‘Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust’
222 pages, $28
Whether or not you are a country music fan, you might enjoy this 2020 book about the friendship between two country icons. This is Loretta Lynn’s third book, and she writes the same ungrammatical way she talks, which in this case gives it a special, authentic flavor.
“I’ve wrote a lot of songs — over 150,” she explains, “but people don’t think of me right off when it comes to books. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m not what you’d call educated. But this ain’t my first book.”
Indeed, her first of three books, in 1976, was her autobiography, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which was featured on the big screen in 1980. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Sissy Spacek). It also featured Tommy Lee Jones as her husband, Doolittle “Dooley” Lynn.
Both Loretta and Patsy were born in 1932, but Loretta is still alive today while Patsy died in a plane crash in 1963, some 57 years ago. While Patsy was already singing professionally during her teenage years, Loretta, raised by a poor family in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, got married when she was 15 and had four babies in five years.
Loretta always wrote songs, but just sang them to her kids. One day, though, Dooley said he thought Loretta was writing some great songs and should try to sing professionally. This resulted in the couple traveling the country leaving copies of records at many radio stations. In the book she gives a lot of credit to her husband, who believed in her and was tireless in helping promote her music.
Around 1960 Loretta and Dooley packed up the kids and moved to Nashville, where she ultimately met Patsy Cline. Patsy called Loretta “Little Gal,” and after hearing her sing said, prophetically, “This little gal is going places.”
At this time in their lives, Patsy was already a country music star and Loretta was not yet known. Patsy and her husband had a huge, beautiful house, and the Lynns lived in a small, modest home. Nevertheless, Patsy took Loretta under her wing and they spent a lot of time together and were occasionally joined by Dottie West.
Patsy soon became the No. 1 female country singer in the U.S.
“She had the richest, most emotional voice you ever heard,” Loretta said.
Patsy couldn’t help but laugh at how backward and uneducated Loretta was, but she also couldn’t help liking the mother of four, who ultimately would become the mother of six. She urged Loretta to “be yourself and people will love you.” This turned out to be sage advice, although it is difficult to imagine Loretta trying to be anybody else.
Patsy taught Loretta how to dress for the stage; how to stand up for herself in a male-dominated industry; how to fight for what’s right; and even how to spice up her love life. You will be surprised what Loretta didn’t know about certain things, even herself.
By the time she reached Nashville, Loretta had sold some songs she had written and also had recorded some records, but wasn’t making much money. She finally appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and more people began to notice her. She ultimately had 16 No. 1 hits.
Patsy nearly lost her life in an automobile crash and spent months recuperating. Loretta was there for her, encouraging her, telling her that her career would take off again when she got well. Patsy did make a comeback and became the indisputable queen of country music.
In early March 1963, Patsy played a concert in Texas, and flew with her manager, Randy Hughes, in his small plane to Kansas City. This was for a benefit concert for the family of a local country music disc jockey who had died in a car crash. Following the concert, some of the performers offered to give her a ride back to Nashville, but she wanted to get there faster, so decided to ride with Hughes again in his plane, although there were storm warnings. Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas also were passengers.
Early in the morning of March 5, 1963, the plane crashed near Camden, Tennessee, 90 miles from Nashville, and all four were killed. Patsy was not yet 31 years old. This ended a short, but beautiful friendship between the two Country Hall of Fame singers.