“I came out the back of the building, and I was hollering, ‘I’ve sung on the Grand Ole Opry! I’ve sung on the Grand Ole Opry!’” Those are the memories of the late, great country music original Loretta Lynn, reminiscing with Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper about her first performance at the famous live institution, which took place on October 15, 1960.
The coal miner’s daughter was 25 years old at the time, and that first show took place during an important year in her career development. Signed to the Zero label, before she began her longtime association with Decca, Lynn had made her first country singles chart appearance in June that year with “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl.” It reached No.14 during a nine-week run.
Then came the Opry appearance, which was a real personal landmark. “The first memory I have of the Grand Ole Opry was, when I went out to sing, I remember patting my foot, and that’s it,” she said in the Tennessean interview. “I don’t remember even singing. Now I was so excited, I don’t remember singing, but I remember patting my foot. I went off stage and thought, ‘I forgot to listen to myself sing!’”
A donut for breakfast
Lynn and her husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, spent their first night in Nashville sleeping in their car in front of the famous concert setting. They were so poor, the legend has it, that for breakfast they shared a donut.
Just two years later, Loretta Lynn became a member of the Opry, and with perfect timing. She had just made her chart comeback with her first Decca hit, the aptly-named “Success.” She was rarely out of the country charts for the next 25 years. At the age of 86, this remarkable doyenne of country music released her 41st studio album, Wouldn’t It Be Great, in September 2018, and followed it with Still Woman Enough in March 2021, before her passing at the age of 90 in October 2022.
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