinator. She continues to promote the pageant as a source of scholarship funds for young women.
She cites her greatest accomplishment as her wonderful son, Trent, whom she wishes she lived nearer to. Her greatest joy originates from sharing her heart and faith and from caring for others who may need her help. More than anything, she wishes to be remembered for that loving and giving heart. She longs for her parents to be with her for many years ahead and wishes she could thank her deceased Grandma Johanna Mitzel for teaching her the value of loving unconditionally.
More than ever she’s living by her favorite verse “Walk by faith not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7.
Still a beauty. Still a talent. Back in North Dakota. Georgia Becker Bedwell.
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©Copyright. March 2016. Linda Leier Thomason
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