Loretta Lynn: Story Behind the Country Singer’s Longhorn Rodeo Company

by Halle Ames

Legendary country artist Loretta Lynn once told the story behind her Longhorn Rodeo Company.

Loretta Lynn may be 88-years-old, but the Kentucky native says it best, “You’re Lookin’ at Country.”

Loretta Lynn Begins Small Rodeo that Grows

According to the Tennessean in an article published in 2019, every weekend in Nashville at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, Loretta Lynn and her husband Oliver “Doolittle” would host a rodeo throughout the summer of 1969.

The rodeo got started years before Loretta Lynn began hosting the event at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

She explains how the rodeo got its start in her backyard. In 1965, Loretta Lynn and Doolittle would entertain the local kids of Goodlettsville with the show.

Doolittle Lynn was apparently a rodeo rider on the West Coast before Loretta Lynn was even famous for her singing.

Loretta’s only husband was six years older than her and died in 1996 due to diabetes and heart failure complications.

“Doolittle competed in rodeos when he was younger, and it will never get out of his blood,” Loretta Lynn told The Tennessean in 1969. “He dresses, walks, and talks like a cowboy ’cause he is one of them.”

Loretta Lynn held the rodeo every weekend from May 30 until September 1, 1969. Over 100 cowboys and girls attended the events, with the total earrings totaling $150,000. According to the Inflation Calculator, that is more than $1 million in today’s cash.

Fans didn’t just attend for the action-packed events, but Loretta Lynn herself gave a 40-minute performance for her beloved rodeo.

The Longhorn Rodeo Expands

Prior to the pandemic, the rodeo still took place every year, although it moved from the Fairgrounds Coliseum. It is now held in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, where Loretta Lynn’s Ranch resides, but it is unknown if the country music legend still performs at the rodeo.

By the Longhorn Rodeo Company’s tenth year, the Lynns sold it to Bruce Lehrke.

The event has expanded past Tennessee, however. According to a 2007 publication by STL Today, the rodeo tours throughout the US and Canada.

“The rodeo annually tours ten shows in seven states, with more than 200 cowboys and cowgirls from more than 25 states and Canada competing for world championship points. More than 140 head of livestock will be transported by semi-trailers to the arena.”

Since the rodeo has grown, it hasn’t been any little rinky-dink production. The event has cowgirl barrel racing, steer wrestling, calf roping, bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, and more.

The Longhorn Rodeo has also raked in plenty of trophies for being such a spectacular event.

“Longhorn Rodeo has been honored by the International Professional Rodeo Association 18 times as Rodeo of the Year, six times for New Rodeo of the Year, and six times as Producer of the Year.”