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As “The First Lady of Country Music,” Tammy Wynette contributed a wealth of incredible material to the genre. With hit songs such as “Stand By Your Man” and “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” Wynette more than earned the admiration and respect that she continues to receive.
Wynette was also married to fellow country legend George Jones for six years, and their duets such as “Golden Ring” and “We’re Gonna Hold On” made them one of the greatest power couples in country music history.
Although Wynette passed away in 1998 at the age of 55, she left behind an extensive musical legacy for us to remember her by. Because of that, it would be nearly impossible to do an in-depth study of every single one of her songs. But some of her signature hits have some intriguing facts attached to them, and we’re happy to share them with you here!
Released as a single off of Wynette’s 1967 album Take Me to Your World / I Don’t Wanna Play House, “I Don’t Wanna Play House” was written by Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton. It went on to become Wynette’s first-ever number one hit on the U.S. country charts, and it claimed the third spot on the Canadian country charts.
The song also helped Wynette earn her first Grammy Award in 1968, when she took home the trophy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
“We’re Gonna Hold On” was Wynette’s first number one hit along with her then-husband, George Jones. Released in 1973, the song was co-written by Jones and Earl “Peanut” Montgomery. Although the song seems to reflect Jones and Wynette’s shaky relationship, it actually originated from a much more unlikely place.
According to Jones’ biographer Bob Allen, Montgomery felt inspired to write the song after a shameful experience at a Holiday Inn hotel. While on tour with Jones and Wynette, Montgomery got drunk in the hotel lounge and ended up charging all of the drinks to Wynette’s room.
Somehow, Montgomery managed to turn his mistake into a number one hit song that is now considered a country classic!
Co-written by Wynette, George Richey, and Billy Sherrill, “‘Till I Can Make It On My Own” was released as the first single off her album of the same title in 1976. It went on to become Wynette’s 15th number one hit on the U.S. country charts, and it claimed the top spot on the Canadian country charts as well.
Wynette poured her heart into the song, since it was released shortly after her extremely public divorce from Jones. The lyrics talk about a woman who may still need to rely on her old love for support every now and then, at least, she sings “‘til I can make it on my own.”
Since Wynette put so much of herself into the song, she always had a fondness for it. That’s why whenever she was asked what her favorite song was out of all the ones she had written and recorded, she answered with “‘Till I Can Make It On My Own.”
Even though Wynette and Jones divorced in 1975, the demand for their duets was so high that they continued to record together. Released five years after their divorce, “Two Story House” is yet another song that reflects the state of Wynette’s marriage to Jones. The song tells the story of a couple who works toward putting together their dream home, but even their beautiful, well-decorated home can’t save their marriage.
Despite the song’s sad message, many listeners compared it to a more carefree tune…the popular nursery rhyme “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” Many have argued that parts of the verses to Wynette and Jones’ duet sound similar to the children’s tune. Listen for yourself in the clip below and see what you think!
In 1968, Wynette released what went on to become one of her biggest hits, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” The main reason the song became so popular is because of the way Wynette spelled out words as she sang. Caught in the middle of a failing marriage, the narrator spells words like “divorce” and “custody” to keep her young song from understanding what’s going on.
While “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was somewhat revolutionary for its time, no one ever expected that it, or any of Wynette’s songs for that matter, would be featured in a video game. After all, the song made its debut four years before the world was introduced to one of the earliest video games called Pong.
But 45 years after its release “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was featured on the “Rebel Radio” station on the popular video game Grand Theft Auto V, which exposed millions of people to the First Lady of Country Music’s iconic song.
One of Wynette’s most successful duets with Jones was “Golden Ring,” which was released after they divorced. Like many of their other duets, the song tells the story of a broken marriage, but the experience that led to the tune’s creation is rather unusual.
The song’s co-writer, Bobby Braddock, was inspired to write the song after he saw a television show about the life of a handgun. This show followed the gun as it travelled to different owners, each one experiencing their own set of consequences as a result. The show made Braddock think about the life of a wedding ring in a similar way, how it could go from a pawn shop, to a bride, and back to the pawnshop after the marriage fails.
Braddock told the story through song, and it became “Golden Ring.”
Not only is “Stand By Your Man,” considered Wynette’s greatest hit of her entire career, but CMT named it as the top country song of all time. Even the Library of Congress recognized the value of the song when it was added to the National Recording Registry in 2010 as a recording that is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
One would think that a legendary country song such as “Stand by Your Man” would have required hours to put together. But as it turns out, Wynette wrote the entire song in only 15 minutes.
“Stand by Your Man,” and all of Wynette’s other songs prove that her talent was as diverse and complex as her music.
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