For this week’s style muse, the spotlight’s shinin’ on the first lady of country music.
Born Virginia Wynette Pugh in Mississippi, Wynette was a young mother with a knock-out dish-washin’ voice and a penchant for hair-dressin’. Facing consistent discouragement from pursuing her musical ambitions during her first marriage, Wynette up and left one day, driving from Birmingham to Nashville with three daughters, a cosmetology license, and a dream of getting signed in tow. Miss Pugh was then christened Tammy Wynette in Nashville, Tennessee by Billy Sherril, her producer at Epic who had suggested something more memorable for his newly signed and aspiring star.
Hits like ‘Apartment #9,’ and ‘Your Good Girls Gonna Go Bad’ followed. In 1968 and 1969, Tammy released her seminal singles ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’ and ‘Take Me To Your World,’ along with three other billboard top hits. Her contributions to the country music canon are impressive, and her records solidified the importance of women in country music during the late sixties and early seventies.
‘Stand by Your Man’ was dismissed by many upon it’s release, and in fact, defamed and mocked as the women’s liberation movement began to slowly change the social landscape of the United States.
Call me conservative but I find Miss Wynette’s songs to be full of female empowerment and strength. No stranger to divorce herself, with five various marriages during her lifetime, Wynette stood by her man only so long as to find out that she couldn’t anymore. Her marriage to George Jones, perhaps her most fulfilling both romantically and creatively would even come to an end. Despite the separation, the duo continued to record and sing together well into the 1980’s.
Popular upon initial release, the duets they recorded together are a bit much for me now, as each track feels cramped — their two strong personalities vying attention, a swirling, heady mix of tempestuous passion, pride, and frustration that can come off as just plain southern tackiness at times.
I much prefer Tammy’s pre-stardom hits, which seem sweeter, and full of good-natured youthful yearning. Her early gem ‘Good’ is one of my favorites.