We are delighted to announce that Patty Loveless is our Spotlight Artist for October.
Born Patty Ramey in Kentucky in 1957, a coal miner’s daughter like her distant cousin Loretta Lynn, Patty started singing when, aged 12, she replaced her older sister in a duo with brother Roger. While still in her teens, she came to the attention of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, who encouraged her musical ambitions, before becoming the featured female vocalist with the Wilburn Brothers, following in Loretta’s footsteps. At 19 she broke away when she married the band’s drummer Terry Lovelace (a variation of whose name she adopted as her stage name), and she spent the next few years in North Carolina, singing a mixture of rock and country.
In the mid 1980s, as her marriage was failing, Patty found herself returning to the country music she had grown up on. Her brother Roger became her manager, and he got a demo tape to Tony Brown, head of A&R at MCA. Brown was impressed, and Patty was signed to the label in 1985, initially on a singles-only deal. He brought Emory Gordy Jr on board as co-producer, which was to prove the start of a personal and professional partnership which has endured to this day, and underlies much of Patty’s commercial and artistic success. Emory and Patty were married in 1989. Critically acclaimed right from the start, Patty’s commercial success developed more slowly, but by 1988, her singles were starting to hit the top 10 on a regular basis, and she was invited to join the Opry.
A major turning point came in 1992. Patty had just moved from MCA to Epic when she became aware that her vocal cords had been damaged. A potentially career-ending problem was averted by surgery which actually left her voice sounding better than ever. The records Patty Loveless released for Epic achieved new heights both artistically and commercially, and she was to be one of the most successful female country singers of the early and mid-1990s. She was named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1996, and the ACM gave her the same honor in both 1996 and 1997.
Her radio success began to wind down in the late 90s, partly because the tide was starting to turn in a more pop direction. Patty also took a year or so off due to her husband’s serious illness. She released a bluegrass-based project, the original Mountain Soul, which was critically acclaimed, but neither this nor her more conventional country appealed to country radio as they deserved to, and Patty left Epic in 2005.
Patty then signed to Saguaro Road Records, for whom she has now released two excellent albums: her tribute to traditional country music, Sleepless Nights, which was many critics’ selection as album of the year in 2008, and most recently, Mountain Soul II.
During her career, Patty Loveless has shown an almost unparallelled ability to combine traditional country and bluegrass influences with contemporary sensibilities. We hope to share some of the highlights of Patty’s career with you over the next month.