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Published: 4/10/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Loretta Lynn: ‘Honky Tonk Girl' still going strong

BY BRIAN DUGGER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Country singing legend Loretta Lynn will perform Thursday at the Stranahan Theater. Country singing legend Loretta Lynn will perform Thursday at the Stranahan Theater.
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Loretta Lynn's knee is aching. Pain left behind by a recent surgery woke her up overnight. Her doctor told her the shredded cartilage he found "looked like a dog had gotten a hold of it."

But the pain is decreasing every day, and she's betting she won't have any problems by the time she takes the Stranahan Theater stage in Toledo on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, she's been splashing paint on an easel in her Hurricane Mills, Tenn., home, but getting just as much on the floor and on her clothes.

"I'm trying to paint some flowers. I figure if I make a mistake, I can always make the flower bigger," she said with a laugh.

Lynn celebrated 50 years as an entertainer last year; in 1960 she released her first single, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Music was never the plan because she married Doolittle Lynn when she was young and started having kids.

"By 21, I had all four kids in school, then got pregnant with twins, so I said the next one's going to be a litter, so I better stop right here."

She would sing her children to sleep, and Doo would tell her, "You're really good, honey. You're really good." After enough encouragement, she started to believe him and began singing in local clubs, eventually gaining the attention of Norm Burley of Zero Records, who signed her to a record deal.

She interrupted a discussion about her early career to tell a story about the man to whom she was married for more than 50 years.

"One day he said he was going to get me a diamond for my birthday. It was so daggone little I needed a spyglass to see that thing. He came home and said, ‘It's just a waste of money to buy stuff like this.' I looked at that thing and thought, ‘Yes, it was.' But I didn't tell him that," she said, chuckling.

If Lynn ever censors herself, it's not evident. She spins anecdotes, tells jokes, and pokes fun at herself, and even at some of her 21 grandkids and six great-grandkids.

"They just laugh at me. They'd like to sing too. Some of them can, but some of them you'd pay to get off the stage."

It's that honesty and candor that has contributed to her success. No topic is out of bounds when it comes to her songwriting. After she caught a woman flirting with Doo, she wrote "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)." "Fist City" was about a different woman who Lynn believed was trying to steal Doo. One of her most controversial and biggest hits was "The Pill."
"Every woman I knew back then was taking the pill. I had the kids to prove I wasn't taking it. I couldn't figure out why it was such a big deal cuz everyone was taking it," she said. "I imagine that's why it was such a hit record because everyone who was taking it, went out and bought the record."
Lynn has recorded more than 50 albums, including a dozen with Conway Twitty, a collaboration that produced five No. 1 hits, including "After the Fire Is Gone." Twitty died in 1993.
"I sure miss ol' Conway," she said. "He was the greatest singer in the world when it comes to country music."
She has equally kind words for another man she collaborated with, Ernest Tubb. "He was one of the greatest guys in the world. If you couldn't get along with Ernest Tubb, then you shouldn't be out in public."
Although it took her until her mid-20s to begin her career, she doesn't show any signs of slowing down. She is touring in a new bus, she'll be releasing a religious album and an album of new material later this year, and she's got a full schedule of shows, including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in June, where she'll be part of a lineup that includes Eminem, Lil Wayne, and the Black Keys.
"They better all sing good. They wouldn't want me to outdraw them," she cracks.
In Toledo, she'll be celebrating her birthday, although you better not ask her which one. Toledoan and former fan club president Rick Cornett will be presenting her with a birthday cake on stage. As for the rest of the show, it's going to be "whatever people want to hear. They paid to get in, I just sneaked in the back."
She'll even take requests, "but that don't mean I'm going to sing them," she added slyly.
Retiring isn't imminent, and she seems surprised anyone would consider it an option.
"Why would I stop? When I wanted to quit — when I had all my kids and I needed to stay home — everyone was pushing me out there. I got through that. Why quit now? The kids are grown up. What would I stay home for, to get paint all over the place?" she said. "If I can keep going, why not? Most women my age are in bed dying, and I'm still going. It's hard to believe we're still turning people away [at sold-out shows], but we are."

Loretta Lynn will be in concert at the Stranahan Theater on Thursday night at 7:30 with special guest Joey+Rory. Tickets are $49.50, $59.50, and $69 and are available at Tickemaster locations, online at ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 or 419-381-8851, or at the Stranahan Theater box office.

Contact Brian Dugger at: bdugger@theblade.com.



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