Personalities | Loretta Lynn | Mainstream Country

Country music has spawned numerous superstars, but few can match the impact made by the woman who became known as the Coal Miner’s Daughter. Born Loretta Webb on 14 April 1935 in Butcher’s Hollow, Kentucky, she married Oliver ‘Moonshine’ Lynn in 1949. She has been an inspiration and guide to countless aspiring female acts who followed her into country music.

Honky-Tonk Girl

Lynn started her adult life in a greater hurry than even girls of the Deep South. By the time she was 18 and living in Custer, Washington, she already had four children. While doing her daily chores, she kept herself amused by singing. When time allowed, she played in a band with her brother, Jay Lee Webb. Her younger sisters, Peggy Sue and Crystal Gayle, would later follow her into music and the charts.

In 1959, she signed to Zero Records, where her debut hit single, ‘I’m A Honky Tonk Girl’, started one of the richest veins in the history of female acts in country music. She and her husband Mooney took the single personally to radio stations, and against all the odds, the independent release reached the Top 20 of the country chart. Impressed by the song, The Wilburn Brothers (Doyle and Teddy) hired Lynn to tour with them, which she continued to do until 1968, when she moved to Nashville.

By this time, she had built up a succession of hits with Decca, the label to which Patsy Cline was also signed, and was produced, like Cline, by Owen Bradley. Lynn topped the country charts for the first time in 1967 with ‘Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)’, and walked away with the CMA Female Vocalist Award that year, while ‘Fist City’ in 1968 raised Establishment eyebrows for a second time.

Breaking The Nashville Mould

Lynn’s expressive and direct style of writing, fashioning songs relating to women, resulted in her winning many admirers, and the autobiographical ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ topped the country chart in 1970. Shortly after this, she started recording duets with Conway Twitty. Duets weren’t new to Lynn, who had seen some chart success duetting with Ernest Tubb. However, nothing matched the scale of the unbroken sequence of five No. 1 singles between 1971 and 1975 she enjoyed with Twitty. This run included ‘After The Fire Is Gone’ (1971), ‘Lead Me On’ (1971) and ‘Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man’ (1973). The early 1970s almost belonged to the duo, as awards were bestowed on them like confetti. In 1972, Lynn won both the CMA Female Vocalist Of The Year (which she retained in 1973) and Entertainer Of The Year Awards, also picking up (with Twitty) Vocal Duo Of The Year Award, which they retained for four years. During this time, Lynn also stormed to the top of the country singles chart with such classics as ‘One’s On The Way’ (1971) while ‘The Pill’ (1975) struck home with the Women’s Lib movement – hardly what Nashville expected!

A 1980 movie...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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