Entertainment

Loretta Lynn's Siblings: Then and Now

Country singers Loretta Lynn, left, and Crystal Gayle, right, poses with their mother Mrs. Clara Butcher, during ceremonies of the Academy of Country Music Awards in Buena Park, California on Thursday, May 2, 1980. Loretta Lynn was honored as the ìCountry Artist of the Decadeî while Crystal Gayle won ìTop Female Vocalistî for 1979. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

Loretta Lynn has been an icon of country music for going on 60 years. The Coal Miner's Daughter has multiple gold records and Grammys to her name and, along with country stars like Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, is one of the first women of the genre to be a member of both the Grand Ole Opry and The Country Music Hall of Fame. Heck, she's even won a Presidential Medal of Freedom. She's a country legend. But don't worry -- she's "still a mountain girl." And a honky-tonk girl. And the Van Lear Rose.

Lynn was actually born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932, in the small town of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, the oldest daughter of Melvin "Ted" Webb (her coal-mining father) and Clara Marie "Clary" (née Ramey). Though Loretta Lynn may be the most well known of the Webb clan, and the only one portrayed by Sissy Spacek in a movie, she isn't the only singer in the Webb family or the only famous one! It turns out she is one of eight! Several of Lynn's siblings have made names for themselves, and all of them have interesting life stories. 

1. Melvin Webb Jr. (December 4, 1929 - July 1, 1993)

Loretta Lynn was the second oldest sibling in the Webb family. Melvin Junior, named for his father, of course, was born first in the old Butcher Holler. Melvin married Bonnie Faye Webb and had nine (wow) children with her. Melvin Webb Jr. died relatively young, at the age of 63, just like Melvin Sr., who passed away from black lung at the age of 52.

2. Herman Webb (September 3, 1934 - July 28, 2018)

Loretta Lynn just recently lost her nearest kid brother, Herman, who was born two years after she was. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 83. Herman stayed close to home after growing up, making a life in Van Lear, Kentucky. Herman also curated the Butcher Hollow homestead, where he and his siblings grew up. The home was made famous by Lynn's song, "Coal Miner's Daughter." The homestead welcomes thousands of Loretta Lynn fans who made the pilgrimage every year. 

Herman lived a full life beyond giving tours of the homestead, though. He had three daughters with his wife Patsy Jean, who passed before him, as well as six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Herman's other famous sibling, Crystal Gayle, paid tribute to him on Instagram after he passed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Blx9-WsB3Tx/?utm_source=ig_embed

3. Willie "Jay" Lee Webb (February 12, 1937 - July 31, 1996)

Willie Lee Webb, called Jay Lee by his mom, was a famous country singer in his own right, just like his big sis Loretta. In fact, Jay Lee's most famous song was "I Come Home A-Drinkin' (To a Worn-Out Wife Like You)," which was written as a comeback to Loretta's 1967 number one hit "Don't Come Home A Drinkin'."

Jay Lee was married twice, first to Louise Davis from 1961 to 1963. Unfortunately, his first marriage was marked by tragedy and divorce. Louise gave birth to Jay Lee's first child, Yvonne Clara Webb, in February 1962, but in August 1962, Yvonne contracted tonsilitis and died a month later. Shortly after, Louise filed for divorce.

Nearly a decade later, Jay Lee finally met the love of his life while performing in Camden, Tennessee. He met Lou Anne Robinson, and shortly after, the two moved to Nashville together. They had two children together, John Ernest Webb and Claire Joanne Webb. Jay Lee left music behind and opened a drugstore. Lou Anne took up work as a secretary. 

Unfortunately, Jay Lee, like his father and brother before him, left the world too soon. Jay Lee passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 59 in 1996.

Read More: Loretta Lynn's Children Have Carried on Their Mother's Country Music Legacy

4. Donald Ray Webb (April 2, 1941 - October 13, 2017)

Donald lived a quieter life than his more well-known siblings, though he was a songwriter in his own right. Donald's sister Crystal Gayle recorded a song he wrote, entitled "Clock on the Wall," for the album I've Cried the Blue Right Out of My Eyes in 1978. (A fact that he was incredibly proud of.) He was also an avid fisherman, loved playing and singing music (of course), and enjoyed mushroom hunting. 

Donald and his wife Debra made their home in Wabash, Indiana. They had four children together, Janie, Donna, Michael and Paula. Donald was also a grandfather to ten and a great grandfather to nine!

5. Peggy Sue Wright (née Webb; born March 25, 1943)

Another one of the Webbs who took their talents to Nashville, Peggy Sue has released five country music albums: Dynamite!, All-American Husband, One Side, I Just Came in Here, and Gently Hold Me. Throughout the years, she had several hits climb the country charts, peaking somewhere inside the Top 30 each time. She also co-wrote Loretta Lynn's "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind).

Peggy Sue married twice, first to Douglas Wells in 1964 (they divorced in 1968), and then to music producer and performer Sonny Wright. Peggy had one daughter from her first marriage, Doyletta Gayle. Tragically, Doyletta was murdered by her husband on February 22, 1991. 

These days Peggy Sue does background vocals for her sister Crystal Gayle, though sometimes the two sing duets together. They've also been known to perform with Loretta from time to time for a concert at Lynn's Hurricane Mills, Tennessee ranch.

6. Betty Ruth Hopkins (née Webb; born 1946)

Not much is known about Betty, Loretta Lynn's second-youngest sister, who prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Loretta did name her oldest daughter Betty Sue after Betty, though. 

7. Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb; January 9, 1951)

 

How many families can say they have multiple country superstars in their family tree?

Crystal Gayle was born after the family had moved to Wabash, Indiana, for their father's failing health, so she didn't grow up in the famous Coal Miner's Daughter cabin. 

Regardless, Crystal built herself quite a life and career. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, just like her older sister, in 2017. She's won a Grammy award and multiple American Music Awards. Rolling Stone named her as one of the hundred greatest country stars of all time. 

Her biggest hits include "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," "Ready for the Times to Get Better," "Talking in Your Sleep," "Half the Way," and "You and I." 

Crystal married Bill Gatzimos in 1971 while she was in high school, and the two have been together ever since. They have two (now adult) kids, daughter Catherine and son Christos. Christos is now a record producer in his own right and produced Crystal's 2019 album.

This story originally ran on Aug. 9, 2020.

Still Woman Enough: A Memoir Hardcover - April 3, 2002

Now Watch:

recommended for you

Loretta Lynn's Siblings: Then and Now