I am going to discontinue my second blog, “Mother Church Of Country Music” as it takes more time than I really have to devote to it. In addition, I know that a blog of this type is very hard to get readers to follow. The Opry is a narrow topic that is hard to construct a whole blog around. It is not for a lack of stories, but instead just harder to get a certain demographic that loves the Opry to read a blog. What I will do, as in the past, is use my original blog “Caffeinated Politics” to post my thoughts and stories when events take place concerning the Opry. I have had great responses there for the Opry stories, but just thought maybe a second site was possible. It turns out I was wrong. I thank my readers who have visited here, and as Paul Harvey would say, “Gooood Day!”
“I have my hair tied up in a fat towel,” Loretta Lynn, 74, reveals. “I put a rinse on it.”
The homey warmth and down-to-earth honesty you’d expect from this Nashville icon are much in evidence, even over the phone. But Lynn sounds slightly scattered at the moment, less than an hour before a scheduled rehearsal.
Her personal assistant, Tim Cobb, comes in, and there’s some talk about gardening.
“He’s out in the yard weed-eating,” Lynn says with a chuckle. “I like to get out in the yard, every now and then.”
Also, the star says she’s coping with a “little headache” — nothing like the back and shoulder problems she endured three years ago — and the soothing power of the medicine hasn’t hit her yet.
“I’m good, no problems at all,” Lynn says. “For the last few years, I’ve probably felt better than when I was 40.”
No wonder, then, she’s hitting the road this fall, playing a handful of dates each month until mid-December. One of those concerts is set for Friday, Oct. 16, at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Center, where Lynn will appear with her longtime band, the Coal Miners.
Her tour dates tend to be family affairs, featuring one of Lynn’s sons, guitarist Ernest Ray; two daughters, twin singers Patsy and Peggy; and one granddaughter, singer Tayla.
“I don’t have to work, so I work when I want to,” Lynn says. “I stay home and it bothers me. I’m working pretty hard this month. But I have it good on the road now, not like when I started. I have my bus fixed up just like a home, with five TVs in it. There’s a complete kitchen, a complete bathroom and a half-bathroom. It’s all my own.”
At this point, of course, it’s impossible for Lynn to present all of her hits during a single show. But she understands what listeners expect and crave: No. 1 singles such as “Fist City,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “She’s Got You” and “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”
Lynn also delves into her long list of signature songs: “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” “Here I Am Again,” “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).”
During the 1960s and ’70s, the frank nature of her lyrics caused Lynn to be a controversial figure in the country-music industry; she wasn’t afraid to talk about touchy subjects such as sex, adultery or birth control.
“It didn’t bother me one bit, because it was true-to-life,” she says. “Everybody was doing it, so why not put it into a song?”
A feisty stance comes naturally to her, yet Lynn says much of her recent material takes a more spiritual approach.
“I think I’ve mellowed out some,” she says. “Some of the songs are religious: ‘You Don’t Pray’ and ‘Thank God for Jesus.’ That’s such an easy title, but no one’s ever wrote it. I had about five songs started for another album, but I just hadn’t finished them. Every time, I sat down, I couldn’t do it. So I’ve been working with a kid, Shawn Camp. He wrote a lot of hits, and he finished them for me. I like working with him.”
Loretta Lynn at the Grand Ole Opry in 1995. She made her first appearance at the Opry in 1960. (AP / Mark Humphrey)
Camp, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, has roots as a bluegrass sideman and cuts recorded by the likes of Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Guy Clark and Brooks & Dunn. Lynn says they’re developing other tunes with relationship themes, about male-female struggles and the possibility of heartbreak.
“But I’m kind of making it a little easier to listen to,” she says. “You know, I write things, throw it out and put it in the garbage can. Sometimes I drag it out again.”
Fans can expect two new recordings from Lynn fairly soon, although she’s not specific about the release dates.
“The religious album first,” she says, “then I’m re-recording some of the songs that have been to No. 1. I have 37 of them.”
In the meantime, Lynn contributed tracks to the latest records by Elvis Costello and Todd Snider, co-writing “I Felt the Chill Before Winter Came” (on Costello’s “Secret, Profane and Sugarcane”) and “Don’t Tempt Me” (on Snider’s “The Excitement Plan”). She sang a duet with Snider, as well.
“Todd Snider is such a great kid,” Lynn says. “He’d say, ‘I’ll sit here and watch you write. He thinks everything I do is great. And I’d be, ‘Help me here, buddy.’”
Also on the horizon: Another cookbook from Lynn, similar to the one published in 2004, “You’re Cookin’ It Country: My Favorite Recipes and Memories.”
“Everybody loves the stories in that,” Lynn says, “so I’ll have to do more. You know, my husband threw out my cooking for the first six months. But I learned pretty fast.”
Learning how to pace herself as the queen of country was more difficult, as Lynn famously revealed in the two volumes of her autobiography. She’s got that part down as a senior citizen, though, and has no intention of stopping.
“Maybe 20 years from now,” Lynn says, “I’ll retire.”
This video is great as it builds to all the legends on the stage singing with Roy Acuff. Equally rewarding in this video is the voice-over near the end featuring the great Grant Turner.
On this 84th birthday weekend for the Grand Ole Opry we head backwards to the 1950’s and some video footage of some of the stars that made such excitement when the big red curtain went up each weekend. Enjoy!
Each Saturday on “Mother Church Of Country Music” a song will be featured that has either been on my personal playlist, or has struck me for some reason during the past week. As we celebrate the 84th birthday of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry I thought the song by Lisa Marie (no, not THAT Lisa Marie) and Melody might be a great way to start this feature off on my blog. While the singers are not household names, the words of the song fit the occasion, and the images on the video are perfect.
Therefore this song is dedicated to Grant Turner & George D Hay. Both of these men were vital to WSM, and the world’s longest running radio show. George Hay was the one who started the Opry after first blowing his steamboat whistle and then saying, ‘Let her go, boys’.
Grant Turner is one of those radio announcers that I listened to as a teenager. For a grand tribute to Grant Turner, click here.
While a few onlookers viewed the items in the new Johnny and June at the Ryman exhibit as rare, fragile and untouchable totems of Nashville royalty, John Carter Cash chose to reach right in.
“I don’t remember seeing this one,” said Cash, the son of Johnny and June Carter Cash, grabbing a Fender acoustic guitar gifted to his father by Carl Perkins, with “Johnny Cash” inlaid up the guitar neck. “That’s really cool.”
For his entire life, Cash has had ready access to such things. Reaching inside an exhibit case is his birthright. But that doesn’t mean his appreciation for his parents’ careers or for the Ryman building where they met and where they performed has been dimmed.
“My parents saw the Ryman as the church of country music,” he said. “The Ryman is very important to my family and to me. The people at the Ryman contacted me about doing an exhibit to pay historical tribute to my parents’ association with the Ryman, and I’m really excited to see that happening.”
Brenda Colladay, the curator at the Grand Ole Opry Museum, was instrumental in putting together the exhibit, which includes an autoharp played by June, outfits and footage from ABC’s Johnny Cash Show (which was taped at the Ryman), handwritten lyrics of “What Is Truth?” with two verses of “extra” lyrics that Cash did not record, the gold record from Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison album, footage from Grand Ole Opry appearances and other items of interest.
George Jones will appear on CBS Sunday Morning this Sunday Oct. 11. Host and interviewer Bob Schieffer visited Jones’ Nashville home and also stopped by Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium late this summer to talk about life, love and a lot of musical history.