The recent death of Kitty Wells got me to remembering my conversations with many other great country music female performers.
Here are some of the things they told me over the years:
LYNN ANDERSON: “A good example of interpretation is (I’m On The) Top of the World, which was written by Richard Carpenter. I had worked with them (The Carpenters), and I called Richard and asked if they were going to pull the song from an album to release as a single. He said they were not and that Karen hated it because it sounded like a hillbilly song. When my single went up the country charts and crossed over to the rock charts, the Carpenters released a version with the music sounding exactly like my record.”
FLO CARTER (On performing other songs than gospel): “About a year ago (1989), we started mixing in some of the older pop music songs. We’d go to the senior citizens’ gatherings and they’d ask us for something by Elvis Presley or some country singer. So we started with The Judds’ Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Ole Days and added Blue Suede Shoes. Now we close every show with Georgia (On My Mind).”
MOTHER MAYBELLE CARTER: “I get so tired of doing Wildwood Flower. I can’t get through a show without doing it.” (I was sitting next to her in a small camper after her performance in North Carolina when she said this to fiddle player Benny Martin. This was in 1974, and she had recorded that song with The Carter Family in 1928).
TERRI GIBBS: “My faith in God is what keeps me going. God has played a big part
in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for him. Anytime I get an award or a standing ovation, I feel it is due to my faith and the talent he has given me to touch people in some way.”
BECKY HOBBS: “We got into the hotel about 2 a.m. after being at parties, and about 5 a.m. the phone rang. It was (songwriter) Sonny Curtis, and he said the hotel was on fire two floors above me. I threw on an old ratty burgundy robe, some red cowgirl boots and grabbed my purse. Outside a guy from a television station filming the fire recognized me from the concert earlier that night. He then interviewed me on TV dressed just like I was!”
JAN HOWARD (One of her three sons was killed in Vietnam. Another died from suicide.): “Life goes on. You’ve got to hold it together. You’ve got to pick up the pieces and live one day at the time. You can’t put all your values on worldly goods. I’m thankful for what God has given me and for what I’ve had, and that’s a mighty good life.”
BRENDA LEE (Upon being discovered at age 11 by country music star Red Foley in Augusta’s Bell Auditorium): “They did let me (sing on his show), and when I came out and sang Jambalaya, my adopted hometown didn’t let me down. They clapped and applauded and hoo-rayed and yelled. Everybody was impressed including me!
“Mr. Foley asked me to come on to Springfield, Mo., and do his (nationally televised) Ozark Jubilee show, which I did. For six months, my mother and I would ride to Springfield about every weekend on the bus and then come back to Augusta. Eventually we moved to Springfield.
“I feel like the Augusta folks were awfully good to me and awfully encouraging. They have a place in my heart always.”
LORETTA LYNN (About Patsy Cline): “She loved to cook, and she called me up all the time to come over and eat something. Whenever she bought clothes, she’d buy me the same thing in my size. … She gave me one pair of panties I wore for three years. They were holier than I am.”
BARBARA MANDRELL: “I saw a fellow artist the other day who took more time to explain why he was not giving an autograph to a fan than it would have taken just to sign the autograph. There are some things you don’t mess with in my life. You don’t mess with my family or my friends or my fans. … Yes, I get recognized a lot more now and have my meals (eating out) interrupted but, as corny as it sounds, I remember when I didn’t get my meals interrupted, and I like being interrupted a lot better.”
LINDA MARTELL (a Leesville, S.C., woman who in 1969 became the first black female singer on the Grand Ole Opry): “It was one of the best experiences I ever had because the Opry people were wonderful to me. … I grew up singing country. My father, Clarence Bynem (a minister) loved country music. My three brothers all were musicians.”
REBA MCENTIRE: “My mother was my biggest influence in becoming an entertainer. She sang when she was younger. They say in her prime time she sounded a lot like Patsy Cline in the quality of her voice and range. No one pushed her, though, to become a performer.”
DOLLY PARTON (About People magazine naming her as one of the most 25 intriguing people in the world): “I was floored! To yourself, you are never that important. When I saw myself among well known people like (first lady) Betty Ford, I figured, ‘Good Lord. They’ve got me in the wrong issue!’ … I am secure with the kind of person I am. I don’t feel like I’m better than anyone, but I’m just as good as anyone.”
MINNIE PEARL: “Once up in Canada while I was
doing a Saturday show, a woman came up to the
stage weeping. It’s difficult to do comedy when that happens. She said loudly, ‘My mother always liked you, and she would have been here, but she died on Thursday.’ After that, it was hard to continue. It was like trying to carry on by saying, ‘But besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?’ ”
DOTTIE WEST (About writing her hit song Country Girl): “I got thinking that anytime a song was written about a country girl, it ended sad. I thought of the things I remembered about being a country girl, and it was a happy time of my life. So I wrote about all the
pretty things I remembered.”
GINNY WRIGHT (Local resident about Elvis Presley performing on the Louisiana Hayride Show when Wright was a star on the cast): “I used to go out on stage ahead of him and while waiting I used to talk to him in the wings. He always wore a pink shirt and black pants and only had two band members with him. He asked me how I could be so calm. He said he knew of my records before he came to the Hayride show.”
TAMMY WYNETTE: “Sometimes you do get tired in the business from all of the traveling. No one outside the business realizes what we go through. … Sometimes you don’t mean to be unkind, but sometimes you’re tired and do things you don’t mean. I know the real fans understand.”