Wynette, Tammy (originally, Pugh, Virginia Wynette)

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Wynette, Tammy (originally, Pugh, Virginia Wynette)

Wynette, Tammy (originally, Pugh, Virginia Wynette), 1960s country crooner, b. near Tupelo, Miss., May 5,1942; d. Nashville, Term., April 6, 1998. Raised by her grandparents in rural Miss., Wynette showed early musical talent, learning to play several instruments as well as singing. She joined her mother in Birmingham, Ala., during her teen years, and was married for the first time at age 17; the marriage ended by the time she was 20. Wynette worked as a beautician during the day and club singer at night, to support her three children. Local success led to a regular featured slot on the Country Boy Eddy Show, and then on Porter Wagonner’s popular syndicated country program.

Wynette came to Nashville in the mid-1960s in search of a career, auditioning for several labels while working as a singer and song-plugger. Ace producer Billy Sherrill recognized her potential and signed her to Epic, where she had an immediate hit with 1966’s “Apartment Number 9,” followed by the racy (for the time) “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad.” Wynette’s good-girl-on-the-edge-of-going-bad image was underscored in a series of hits, including “I Don’t Wanna Play House” from 1967 (about a woman reluctant to participate in an affair with a married man) and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” from 1968 (where a battling husband and wife try to hide “the facts” about their deteriorating marriage from the kids who apparently were not too swift as spellers). Oddly enough, the same year brought “Stand by Your Man,” the ultimate beat-me-whip-me-but-ril-still-be-true-to-you saga, with Wynette’s powerful delivery subtly changing the song’s message (it’s hard to believe that the big-lunged Wynette would stay home and bake cookies while her husband slept around!). 1969 brought more hits with “Singing My Song” and “The Ways to Love a Man.”

In 1968, Wynette began a seven-year stormy relationship with hard-drinkin’ country star George Jones, making for excellent tabloid headlines. The duo often recorded together, including an album of duets from 1972 (with a hit in 1973 with “We’re Gonna Hold On”) and again in 1976, hitting it big with “Golden Ring” and “Near You” (even though they divorced in 1975); they re-teamed in 1980, scoring a hit with “Two-Story House.” Meanwhile, Tammy continued to record through the 1970s, scoring major hits through the middle of the decade, including 1972’s “Bedtime Story” (which sounded like a combination of the instrumental part of “Stand by Your Man” and the gooey children’s theme of “I Don’t Wanna Play House”) and “My Man (Understands)” (which clones the sentiments of “Stand by Your Man”); 1973’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (perhaps the only country song to take its title from Art Linkletter); 1974’s “Another Lonely Song” (which brought Wynette to tears because of the line “I shouldn’t give a damn” which she felt was sinful); and her last solo #1 country hit, “You and Me,” from 1976. Many of these songs were cowritten by producer Sherrill, and were carefully crafted to fit Wynette’s image.

By the early to mid-1980s, Wynette’s career was in the doldrums. The increasingly pop orientation of Sher-rill’s production was ill-suited to her basically honkytonk style, and she was reduced to singing warmed-over pop songs like “Sometimes When We Touch” (a duet with Mark Grey). An attempt to remake her for the new country generation in 1987 on her album Higher Ground, produced by Steve Buckingham and featuring a duet with Ricky Skaggs, was a critical, if not financial, success. Wynette even dipped to self-parody, recording with the English-based techno-rock group KLF, scoring a British hit in 1992 with “Justified and Ancient.”

At the end of 1993, Wynette was hospitalized suffering from a serious infection; she recovered, but was in a weakened condition. In 1994, she reunited with George Jones for an album and tour, but then died of a blood clot on April 9, 1998.


DISC : Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad (1967); Stand by Your Man (1969); Higher Ground (1987); Anniversary (ree. 1967-87; rei. 1987); Heart Over Mind (1990); Tears of Fire (ree. 1967-92; rei. 1992). George Jones: We Love to Sing about Jesus (1972); Golden Ring (1976); Together Again (1980; One (with George Jones; 1994). Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn: Honky Tonk Angels.

—Richard Carlin

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Wynette, Tammy (originally, Pugh, Virginia Wynette)

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