Tammy Wynette

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Tammy_Wynette_Remembered.jpg
Tammy Wynette on the cover of her tribute album Tammy Wynette Remembered

Tammy Wynette (May 5, 1942April 6, 1998) was an American country singer and songwriter. She was known as the "First Lady of Country Music" and one of her best-known songs was "Stand By Your Man," which was one of the biggest selling hit singles by a woman in the history of the music genre.

She was born Virginia Wynette Pugh near Tremont, Mississippi, the only child of William Hollis Pugh (died February 13, 1943) and Mildred Faye Russell (1922-1991). She was always called Wynette (pronounced Wee-net), or Nettie, instead of Virginia.

Her father was a farmer and local musician. He died of a brain tumor when Wynette was nine months of age. Her mother worked in an office, as a substitute school teacher and on the family farm. After the death of Hollis Pugh, she left Wynette in the care of her parents, Thomas Chester and Flora A. Russell, and moved to Memphis to work in a World War II defense plant. In 1946, she married Foy Lee, a farmer from Mississippi.

Wynette was raised on the Itawamba County farm of her maternal grandparents where she was born. The place was partly on the border with Alabama. She used to say that the state line ran right through their property. As a youngster, she worked in the fields picking cotton alongside the hired crews to get in the crop. She grew up with her aunt, Carolyn Russell, who was only five years older than her. Wynette sang gospel tunes with her grandmother, learned to play the piano and the guitar.

She attended Tremont High School, where she was an all-star basketball player. A month before graduation, she married her first husband. He was a construction worker and they moved several times. Her early jobs included working as a waitress, a receptionist, a barmaid and in a shoe factory. In 1963, she went to beauty school in Tupelo, Mississippi, and became a hairdresser; she would renew her cosmetology license every year for the rest of her life, just in case she should have to go back to a daily job. Her first husband, whom she left before the birth of their third daughter, was not supportive of her ambition to become a country singer, and told her, "Dream on, Baby."

Her baby developed spinal meningitis and Wynette tried to make extra money by performing at night. In 1965, she sang on the Country Boy Eddie Show on WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, which led to some appearances with Porter Wagoner. In 1966, she moved with her three girls from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee, where she pounded the pavement to get a recording contract. She then auditioned for producer Billy Sherrill, who signed her to Epic Records.

She was wearing her long, blonde hair in a ponytail at her second meeting with Sherrill. He told her the name Wynette Pugh just didn't fit and asked her to change it. He said with her hair drawn back like that she looked like a Tammy. Thus, she became Tammy Wynette.

Her first hit song was "Apartment #9." In 1967, she had hits with "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad," "My Elusive Dreams," a duet with David Houston, and "I Don't Want To Play House."

Tammy had three number one hits in 1968—"Take Me to Your World," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and "Stand By Your Man," which she said she wrote in fifteen minutes. In 1969, she had two number one hits—"Singing My Song" and "The Ways to Love a Man."

She married her second husband shortly after her divorce became final. In 1968, she began a relationship with George Jones, one of the singers on the country music scene with a chronic drinking problem. They were married the following year after her second divorce. Starting in 1971, she and Jones recorded several popular duets—the first being the Top 10 hit "Take Me" (...to your darkest room, bolt every window and lock every door). It was a difficult marriage, however, and they were divorced; they continued to record together sporadically over the next two decades.

Wynette had five husbands, Euple Byrd (married 1959-divorced 1966); Don Chapel (married 1967-divorced 1968); George Jones (married 1969-divorced 1975); Michael Tomlin (married 1976-divorced 1976); and George Richey (married 1978-her death 1998).

She and Byrd had three children, Gwendolyn Lee "Gwen" Byrd (born 1961), Jacquelyn Faye "Jackie" Byrd (born 1962) and Tina Denise Byrd (born 1965), and she and Jones had one child, Tamala Georgette Jones (born 1970).

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wynette dominated the country charts. She had seventeen number one hits. Along with Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, she helped redefine the role and place of female country singers.

Wynette had some serious physical ailments in the 1970s, including operations on her gall bladder, kidney and on the nodules on her throat. "Till I Can Make It On My Own" became her comeback song in the mid-1970s.

She had a well publicized relationship with actor Burt Reynolds in the 1970s. Her fourth marriage, to Michael Tomlin, lasted only six weeks. She then married George Richey, who became her manager. In 1978, she was mysteriously abducted by a masked man at a Nashville shopping center, driven 80 miles south in her luxury car, beaten and released. No one was ever arrested or identified; although, according to her daughter, Jackie, who wrote the book Tammy Wynette: A Daughter Recalls Her Mother's Tragic Life and Death, Tammy and Richey were covering up for him blacking her eye.

Wynette's autobiography, Stand By Your Man, was published in 1979 by Simon and Schuster.

She continued to have hit songs, but less often, during the 1980s. Her medical problems continued, including inflammations of her bile duct. In 1986, she acted on the CBS TV soap opera Capitol. In 1987, "Higher Ground" broke through with a new contemporary sound, broadening her audience and proving her to be an innovator among country singers.

In 1988, she filed for bankruptcy as a result of a bad investment in two Florida shopping centers.

She recorded a Rock track with the Scottish music group KLF in 1992 titled "Justified And Ancient," which became a number one hit in eighteen countries.

In 1992 Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a 60 Minutes interview that she wasn't going to be like Tammy Wynette and "stand by her man". The remark set off a firestorm of controversy and Wynette demanded, and received, an apology.

The 1993 album "Honky Tonk Angels" with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn was a huge hit for her, as was "Without Walls" (1994), which was recorded with the help of Elton John, Lyle Lovett, Aaron Neville, Smokey Robinson, Sting and others.

Wynette also designed and sold her own line of jewelry in the 1990s. In 1994, she suffered an abdominal infection that almost killed her. She was in a coma for six days. In 1995, she and George Jones recorded and toured together again for the last time.

After years of medical problems, numerous hospitalizations, approximately twenty-six major surgeries and an addiction to large doses of pain medication, Tammy Wynette died at age fifty-five while sleeping on the couch in her living room in Nashville, Tennessee. She is interred in Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Nashville.

In 2003 a survey of country music writers, producers and stars listed Stand by Your Man as the top country song of all time. Country Music Television broadcast a special for the top 100 songs, with the #1 song performed by Martina McBride.

Top Songs

  • "I Don't Wanna Play House" (Epic, 1967)
  • "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" (Epic, 1968)
  • "Stand by Your Man" (Epic, 1968)
  • "He Loves Me All The Way" (Epic, 1970)
  • "Run, Woman, Run" (Epic, 1970)
  • "Good Lovin' (Makes it Right)" (Epic, 1971)

Signing My Song 1969 Run Woman Run 1970 Kids Say The Darndest Things 1973 (You Make Me Want to Be A) Mother 1974 Womanhood 1978 They Call It Making Love 1979 Two Story House (With George Jones) 1980 Anothere Chance 1982 Sometimes When We Touch 1985 One (with George Jones) 1995

Signing My Song 1969 Run Woman Run 1970 Kids Say The Darndest Things 1973 (You Make Me Want to Be A) Mother 1974 Womanhood 1978 They Call It Making Love 1979 Two Story House (With George Jones) 1980 Anothere Chance 1982 Sometimes When We Touch 1985 One (with George Jones) 1995



See also

External links

nl:Tammy Wynette

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