*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.
Welcome back to another exciting addition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville. Today, we explore the life and career of another famous country singer. She came to Evansville in 1977 and performed a concert at Roberts Stadium. Let’s get started and see if you can guess who she is with three clues:
- She known as the “Queen of Country”.
- Her best-known song was also made into an autobiography and popular film in 1980.
- She isn’t the only singer in the family: she is half-sisters with Crystal Gayle.
The musician is Loretta Lynn.
Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932 in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky in a one-room log cabin. She was the second of eight children and grew up extremely poor. By 1948, she married her husband, Oliver “Mooney” Lynn and had six children together. Lynn was musically inclined, and her husband saw her an opportunity. He bought her a guitar to play and eventually led to a future career in singing. Lynn’s musical career started in 1960, upon the release of her first hit song, “Honky Tonk Girl”. Within a few years, Lynn was a country music superstar, performing at the Grand Ole Opry and releasing her best-known song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, in 1970.
By 1971, she was an established solo artist, having won the Country Music Association’s (CMA) female vocalist of the year on three occasions. Lynn formed a successful duet duo with fellow country music singer, Conway Twitty, becoming popular overnight! Twitty and Lynn won numerous Grammys and Country Music Association’s (CMA) awards for best vocal duos. Lynn would become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1962, becoming the 119th individual to receive that honor. Learn more about their partnership in Guess Who Performed in Evansville: Part 1. Adding to her legacy, Lynn won the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1972, becoming the first woman to do so.
Outside of the music world, Lynn decided to write an autobiography on her life. Her book, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was published in 1976. By 1980, it was produced into a movie, starring Sissy Spacek, who portrayed Lynn, and Tommy Lee Jones. (If you haven’t seen the movie, it is a must see!) Lynn’s music career continued to remain solid until the death of her husband in 1996, she went on hiatus. Lynn returned to the music scene in 2004; however, she wasn’t going in alone. Alongside fellow singer, Jack White, of the band, White Stripes, produced the album, Van Lear Rose, winning a Grammy and Americana Awards for the album. In the last couple of years, Lynn has suffered numerous health issues, including a stroke; however, it didn’t stop her from producing another album in 2018.
From photographs taken by Greg Smith, Lynn came to Evansville to perform twice: in March 1977 and 1979. She came as a guest performer alongside her duet partner, Conway Twitty (“Singing up country”, 1977). According to the Evansville Courier and Evansville Press newspapers in 1979, there was no available information about her concert. Regardless, it is an honor knowing Lynn came to Evansville to perform twice in her career.
For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more. Stay tuned for our next entry on Guess Who Performed in Evansville.
Singing up country. (1977, March 26). The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/2xVir3I
Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020, March 19). Loretta Lynn. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Loretta-Lynn
Zwisohn, L. (n.d.). Loretta Lynn. https://countrymusichalloffame.org/artist/loretta-lynn/