My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Peggy Sue Wells

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’

Like most of her contemporaries in the 1960s and 1970s, Loretta Lynn was clearly a singles artist.  Her albums were typically built around one or two hit singles, with cover versions of other artists’ hits and other tunes that weren’t considered strong enough for single release providing the album filler.  This is the approach that was used with 1970’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, but the result was a much stronger album than she usually turned out during this era.

The title track, Lynn’s signature hit, is the only single from the album.  Recorded in October 1969, it tells the story of her poverty-stricken childhood in Kentucky.  Decca had reservations about the song’s commercial viability and did not release it until May 1970.  It slowly but steadily climbed the charts until it reached the #1 spot in December.  It was Loretta’s fourth #1, and her first entry into the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at #83.   The tune went on to lend its title to Loretta’s autobiography and the film it inspired, in 1976 and 1980, respectively.

Five of the album’s eleven tracks are covers of hits by other artists, but Loretta  treats them respectfully and never dismisses them as album filler.  Her rendition of her buddy Conway Twitty’s signature hit “Hello Darlin'” is a by-the-numbers interpretation, as are her takes on Ray Price’s “For The Good Times” (written by Kris Kristofferson), Anne Murray’s “Snowbird” and Marty Robbins’ “Too Far.”  Her version of Glen Campbell’s catchy “A Little Less of Me” is excellent.

Of the remaining five songs, “Any One, Any Worse, Anywhere”, written by Loretta with Lorene Allen and Charlie Aldridge’s “It’ll Be Open Season On You” are the weak links, but the other three are first-rate and one wonders why Decca didn’t make any attempt to market them as single releases.  Possibly “Another Man Loved Me Last Night”,  written by Lorene Allen and Loretta’s sister Peggy Sue Wells and later covered by Amber Digby, was considered too risque for country radio in 1970, though much greater risks were taken a few years later with controversial hits such as “Rated X”, “Wings Upon Your Horns”, and “The Pill.”    “The Man of the House” is a typical Loretta-as-the-put-upon-and-fed-up-neglected-wife song, and along with her original composition “What Makes Me Tick” is one of my favorites in this collection.   The latter in particular had the potential to be a monster hit, in my opinion.  It’s amazing that no other artists ever took advantage of Loretta’s missed opportunity to cover the song themselves.

Coal Miner’s Daughter was one of only a handful of Loretta’s studio albums to be issued on CD.   It was her second studio album and third album overall to earn gold certification from the RIAA.   It is out of print in CD form but used copies can be purchased from third-party sellers on Amazon.  It is also available as a digital download from Amazon MP3 and iTunes.  Please be aware that Coal Miner’s Daughter is frequently used as the title for other compilations and live-in-concert recordings that are often of dubious quality.

Grade: A

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Greatest Hits’

Loretta Lynn’s success in the 1970s was so great that it somewhat overshadowed the equally worthwhile music that she made in the 1960s. Her first Greatest Hits collection, released by Decca in 1968, provides an excellent sampler of her early work. Though the hits are not presented in sequential order, the album shows her progression from long-suffering wife to outspoken feminist.

The earliest track on the album is 1962’s “Success”, which was her first Top Ten hit. Written by Johnny Mullins, the song tells the story of a couple for whom fame and fortune come at the expense of their relationship.  Rock singer Sinead O’Connor covered the song thirty years later.  Lynn’s next chart hit from 1963 features her in a rare role as “The Other Woman”. Usually Loretta is the wronged wife who confronts the woman who is trying to steal here husband, but in this instance, she’s on the opposite side of the fence, trying to justify her behavior:

But you gave him the right to seek that other woman
And you know who was first to cheat on who
I just accepted love from him you never wanted
The other woman didn’t steal from you

Peaking at #13, “The Other Woman” is the only song in this collection that didn’t reach the Top 10.

1965’s “The Home You’re Tearin’ Down” is an interesting example of Loretta’s work before she truly found her niche.  Like “The Other Woman”, it was written by Betty Sue Perry, who penned several of Loretta’s early hits.  She is clearly playing the victim here, as she attempts to send her husband’s mistress on a guilt trip by extending an invitation for her to meet the wife and children:

Once some happy faces would have met you at the door,
But since their daddy’s gone so much, they don’t smile anymore.
There’s shattered parts of broken hearts, just scattered all around,
Come over anytime and see the home you’re tearin’ down.

I’ll dry all my tears and have the coffee hot,
‘Cause I can’t sleep a wink no more, time’s all I’ve got
You’ll see the price I’m paying for happiness you’ve found,
Come over anytime and see the home you’re tearin’ down.

Just one year later, Lynn revisited the theme of a conversation between a wife and the other woman, but this time in a self-penned composition that shows her feistier side:

You’ve come to tell me somethin’
You say I ought to know
That he don’t love me anymore
And I’ll have to let him go
You say you’re gonna take him,
Oh, but I don’t think you can,
‘Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man

“You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man” was Loretta’s biggest hit up to that time, reaching #2 on the Billboard country singles chart. It marks the beginning of the more assertive Loretta that we would see many times in the years to come. It is probably her best remembered hit after “Coal Miner’s Daughter”.

In a similar vein, Lynn’s next single was “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”, her first #1 hit which she wrote with her sister Peggy Sue Wells. In this tune, Loretta is an angry wife who confronts her drunken husband as he returns from a night on the town. It’s a theme she’d visited earlier, with 1963’s “Wine, Women and Song”, another honky-tonk number written by Betty Sue Perry, and would visit again in 1968 with “Your Squaw Is On The Warpath”, which is not included in this collection.

My favorite song in this collection is 1965’s “Blue Kentucky Girl”, which was written by Johnny Mullins and later covered by Emmylou Harris. It features Lynn as a young woman who is faithfully awaiting the return of her boyfriend and possible fiance who has gone out into the world to seek his fortune. It stands in stark contrast to “If You’re Not Gone Too Long”, in which Loretta promises her love that “I’ll be true to you honey, while you’re gone — if you’re not gone too long.”

Another noteworthy song from this collection is a #4 hit from 1966, “Dear Uncle Sam.” It was largely overshadowed by the bigger hits that followed it, but was recently rediscovered in the wake of the U.S’s wars on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s been somewhat misrepresented as an anti-war protest song by those who opposed these military involvements, but its lyrics are totally apolitical. Its final verse is one of the most dramatic and effective performances of Loretta’s career. She speaks the lyrics as a bugle plays “Taps”:

Dear Uncle Sam,
I just got your telegram
And I can’t believe that this is me,
Shaking like I am
For it said, I’m sorry to inform you …

There are more comprehensive compilations of Loretta’s work available, but for those who are specifically interested in her 1960s material, this one is the best. It is currently out of print, but inexpensive new and used copies can be purchased from third-party sellers on Amazon.

Grade:  A

Spotlight Artist: Loretta Lynn (Part 1)

Our look back at the legends of country music continues as we turn the spotlight on Loretta Lynn.

The story of her hardscrabble origin and subsequent rise to fame is well known. She was born in Van Lear, Kentucky, on April 14 in 1934 or 1935. (There is conflicting information about the year of her birth, but most evidence points to 1934 being the correct year). The second of eight children, she grew up in extreme poverty, “in a cabin on a hill” without electricity or running water. Her father was a coal miner. When she was only 13 years old, she married Oliver “Mooney” Lynn (always referred to as “Doolittle” or “Doo” by Loretta), and gave birth to four of her six children before she was 19.

A year after their marriage, in an effort to break away from poverty-stricken Kentucky, Mooney relocated his young family to Washington State, breaking a promise he’d made to Loretta’s father not to take her too far from home. Mooney’s shortcomings as a husband and father were considerable; however, it was he who recognized Loretta’s potential and practically forced her into the music business. He bought her a $17 guitar for her eighteenth birthday and told her to learn how to play it. She did, and soon was singing in honky-tonks on weekends for $5 a night. Eventually she earned a guest spot on Buck Owens’ television show, which originated from Tacoma, Washington. A wealthy Canadian businessman named Norm Burley saw the show and offered to finance Loretta’s career. He formed a label called Zero Records, and signed Loretta, promising to release her from her contract if she ever managed to secure a deal from a major label.

The Lynns traveled to Los Angeles for Loretta’s first recording session, where she recorded her own compositions “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” and “Whispering Sea”, which became the A and B sides of her first single. The Lynns themselves mailed out 3,500 copies of the record to radio stations, and traveled by car down the west coast to promote it, visiting radio stations along the way. By July 1960, “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” had reached #14 in Billboard, and Loretta Lynn was on her way to Nashville.

In October 1960, Loretta made her debut appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and was such a hit with the both the audience and the Opry management, she was invited back for 17 consecutive weekends. She would become an Opry member in 1962. She signed a songwriting and management contract with the Wilburn Brothers, who offered her a spot on their syndicated television show. They also took a demo recording of one her songs to Owen Bradley and secured a six-month contract with Decca Records. Bradley wasn’t initially interested in signing Loretta; he felt she sounded too much like Kitty Wells, who was already on the Decca roster. Bradley was interested in the song on the demo, but the Wilburns would not allow him to have it unless he offered Loretta a contract. Bradley relented and signed Loretta to Decca. The song on the demo, “Fool #1” went on to become a smash pop hit for Brenda Lee.

Loretta’s first release for Decca, “I Walked Away From The Wreck” did not chart, but her next release, Johnny Mullins’ “Success” reached #6. The vast majority of her subsequent releases reached the Top 20, and most of those reached the Top 10. She hit the #1 spot for the first of 16 times in 1966 with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”, which she co-wrote with her sister Peggy Sue Wells. The album of the same title became the first by a female country artist to earn gold certification from the RIAA.

In 1970, Loretta released the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which became her signature hit. Unlike anything she’d previously recorded, it told the story of her humble origins in Kentucky. It became her fourth #1 single and second gold album. Also that year she recorded a duet with Conway Twitty called “After The Fire Is Gone”, which also went to #1 and earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Her partnership with Twitty was one of the most successful, if not the most successful, duos in country music history.