Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn

Loretta was born in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, the second of Clara and Ted Webb’s eight children. Just as she would later sing in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta’s family eked out a living during the Depression on the “poor man’s dollar” her father managed to earn “work{ing] all night in the Van Leer coal mine [and] all day long in the field a-hoein’ corn.” As she also notes in that song, “I never thought of leavin’ Butcher Holler.” But that was before she met Oliver Lynn (aka Doolittle or Doo, or “Mooney” for moonshine), a handsome 21-year-old fresh from the service who swept the young Loretta Webb off her feet. The couple married when Loretta was barely 14.

Looking for a future that didn’t require him to work the mines, Doo found work in Custer, Washington, and Loretta joined him in 1951. The following decade found Lynn a full-time mother—four kids by the time she began singing seriously in 1961—of precisely the sort she would one day sing to and for. In her spare time, though, with Doo’s encouragement, she learned to play the guitar and began singing in the area. During one televised talent contest in Tacoma, hosted by Buck Owens, Loretta was spotted by Norm Burley who was so impressed he started Zero Records just to record her.

Before long, Loretta and Doo hit the road cross-country, stopping every time they spotted a country radio station to push her first Zero release, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” By the time they reached Nashville, the record was a. minor hit and Loretta found work cutting demos for the publishing company of Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. One of these, Kathryn Fulton’s “Biggest Fool of All,” caught the ear of Decca Records producer Owen Bradley. He thought the song would be perfect for Brenda Lee, but the Wilburns worked a deal—you can have the song if you record Loretta. Soon, Loretta was in the studio cutting sides with Bradley, producer at the time not only for Lee but Patsy Cline, Bill Anderson, and Webb Pierce.

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