My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘I’m A Honky Tonk Girl’

After paying dues in the West Coast honky tonks of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, Loretta Lynn was offered a spot on Buck Owens’ syndicated television show.  This performance was seen by wealthy Canadian Norm Burley.  He offered to help the Lynns jump-start Loretta’s fledgling career by forming his own record label, Zero Records, and pressing some 3,500 copies of her first record.  Mr. Burley also paid for the recording session, financed a promotional road-trip for the couple, and even offered to let her out of the contract if she was offered a major label deal.  The world could use more men like Norm Burley.

In Hollywood, Loretta recorded four of her own compositions: ‘Heartache Meet Mr. Blues’, ‘New Rainbow’, ‘I’m A Honky Tonk Girl’, and ‘Whispering Sea’.  The latter two would be the A and B-side to her first single record.  Loretta says she was inspired to write the song after seeing a woman in a Washington club, drowning her sorrows in the booze.  The song tells the story of a heartbroken woman, alone now that her man has left her.  Penned by Loretta, ‘I’m A Honky Tonk Girl’ would make it all the way to #14 on the Country Singles chart, propelled by the couples self-promotion.  The two greenhorns didn’t know anything about the music industry and it wasn’t until they made it all the way to Nashville that Mooney picked up a copy of Cashbox magazine and found out Loretta had the #14 song in the nation.

The story of Loretta Lynn and her husband Mooney promoting her very first single is the stuff of country music legend.  Their tireless efforts took them from the California coast all the way to Tennessee with the couple stopping at every radio station that programmed country music along the way. Having already mailed out the single to every country station, complete with a one-page biography on Loretta and the now-famous photo of Loretta taken by Mooney in their living room, they would chat up the disc jockeys and ask them to play Mrs. Lynn’s record.

Driven by the pedal steel playing of Speedy West, the track finds Loretta delivering the lyric with a bit of heartache in her twangy vibrato.  They probably didn’t know it at the time, but the session players were creating what would become the signature sound of one of country music’s most influential figures in history.  And even though Owen Bradley and his Nashville Sound are most commonly associated with Loretta Lynn’s success, it was this track that gave Loretta her first minor-hit and the style that would define her music for the next decade.

Grade: B

‘Honky Tonk Girl’ is available on several Loretta Lynn collections. It served as the title track to her 1994 box-set and is available for purchase as a single mp3 download at all major retailers, including amazon.

One response to “Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘I’m A Honky Tonk Girl’

  1. Razor X April 5, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    You can really hear the Kitty Wells influence on this record; it’s easy to see why Owen Bradley thought she sounded too much like Kitty.

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