Editor’s Note: CMT will air three episodes of Country Couples over Valentine’s Day weekend, featuring the stars Charlie and Emily Robison, Richie McDonald and Lorie Ellis, and Marty Stuart and Connie Smith.
When you think about many of country’s couples, you may think they seem perfect. Thoughts of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw come to mind, not to mention the 35-year marriage of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. These couples seem to have it all. Their stories seem to be those of Cinderella, with beautiful meetings, exotic proposals and happily-ever-afters. Though this may be true for some, not all start out as picture perfect as you may think.
“Well, go get that rock that your birth certificate’s carved on and let’s get this over with,” was how Marty Stuart proposed to Connie Smith. They say one key ingredient to their successful relationship is laughter, which is very apparent after watching them together. With this being her fourth marriage and his second, they had some time to figure out what they wanted. Stuart being 17 years Smith’s junior, they received many cruel remarks from fans. “As far as spirit and spunk and just get-up-and-go-for-it, Connie’s a younger person than I am,” he says, regarding the accusations.
Lonestar’s lead singer Richie McDonald and wife Lorie Ellis know how hard it is to keep a long-distance relationship alive. After dating five years, he broke off the wedding just two weeks before the date. “It was me being foolish and crazy and not realizing that I was fixin’ to lose the best thing I ever had,” he says. In the end, they knew they had to be together and to this day, the thought of that time apart still brings tears to their eyes.
“When you marry one Dixie Chick you pretty much marry ’em all,” Charlie Robison says about wife Emily Erwin. On their wedding night, he learned this the hard way. “We went back … just basking in the fact that we’d just gotten married, and next thing you know, Marty and Natalie come in and they just, ’So what’s goin’ on y’all?’,” Erwin remembers. “They didn’t leave for like two hours.” These lovebirds shared their first kiss after a drinking game, and Charlie said he knew by the third date he wanted to marry her, but it was not as easy as he imagined. “I had a pretty big string of losers … and Marty and Natalie were never held back from telling me what they thought,” says Erwin. With the remaining Dixie Chicks’ consent, the two were married.
Other couples in the country music industry have not had such luck finding the right mate. Before finding wife Amy Grant, Vince Gill was married to Sweethearts of the Rodeo member Janis Gill. They married on April 12, 1980, and though the relationship brought about a few hit songs for him (such as “Look at Us”), the marriage was not as successful and ended after 13 years.
After getting married in 1979, Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash had a profitable marriage musically. Crowell produced many of Cash’s hit songs and albums, but they divorced in 1992. However, plenty of those turbulent emotions can be heard in albums from that era, from both artists. Crowell is now married to singer Claudia Church, and Cash lives with her husband, pop producer John Leventhal, in New York City.
Trisha Yearwood and Mavericks member Robert Reynolds learned it doesn’t matter how extravagant your wedding reception hall is, it does not insure that your marriage will last. Their wedding was held at the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium. They married in May 1994 and though their wedding was memorable, they divorced after five years. Yearwood is now dating Garth Brooks, while Reynolds recently married an employee of the Grand Ole Opry.
The marriage between George Jones and Tammy Wynette now appears to be a smarter career move for them than anything else. They had many hits together such as “We’re Gonna Hold On” and “Two Story House.” They married on February 16, 1969; however, they did not hold on and ended their marriage after six years. Though their marriage was over, they saw no reason that that should interfere with their careers and continued to make hits together such as “Golden Ring” and “Near You.”
One of country music’s hardest couples to follow is Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw. This being Morgan’s fifth marriage and Kershaw’s third, they continually have an on-again off-again relationship. The two longtime acquaintances were married in 2001 and after two years of marriage the couple had a major argument and filed restraining orders against each other. But at the time of this article, they are working at their marriage and staying together, even appearing together on a “sweethearts” edition of a game show.
The long marriage between Loretta Lynn and the late Mooney Lynn started at a very early age. They married in 1948 when she was only 13 years old and had their first child by the time she was 14. One key to their marriage was support. Mooney was always a supporter of Loretta’s career and bought her a guitar and a songwriting magazine to help get her career moving. For better or worse, he also inspired countless songs for Loretta, such as “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”
Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White (of The Whites) say it’s their commitment to the Lord that keeps their marriage what it is. Married in 1981, they spend their nights playing music with their two children. The best advice they can give to couples is to never go to bed angry, according to Christianity Today.
The marriage of Dolly Parton and Carl Dean is also a successful one. They met on Parton’s first day in Nashville at a laundromat and were married two years later on May 30, 1966. When asked how she keeps grounded through all her success, she has said all she needs are her two true loves — music and Dean.
Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black married in 1991, but it took nearly a decade for Clint to convince Lisa (formerly an actress on Knots Landing) to sing a duet with him. “When I Said I Do” was a huge hit, and their harmony was heard again in “Easy for Me to Say.”
The relationship between Randy Travis and Lib Hatcher did not start out as a romantic one. She discovered him in a nightclub and managed his career for several years before they linked romantically. In fact, in order to keep his career going, the relationship was kept secret so that women would think he was single. “It was very hard. I mean, you’re lying to everybody you talk to for the most part,” says Travis. The two married in 1991, and Lib still represents him.
Through all of the busy schedules and crazy lifestyles, many couples are able to pull through and make it. When The Tennessean asked Brenda Lee who the sexiest person alive is, she answered with the name of her husband, Ronnie Shacklett. They married on April 24, 1963. She says, “He’s honest, he has a lot of integrity and he’s loyal; he’s with you no matter what.”
So how do these country couples know they are destined to be together?
Hill has said, “I felt like I was about 13 years old [when we first met]. And I still feel that way when I see him.”
Smith agrees and says, “I think he’s [Marty] the greatest man I know.”