Loretta Lynn celebrated 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday night with an evening full of musical tributes from Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, Lee Ann Womack, her sister Crystal Gayle and more. A true rags to riches story, Loretta made her Opry debut in 1960. She remembers that day clearly.
“Me and my husband got in town the night before and we spent the night in the car out front of the Grand Ole Opry,” she said said. “And the next morning, we didn’t have any money, so we divided a doughnut and I got my picture made in front of the Grand Ole Opry.”
Loretta performed “Honky Tonk Girl” the very first time she stepped onstage. On September 24, 1962, Loretta became a member of the Opry, a day that went by in a blur. “When they put me on the Grand Ole Opry, I was so nervous I don’t remember anything but tapping my foot to the song,” she said. “I don’t remember nothing else.”
Even though she’s been performing on the Opry stage for more than 50 years, she still gets nervous. “The Grand Ole Opry is different,” she said. “Any Grand Ole Opry member will tell you that. When you go on the Grand Ole Opry, its just different.”
Loretta was named the first ever CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1967. Last night, she was joined by reigning CMA Female Vocalist Miranda Lambert as well as Lee Ann Womack and Crystal Gayle, who have also won the award throughout their careers. All three women consider Loretta one of their heroes.
“She’d heard my single,” Lee Ann Womack said of the first time she met Loretta. “I was brand new and she liked it and it was really, really country. She said to me ‘just don’t let ‘em push you pop.’ I never did, thanks to Loretta.”
“Every time I’m around her I remember what she’s done for women in country music,” Miranda said. “I feel like I get to stand up here because of what she laid the ground work for and I’m just thankful that she likes me and she calls me country.”
Crystal Gayle’s sentiment was a little different. “She’s a great sister,” she said. “When we’re together, we don’t think about music, not really. We just love being together.”
When asked about the longevity of her career, Loretta had her answer ready. “Well I’m good,” she joked. “No, I’ve been singing a long time, haven’t I? I have no idea what’s kept me there. I think it’s hard work. I really do. I think that’s the answer, hard work.”
Throughout the night’s Opry performance, stars paid tribute to Loretta by singing some of her biggest hits. Crystal Gayle sang Loretta’s first No. 1, “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) while Lee Ann Womack opted for “I Know How.” In a full circle moment, Miranda performed “Honky Tonk Girl,” learning moments before she went onstage that it was the first song Loretta ever did on the Opry.
The night culminated with Loretta herself taking the stage. She brought out Trace Adkins to sing “Lead Me On” with her, a moment Trace said was the highlight of his career so far. To close the show, Loretta asked her ‘friends’ to join her. The Pistol Annies, Lee Ann Womack and Crystal Gayle took their places on either side of Loretta for a historic performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
“You ain’t sang unless you’ve been on the Grand Ole Opry,” Loretta said before the show. “That’s how I feel. That’s how it is. If you make the Grand Ole Opry, you’ve made it.”
Throughout the day, many country stars congratulated Loretta on her 50th anniversary via Twitter using the hashtag #Love4Loretta. Here is what some of them had to say to the Coal Miner’s Daughter herself.
Steve Wariner – @The_LorettaLynn Congrats on 50 years at the Opry Loretta. You are such an inspiration to everyone! Love you