Friday, July 1, 2011

Loretta! Oh, Loretta.

I spent a good deal of my morning yesterday, while swilling coffee and manning the Ask-a-Librarian chat for the first shift of the day, going through a list of "classic country" karaoke selections for songs basically in my range. While this is not at all outside the realm of possibility for my morning "down time" activities (along with compulsively watching playlists of Amy Sedaris on talk shows, or reading a book on forensic anthropology), there was a specific goal in mind. Bab and I are headed out tonight to a fun little hole-in-the-wall, beer-only bar out near 100 Oaks for a friend's birthday, and knowing the audience might be more receptive to Johnny Cash than Talking Heads, I live to oblige. Last time I was there, I sang the fool out of my favorite, go-to karaoke selection, "Big River"... this time, I wanted to find another sixties' or early 70's country song I was familiar with, and just go to town with it.

So what did I do? I made a 96 song playlist of youtube videos of the original recordings or live performances from the time, and started listening. Only, I didn't get very far, as I got a little hung up on a memory when I saw this gorgeous gal.

The hair! The clothes! And the singular woman holding a guitar and smiling wide as she sings songs about threatening to beat the tar out of a woman who may be stepping out with her man, but is certainly no rival. Vive Loretta!

I read Coal Miner's Daughter when I was "stationed" as a residential Girl Scout counselor for eight weeks the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I picked it up at Music City Thrift in Madison the week before (on a brief, civilian furlough... remind me never to commit to more than a week of outdoor living in the future...?) mainly because I was impressed that a brand new, latest edition copy of it was sitting on the shelf for less than two dollars. Was I riveted? I was riveted. Between explaining to ten year olds that "ladybugs are not poisonous, nor can they sting you" and walking junior troops to and from the archery range/rock climbing wall/kayak station, I fell instantly in love with the down home, conversational tone of the 1976 autobiography, which takes us from Loretta's childhood in rural, Appalachian Kentucky to her marriage, at 13, to Doolittle Lynn, (she had four kids before turning 19!), to her eventual meteoric rise to the title she holds today, "The First Lady of Country Music".

I remembered her as a triptych of herself (in concert), Sissy Spacek as her (in the Oscar winning movie version of LL's autobiography), and Ronee Blakely as "kind of like her" (in Altman's Nashville):

Sky high hair (the higher the hair, the closer to heaven?), chaste full-length formals big on lace and ruffles... that's the Loretta Lynn I usually think of. But look at these great appearances on the Wilburn Brothers show and other country music variety programs in the early and late 1960's! The hair varies in volume, but the clothes! I was sincerely impressed by both the overall look, and the great energy she brought to singing her self-penned songs about a man that just couldn't do right.

My favorite one was hard to get a screen capture of, but here's the best result. Just a plain A-line dress in the sky blue that favors her own light colored eyes, BUT THEN capped off in fingers thick sequins. Bravo, miss.

It's like my A #1 dream dress. And the hair! Sometimes it gets a little out of hand, but for the most part, I love that bubbled, teased into submission mane of both "up-do" and length. I think a serious beehive, or some kind of variation on this helmet, is the next frontier in my toying with my elbow-length hair. I was complaining the other day that I am INCAPABLE of teasing my hair to the proper volume without that it looks weirdly "see-through"... do you know what I mean? The whole point of the hair do is to show off a mountain of thick, luscious hair (and my hair is by no means fine), but I think I might seek both synthetic hair and professional assistance to build this ambitious coiffure. Below... success of the highest order. I know there's lots of rolling and teasing involved... but I'm ready to sign on.

She sticks with the blue and the sequins in different variations for several outfits-- here's a darker shade covered in patterned beading, below. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. She has her Scotch-Irish and Cherokee heritage to thank for her dark hair and strong cheekbones... and isn't it a striking sort of face? She doesn't share the conventional prettiness of the 30's movie star she was named after, Loretta Young (who also, on her tv show in the 50's anyway, had a penchant for long, gauzy dresses, come to think of it), but Loretta Lynn does have a very particular look. And that 1,000 watt smile! Which she is not at all hesitant in sharing with her fans.

Also, can we take a moment to consider her two song cycle of "You Ain't Woman Enough" (1966) and "Fist City" (1968)?

Excerpted from the former:

Sometimes a man's caught lookin'

At things that he don't need
He took a second look at you
But he's in love with me
Well, I don't know where that leaves you
Ah, but I know where I stand
And you ain't woman enough
To take my man

Women like you they're a dime a dozen

You can buy 'em anywhere
For you to get to him
I'd have to move over
And I'm gonna stand right here

It'll be over my dead body
So get out while you can
'Cause you ain't woman enough
To take my man

And from the latter:

You've been makin' your brags around town that you've been a lovin' with my man
But the man I love when he picks up trash he puts it in a garbage can
And that's what you look like to me and what I see is a pity
You'd better close your face and stay out of my way
If you don't wanna go to Fist City
If you don't wanna go to Fist City you'd better detour round my town
Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head and I'll lift you off of the ground
I'm not a sayin' my baby is a saint cause he ain't
And that he won't cat around with a kitty
I'm here to tell you gal to lay off of my man if you don't wanna go to Fist City

I just can't get over the idea that behind those cornflower blue eyes is a SCRAPPER. "Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head and I'll lift you off of the ground" ?! It paints this great picture of a fierce, unflustered, unashamed woman who might have a cheating husband, but he's HER cheating husband, and if you want to make a move on him, you're going to to have to go through her. The line "You ain't woman enough to take my man"! I just can't say enough about it, so I won't. But what kind of light years is this from the woman in the long dress with the very public breakdown in front of thousands at the apex of her career, which has kind of become shorthand for the whole Coal Miner's Daughter movie? And which is the entire concept of the inspired-by character I mentioned from Nashville? That doesn't seem to be the "real" Loretta Lynn... a much stronger, complex woman stands behind a life story that really does read like a book. It's fascinating.

Below, more great hair, and another red sequined dress.

This hair has gotten a little out of control, but I'm still kind of envious. Note the perfectly geometric shape of it! Almost like a uniform hat of some kind. Did you also know (courtesy of Wikipedia) :
  • Although Kitty Wells had become the first major female country vocalist during the 1950s, by the time Lynn recorded her first record, only three other women - Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, and Jean Shepard - had become top stars. By the end of 1962, it was clear that Lynn was on her way to becoming the fourth. Lynn credits Cline as her mentor and best friend during those early years, and as fate would have it, Lynn would follow her as the most popular country vocalist of the early 1960s and 1970s.
  • Loretta Lynn possibly had more banned songs than any other artist in the history of country music, including "Rated "X"," about the double standards divorced women face, "Wings Upon Your Horns," about the loss of teenage virginity, and "The Pill", lyrics by T. D. Bayless, about a wife and mother becoming liberated via the birth control pill. Her song, "Dear Uncle Sam", released in 1966 during the Vietnam War, describes a wife's anguish at the loss of a husband to war.

See what I mean by being "more than the dress"? Though gosh, aren't the dresses nice. I'm still coveting. Just respectfully coveting.

A softer look, plus more sequins. I wasn't able to get shots of the shoes in most of these, but let it be known that they were usually either matched to the color of the outfit or gold. Wise choices, in my book.

And last but not least, a great, happy looking picture, with her signature, name-tooled guitar strap (you also see photos of her with her name running the length of the guitar neck... STYLE). How could you not like this face?

For more info, check out the 1995 documentary "Honky Tonk Girl" on youtube. And treat yourself to a live version or two of these songs! You really will thank yourself for taking the time. I might not have found a song to do at karaoke tonight (yet), but I did have fun wading around in facts about this country music legend. And now I have to read Still Woman Enough!

Til next time! And have a happy fourth!

(PS: Cutest intro ever above... who is this blue jacketed man? I feel like I ought to know!)


  1. I love this post!! Believe it or not, when I was 16 Loretta Lynn was my biggest style influence. I had really long hair that I'd tease up into a crazy little beehive every. single. morning. and I wore little 60s mini dresses and cowboy boots every day, haha. And her voice... so feisty and twangy!
    Do you get the "RFD-TV" channel? It's this weird rural life/ranching kinda channel, but they show reruns of the Wilburn Bros, The Porter Wagoner Show (with a super young, adorable Dolly Parton) and Hee Haw. It's pretty great.

  2. Gah! I love Loretta! Her singing...Her style...and most of all, what a wonderful lady she is. She deserves every good thing that has come to her.

    My favorite is her sleek hair and outfit in the photo with the dark green dress with sheer white sleeves.

  3. I LOVE Loretta! Such a stylish little redneck!
    As for the hair, there is a definite secret to getting that look. Just like vintage fashion, really good vintage hair is all about owning the real thing. I've tried for years to get the big, crazy, Loretta/Brigitte/Dolly hair and it never worked until last year I found all of my grandmother's old 'tools'. Now I am able to get really big hair without that 'see through' look without using a rat...although I still keep a few on hand for limp hair days. Recently I've begin doing a style similar to Loretta's in the green dress with the gauzy white sleeves...just add a Peggy Moffitt fringe! I had a girl ask the other day how on earth I got my hair to stay that high!
    Maybe I should do a post soon showing all of the tools and techniques I use?

    PS You simply MUST post some pics of your karaoke night!

  4. I love, love LOVE Loretta, kooky hairstyles and all!

  5. Whoah, Fist City! I do not want to go there! What a fantastic lady. I remember watching Coal Miner's Daughter with my Mom & older sister. The scene where she finds out Pasty died...gut wrenching. It was such a stunning movie! My sister is now a Patsy Cline cool it that!

  6. I've given you the stylish blogger award! :)

    Dolly The Bird

  7. You should post "Your Squaw Is On The Warpath"!!! Watch her face in th clip (the gold dress!!)-- Every word she says is right there in her eyes...Doo musta done somethin' to get her p.o.'d, 'cause she is yellin' it like it is!! You GO, Lo-retty!!!



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