Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Virginia Wynette Pugh, 5 May '42, Tupelo MS; d 7 April '98) Country singer; one of the most successful of all time. Her father died when she was a baby; raised by her mother and grandparents in Birmingham AL she was married at 17, soon had three children and left her young husband before the third was born. Worked long hours as a beautician to pay bills incurred by her youngest child's ill health; took up music to earn more money, working in local clubs and landing a spot on WBRC's Country Boy Eddy Show '63-- 4; appearances on Porter Wagoner syndicated TV show and endless rounds of Nashville record companies led to signing with Epic Records, where she joined Billy Sherrill in one of the most successful artist--producer teams in the history of country music. Debut 'Apartment No. 9' was minor hit late '66; then 'Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad' was no. 3; 'I Don't Wanna Play House', 'Take Me To Your World', 'D-I-V-O-R-C-E', 'Stand By Your Man' (co-written with Sherrill), 'Singing My Song', 'The Ways To Love A Man', 'He Loves Me All The Way', 'Run Woman Run', 'Good Lovin' Makes It Right' were all no. 1 '67--71. Tammy's Greatest Hits was the best-selling album ever by a female country artist, reached top 40 of pop LP chart '69; she also had duet hits with David Houston ('My Elusive Dreams', 'It's All Over' '67--8); marriage to country superstar George Jones '69 only consolidated her success. Jones changed labels to Epic; they toured together, had duet hits 'Take Me', 'The Ceremony', 'We're Gonna Hold On', '(We're Not) The Jet Set', 'We Love It Away' '71--4. His drinking and unprofessional behaviour ('No Show Jones') did not go down well, her earlier financial insecurity causing her to put her career first; the stormy marriage ended '75. They continued to record together, initially to fulfil contractual obligations, more hits followed by reunion session '80. Meanwhile she continued to dominate the country charts with ever more personal hits, to which her audience could relate completely: 'Woman To Woman', '(You Make Me Want To Be) A Mother', 'I Still Believe In Fairytales', 'Till I Can Make It On My Own', 'You And Me' '74--6; she made a UK breakthrough when 'Stand By Your Man' (reissued for the sixth time) became a no. 1 UK pop hit '75. She had more no. 1 country hits than any other female until Reba McEntire, and survived it all: disastrous marriages, ill health due to stress and other problems, even a kidnapping. She had well-publicized affairs incl. with actor Burt Reynolds and Rudy Gatlin; finally settled down and married longtime friend, songwriter and producer George Richey '78. In the '80s she moved away from Sherrill and worked with others, not dominating the charts the way she did but still with big hits such as 'Starting Over' '80, 'Crying In The Rain' '81, 'I Heard A Heart Break' '83, no. 1 duet with Mark Gray 'Sometimes When We Touch' '85. Biography Stand By Your Man became a successful film '82; she made artistic comeback '87 with album Higher Ground '87, which began as concept idea to be called Out With The Boys, incl. the Gatlin Bros, the O'Kanes, duets with with Ricky Skaggs, Gene Watson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill. She teamed with British funk duo KLF on 'Justified And Proud' '92 for a worldwide pop hit; with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn for hit album Honky Tonk Angels '93; the following year she was seriously ill and collapsed several times, but continued to tour regularly. Teamed with Jones for another duet album One '95 on MCA and world tour that was interrupted by her ill health. As with most country artists who sold albums in the '60s--70s, none of the originals is reissued; Biggest Hits is on Columbia Legacy; compilations with Jones are on Epic and MCA; her own compilations on Epic incl. three-CD set Tears Of Fire, plus Without Walls '94 with collaborators from Cliff Richard to Smokey Robinson.