Tammy Wynette helped pave the way for female musicians in country music. Her rise in Nashville alongside other greats like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn allowed women the chance to really shine in the genre. The Country Music Hall of Fame inductee is still inspiring female musicians to this day. She was the Country Music Association(CMA) Awards Female Vocalist of the Year three times, a record that was only broken by Reba McEntire.
Here are eight things you might not have known about Tammy Wynette.
1. Her real name isn't Tammy
The singer was born Virginia Wynette Pugh, but Epic Records told her she might want to consider changing her name to be more recognizable. Producer Billy Sherrill said that she looked like Debbie Reynolds in the film Tammy and the Bachelor, so they decided to change her name to Tammy.
2. She was name-dropped by future first lady Hilary Clinton in an interview
When presidential candidate Bill Clinton was under fire for tabloids reporting an affair, his wife Hilary had to come to his rescue in the 'Gennifer Flowers' interview:
"You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," Clinton said. "I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck—don't vote for him."
Wynette was not a fan at the jab at her song "Stand By Your Man." She has even stated that her signature song was meant to serve as a suggestion that women sometimes sweep their husbands' shortcomings under the rug if they love them.
3. She was a trained cosmetologist
Before she was a country singer, Wynette had a slew of odd jobs, from waitressing to working in a shoe factory to a receptionist. She went to beauty school in Tupelo, Mississippi and renewed her license every year of her life...just in case she needed to fall back on her beautician experience. It was while working as a hairdresser in Birmingham, Alabama that she was able to perform with Porter Wagoner. Shortly after, she moved with her three daughters to Tennessee to pursue a recording contract in Nashville. She finally got a "yes" due to how well she performed "Apartment #9".
4. She had 20 number one hits
After "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" successfully peaked at number three, her duet with David Houston, "My Elusive Dreams," was her first number one hit. More followed including "I Don't Wanna Play House" (her first solo number one), "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," "Take Me to Your World" "Til I Can Make It On My Own," "You and Me" and "The Ways to Love a Man."
Beyond those country hits, Wynette joined unlikely allies in the British acid house group the KLF for their 1991 dance hit "Justified and Ancient."
Read More: The 10 Best Tammy Wynette Songs, Ranked
5. Her marriage to George Jones made them a "country couple"
Wynette became known as the First Lady of Country Music during her six-year marriage to Jones. The couple released multiple successful duet albums with major hits including "We're Gonna Hold On" and "Golden Ring."
6. She's rumored to have faked a kidnapping
It was reported in 1978 that Wynette had been kidnapped at gunpoint from a shopping mall and had been physically assaulted by the masked gunman. In her daughter Jackie Daly's book, Tammy Wynette: A Daughter Recalls Her Mother's Tragic Life and Death, Daly wrote that the kidnapping was a hoax to cover up the domestic violence Wynette suffered from her husband at the time, George Richey. Richey denied that he had been abusive. The truth about Wynette's alleged abduction is still unknown.
7. She has two musical daughters
Her daughter with Jones, Georgette, has released multiple successful country albums. Like her mother, she renews her nursing license every year following 17 years of work as a nurse. Her daughter Tina from first marriage to Euple Byrd was a miracle baby. Born prematurely she spent months in the hospital, and it was unknown if she would survive. She was featured on one of her mom's duet albums with Jones, George and Tammy and Tina.
8. She's won multiple Grammy Awards
The singer-songwriter won Best Female Country Performance for "I Don't Wanna Play House" and "Stand by Your Man." The latter was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
This story originally ran on Oct. 5, 2019 and was republished on July 28, 2020.
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