Childhood & Early Life
Tammy Wynette was born as Virginia Wynette Pugh on May 5, 1942, in Tremont, Itawamba County, Mississippi, to a farmer and local musician William Hollice Pugh and Mildred Faye Pugh.
Her father died of brain tumor when she was just eight months old, after which she was left at her maternal grandparents’ home, while her mother relocated to Memphis to work in a defense plant during Second World War.
She got familiar with different musical instruments while spending her childhood with sharecropper grandparents. She completed her schooling from Tremont High School.
In 1963, she enrolled in American Beauty College in Birmingham, Alabama, to become a hairdresser.
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Initially, she took up various blue-collar jobs, such as receptionist, waitress, barmaid, and factory worker to support her family.
She worked as a hairdresser and beautician, but later took up nightclub singing to earn extra money for her daughter, Tina, who suffered from spinal meningitis.
In 1965, she debuted on television with WBRC-TV’s ‘Country Boy Eddie Show’, after which she performed on ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’.
She relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1966 and successfully auditioned for producer Billy Sherrill, after being rejected by almost all recording companies.
She recorded her debut single ‘Apartment No. 9’ in December 1966. ‘Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad’ released in early 1967 and reached No. 3. Subsequently, ‘My Elusive Dream’s and ‘I Don’t Wanna Play House’ rose to top spots.
A series of No. 1 hits followed in 1968 and 1969, including ‘Take Me to Your World’, ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’, ‘Stand by your Man’, ‘The Ways to Love a Man’, and ‘Singing my Song’.
Her 1971 ‘The Wonders You Perform’ became very popular in Italy and was re-recorded in Italian as ‘Domani e un altro giorno’ by Ornella Vanoni.
Apart from solo singles, she ruled the country charts with several duets with female country singers, such as Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Lynn Anderson, Dottie West, and Dolly Parton.
She recorded numerous hit duets with her music idol George Jones. Some of them were ‘Take Me’ (1971), ‘We’re Gonna Hold On’ (1973), ‘Golden Ring’ (1976), ‘Southern California’ (1977), and ‘Two Story House’ (1980).
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Her single ‘You and Me’ (1976) was her last No. 1 solo hit, while the duet ‘Near You’ (1977) with George Jones, was her final No. 1 song.
Leaving aside the top spot, she figured in the top 10 until 1980, giving hit singles, like ‘Let’s Get Together’ (1977), ‘One of a Kind’ (1977), ‘Womanhood’ (1978), and ‘No One Else in this World’ (1979).
A TV movie titled ‘Stand by Your Man’ was filmed on her life in 1981, starring Annette O’Toole in the lead.
Her career started slowing down in the early 1980s, though she figured in the top 20 with singles like ‘Starting Over’ (1980), ‘You Still Get to Me in My Dreams’ (1982), ‘Another Chance’ (1982), and ‘A Good Night’s Love’ (1983).
Her albums during the late 1980s - ‘Sometimes When We Touch’ (1985), ‘Higher Ground’ (1987), and ‘Next to You’ (1989) faired pretty well.
In 1986, she acted as beautician-singer Darlene Stankowski on CBS TV’s soap opera ‘Capitol’.
She recorded ‘Heart Over Mind’ (1990), ‘Honky Tonk Angels’ (1993), ‘Without Walls’ (1994), ‘Girl Thang’ (1994), and ‘One’ (1995) through 1990s, but her decline continued.
Her 1991 song ‘Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs)’, collaborated with British electronic duo ‘The KLF’, was a surprise hit on the dance charts. It topped the charts in 18 nations in 1992.
She continued to perform live concerts till 1997.
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Her 1969 single ‘Stand By Your Man’ topped the country charts and reached No. 19 on Billboard pop charts, eventually becoming the best-selling single by a woman in the history of country music.
Her solo career graph shot up during 1970s when she recorded No. 1 singles regularly - ‘He Loves Me All the Way’ (1970), ‘Run Woman, Run’ (1970), ‘Bedtime Story’ (1972), ‘My Man’ (1972), and ‘Til’ I Get It Right (1973).
In 1976, she recorded ‘Til I Can Make It on My Own’, said to be based on her recent divorce from Jones, which became one of her signature songs, topping the US country single charts and reaching No. 84 on pop single charts.
Awards & Achievements
In 1967, she received a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for ‘I Don’t Wanna Play House’.
Her single ‘Stand by your Man’ won the Best Female Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards, in 1969.
Her album ‘Tammy’s Greatest Hits’ won the Gold record in 1970, for selling more than 500,000 copies. In 1989, the album received Platinum for crossing 1,000,000 copies.
She bagged the ‘Female Vocalist of the Year’ at the Country Music Association Awards in 1968, thereby becoming the second female vocalist to win such honor. She received the award for the next two consecutive years.
In 1998, she was inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame posthumously.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1960, she married Euple Byrd, a construction worker, at 17. The couple had three daughters – Gwendolyn Lee Byrd (1961), Jacquelyn Faye Byrd (1962), and Tina Denise Byrd (1965). The two divorced in 1966.
She married country singer, Don Chapel, in 1967, but divorced him in 1968.
She married her third husband George Jones in 1969, who legally adopted her three daughters. The couple had a daughter, Tamala Georgette Jones, in 1970.
Her fourth wedding to real estate executive, Michael Tomlin, in July 1976 lasted for only 44 days, ending in September 1976.
She married singer-songwriter George Richardson, professionally known as George Richey, in 1978.
Her health deteriorated during the 1970s, after developing a chronic inflammation of the bile duct, for which she was hospitalized and underwent 30 surgical procedures till her death.
She died in her sleep at her Nashville home on April 6, 1998, from a heart failure caused by a blood clot.
She was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Nashville. However, her body was exhumed and re-interred at Woodlawn Cross Mausoleum in 1999.