Happy Birthday Tammy Wynette: Remembering the Country Icon’s Legendary Career

by Keeli Parkey

Tammy Wynette, one of the most famous and important artists in the history of country music, was born on this day (May 5) in 1942. Often tragic, but always talented, the singer’s life earned her the title, “The First Lady of Country Music.”

And, when you look back at her life and country music career, that is a title that is well-deserved. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Tammy Wynette, who passed away in 1998, was born in rural Mississippi. Her given name was Virginia Wynette Pugh, according to NPR, and her life was difficult from the beginning. Her father passed away when she was just a child. Then, the future star’s mother remarried. She was then raised by her grandparents, according to Country Living.

Hard work was a large part of Tammy Wynette’s childhood. In fact, at the young age of 7, she was sent out into the fields to pick cotton. Interestingly, after she became famous she would have a bowl filled with cotton placed in her home. This, according to reports, served as a constant reminder of her humble beginnings.

Troubled relationships were something that followed Tammy Wynette throughout her life. And, she often sang about them during her career. The first of these relationships was with Euple Byrd. They married when she was only 18 years old in 1960. They had two daughters together. Wynette was pregnant with another daughter when she chose to leave Byrd.

During this time in her life, Tammy Wynette was employed as a hairdresser. However, she was also pursuing her singing career. Before going to her job as a hairdresser, she would perform on the “Country Boy Eddie” local television show.

Tammy Wynette Moved to Nashville in 1966

It was in 1966 that Tammy Wynette packed up her daughters and moved to Nashville. Her goal was a recording contract. And, obviously, it’s a goal she achieved. She joined Epic Records and changed her name to Tammy Wynette.

Hits followed for her, but so did a lot of heartache and bad relationships. One of her most famous was with country star George Jones. The two were an ideal match for country music fans and they created some of the best duets in the history of the genre. However, theirs wasn’t a very happy union personally. They married in 1969 and divorced in 1975. Their work together produced such classic country songs as “Golden Ring” and “Near You.” They also had a daughter together.

Tammy Wynette passed away in 1998. She was only 55 years old at the time of her death.

Hers was a career for the ages. According to Country Living, there were more than 20 No. 1 songs. Tammy Wynette also had 11 albums reach the top of the charts. She also earned two Grammy Awards. One, unsurprisingly, was for her hit “Stand By Your Man.” The other was for “I Don’t Wanna Play House.” Wynette also won the “Female Vocalist of the Year” award from the Country Music Association three times. She also became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

You can watch Tammy Wynette perform “Stand By Your Man,” which is one of her biggest hits, below. But, don’t forget, she also recorded the song, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”

‘First Lady of Country Music’ Influenced Many Other Stars

Tammy Wynette was an artist who left a lasting impression on so, so many people who listened to her music. Among those she influenced were Faith Hill and Emmylou Harris.

“It’s hard for me to listen to her records without crying,” Hill once said.

“I listened to her so much,” Harris also said. “She was so distinctive . . . it seemed so effortless. She was the real article . . . she really influenced the way I sing.”