By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming musicians are remembering country music legend Loretta Lynn as a trailblazer, inspiration and “just such a down-to-earth gal.”
Lynn was 90 when she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, leaving behind decades of hits and legions of fans.
From her poverty-stricken upbringing in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, she became the reigning queen of country music in the late 1960s and inspired singers around the country.
“She was a pioneer,” said Annie (Smith) Jackson of Cheyenne who, with her twin sister Amy (Smith) Meier, performed as a duo on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1980s. “There was no messing around with her.”
The “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” as Lynn became known based on her autobiographical hit song, broke barriers in country music. As a singer-songwriter, she stood up for women without being labeled a feminist with songs like “Rated X” in 1972 and “The Pill” in 1975.
She continued recording until recently, releasing a music video in 2018 for her song “Ain’t No Time To Go.” Her 46th and final solo studio album, “Still Woman Enough,” was released in March 2021.
Loretta Lynn – Ain’t No Time To Go (Official Music Video)
Setting the Bar for Female Singers
Lynn was Nashville’s first prominent female singer-songwriter, generating her own hit songs.
“When we heard the songs that Loretta was singing, we just were flabbergasted,” said Meier, “because she just said (what she thought) so directly.”
In 1972, Lynn became the first woman to be named entertainer of the year by the Country Music Association; from 1962 through 1990, 77 of Lynn’s singles made the country music charts. More than 50 of them reached the Top 10, and 16 were No. 1 hits.
“She blazed the trail for a lot of the young women in country music today,” said Jackson.
The Smith twins hold a fond memory of meeting Lynn backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
“It was our first time singing on the Grand Ole Opry,” said Jackson. “We were backstage and we were guests of the king of country music, Roy Acuff.”
Just 18 at the time, the twins were getting ready to go onstage when they spotted Lynn sitting in the wings.
“Loretta was almost like a statue,” Jackson recalled. “She was dressed in this gorgeous, like an antebellum dress, but it had a big petticoat underneath her dress, and she just sat there so regally and so quiet.”
But when Lynn saw the girls, she approached them, Meier said.
“She said she wanted to meet us because she, of course, had twin daughters, Patsy and Peggy, who sing,” said Meier, who took the opportunity to ask a question of her own.
“I just remember asking Loretta, I said, ‘You have five children – how were you able to do that and do this amazing career?’” Meier said. “She said, ‘You just do it, dear.’”
Dan Miller, a country music entertainer who has lived in Cody for more than 20 years, had many opportunities to cross paths with Lynn when he was a television host in Nashville in the 1980s and 1990s.
“There are few people in the entertainment business who are exactly as they seem,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “Everybody has some kind of public persona – but not Loretta Lynn. She was exactly who you saw on television and movies – a country music original.”
Miller recalled a story told to him by his management team in the 1980s.
“I think they were staying at the MGM, and they were going up to check into the room,” said Miller. “And she came walking down the hall in a bathrobe and barefooted, and didn’t know them from Adam, but she had locked herself out of her room and could they help her get a room key?
“She was just that way, just such a down-to-earth gal.”
Blazing A Trail For Women In Country Music
Before they came to Nashville, the Smith twins said they really didn’t know what country music was.
“And then we heard Loretta Lynn’s song, ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man,’” said Jackson.
The direct nature of her songs, and her perseverance, was what made the greatest impression on Jackson.
“Being the woman that she was, and just persevering, I would say that probably influenced us (most) at that age,” she said. “You just keep persevering, no matter what.”
“Without Loretta Lynn, so many people, their careers, their lives would have been different,” said Miller.