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Tammy Wynette Biography

Last updated: 02/25/2013 12:13:02 PM

Birth Name: Virginia Wynette Pugh
Born: 5/5/1942
Birthplace: Itawamba County, Mississippi
Deceased: 4/6/1998
Year in Country Music Hall of Fame: 1998

She was called the Heroine of Heartbreak, and rightfully so. Many of Tammy Wynette's hits dealt with classic themes of loneliness, divorce and the difficulties of male-female relationships. Her songs reflected her often-troubled romantic life (she married five times). But her willingness to share her joys and sorrows in song and her passionate, tear-in-every-
note delivery endeared her to millions.

Fans were equally fascinated by her rags-to-riches life story. Born Virginia Wynette Pugh in Itawamba County, Mississippi, on May 5, 1942, she was raised mostly by her maternal grandparents after her father died. Amid the drudgery of farm work, Tammy dreamed of becoming an Opry star, taught herself to play the guitar, served as pianist at the Providence Baptist Church and sang in school programs.

Shortly before graduating high school, Tammy married Euple Byrd, with whom she had three children. For a while they lived in a log cabin with no indoor plumbing and only a wood-burning fireplace for cooking and heat. Since Byrd was often unemployed and moved the family a lot, Tammy worked as a waitress. After separating from Byrd and moving to Birmingham to live with relatives, she worked as a beautician and began singing on a local TV program.

Beginning in 1965, Tammy made several trips to Nashville, looking for a record deal. In 1966, she moved to Music City and auditioned for Epic Records producer Billy Sherrill, who signed her and changed her stage name to Tammy Wynette. Beginning with "Apartment #9" in 1966-67, the Wynette-Sherrill team ultimately racked up twenty #1 hits by 1990.

During the late 1960s, Tammy began to explore women's viewpoints in song. "I Don't Wanna Play House" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" voiced the agonies of women and children torn by family break-ups. "Stand By Your Man," which advised women to forgive wayward men, drew criticism from feminists, but Tammy defended it as an expression of triumph over adversity.

Her winning streak extended into the mid-'70s with hits such as "Good Lovin' (Makes it Right)" and "Woman to Woman." Tammy herself cowrote top-selling songs like "Singing My Song" and "Till I Can Make It On My Own." During these years her stormy marriage to George Jones (whom she wed in 1969 and divorced in 1975) riveted as much as the couple's hit duets, including "We're Gonna Hold On, " "Two Story House" and "Golden Ring."

Tammy finally found lasting happiness after marrying songwriter-producer George Richey in 1978. But her autobiography Stand By Your Man (1979), a 1981 TV movie about her life and subsequent news stories revealed her continuing troubles with illness, harassing telephone calls, financial difficulties, break-ins and vandalism at her home, death threats and being abducted.

Still she survived, and went on to make more great music in the 1990s. In 1992 she teamed with the British pop act KLF to create the international dance-pop hit "Justified and Ancient." The next year, she joined forces with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn for their landmark album Honky Tonk Angels.

Tammy Wynette died on April 6, 1998. Three days later fans and members of the music industry honored her with a televised memorial service broadcast from Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Wynette won election to the Country Music Hall of Fame later that year.


TNN/Music City News Living Legend 1991
CMA Female Vocalist of the Year 1970
Academy of Country Music Top Female Vocalist 1969
CMA Female Vocalist of the Year 1969
Grammy Best Female Country Vocal Performance 1969
CMA Female Vocalist of the Year 1968
Grammy Best Female Country & Western Vocal Performance 1967
Music City News Country Most Promising Female Artist of the Year 1967