Loretta Lynn celebrated her 50th anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member during a Tuesday night (Sept. 25) performance in Nashville. She attracted some special guests onstage, too. As Miranda Lambert and Lee Ann Womack explained it, you haven't sung unless you've sung with Loretta Lynn.
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Lambert and her two bandmates in the Pistol Annies joined Womack, Crystal Gayle (Lynn's sister) and Trace Adkins during the event at the Grand Ole Opry House.
Aside from her impressive collection of hit songs and recordings, it was clear that younger singers still feel a personal bond to Lynn long before they actually meet her.
"I would sit in my bedroom in East Texas and didn't have any way to go anywhere," Womack said during a preshow press conference. "I had a lot of her cassette tapes at the time and would listen to her. It was like she was a friend even then. I felt like I knew her. So it's great to get to be with her."
She said she's tried to follow Lynn's advice and example.
"The first time I ever met Loretta, she had heard my single," Womack recalled. "I was brand new, and I had one single out. She heard it and liked it. It was really, really country. She told me, 'Just don't let them push you pop.' ... And I never did, thanks to Loretta."
Lambert says she was overwhelmed after first meeting Lynn when they began working with Sheryl Crow on the title track of the 2012 album, Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn.
"And it was the best day, probably of my life, besides my wedding day," she laughed, adding, "Don't tell my husband I said that.
"It was just overwhelming. I got to sit in the kitchen at her house and just talk to her. I kept reminding myself, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm talking to Loretta Lynn.' I just felt like I was talking to a friend, just like somebody I'd known all my life. She just kind of takes you in and gives you a hug and you just feel so warm when you're in her presence.
"I remember at the end of the day, doing interviews, I just broke down bawling and couldn't stop. Every time I'm around her, I just realize what she's done for women in country music, and the reason I feel like I get to stand up here is because of what she laid the groundwork for. I'm just thankful that she likes me and calls me country."
Lynn sang "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," a song released in 1960 on the independent Zero Records label, during her first performance on the Opry.
"That was my first record. On Zero. And that's exactly what it made me," she quipped during the press conference.
Before that, however, she and her late husband Mooney Lynn attended an Opry performance.
"Me and my husband got in town the night before," she said. "We spent the night in the car out in front of the old Grand Ole Opry. Of course, we didn't have any money. The next morning, we divided a doughnut and ate the doughnut and took pictures of the Grand Ole Opry. Naturally, I got my picture made in front of it." She laughed, adding, "They weren't going to let me in. You know that."
Asked to explain the reasons for her career longevity, she cracked another joke.
"I'm good," Lynn said. "I'm only kidding now. I've been singing a long time, haven't I? I have no idea what's kept me there. I think it's hard work. I really do. I think that's the answer -- hard work."