Loretta Lynn: Pulling Hair and Writing Songs

The Angry Inspiration for “Fist City”

In 1966, the newly-famous country singer Loretta Lynn and her husband Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn bought a house in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Then she went out on tour. And he, well, he started doing some touring of his own.

Lynn heard about the women Doo had been carrying on with while she was at work, and according to the Wall Street Journal’s “Anatomy of a Song” feature, she took matters into her own hands.

First by pulling hair, then by writing lyrics.

When her daughter Cissie told Lynn that her school bus driver had been seeing Doo on the side, Lynn confronted her.

“As a woman, I went for the hair,” she said.

After hearing more stories like that one, Lynn was driving her Cadillac home from a recording session in Nashville one day, and that’s when inspiration struck.

“I was real mad and wrote ‘Fist City’ in my head during the 75-mile trip,” she said. “All I could think about was what (the other woman) was doing to my family and what I wanted to say to her. The words started to hit me just outside of Nashville. The further I drove, the madder I got.

“By the time I got home, the song was done and I was pretty angry. I went straight into my home office, sat down at my desk and wrote what I had come up with on the highway,” Lynn said, adding that the lyrics took up three pages in her writing tablet.

It was a plainly-written song, because Lynn says she didn’t have enough of an education to put big words in it.

“When the record came out, it was banned from the radio. I couldn’t understand that. Apparently, a woman singing about fighting another woman was too much for ’em,” she laughed.

Eventually, radio started playing it and the song ended up at No. 1 on the charts in 1968.

Lynn rerecorded “Fist City” for her new album Full Circle.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.