Loretta Lynn Celebrates Friendship with Patsy Cline in New Book

The 88-year-old icon is also working on new music.

Loretta Lynn Celebrates Friendship with Patsy Cline in New Book
Loretta Lynn; Photo credit: David McClister

With Loretta Lynn, what you see is what you get. The country music icon has built a career on honesty and authenticity. The Butcher Holler, KY native has sang her life in hit songs such as “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”, “Fist City,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take my Man),” “You’re Lookin’ at Country” and of course, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” At 88, she’s not about to mince words or dodge the truth and that’s what makes her latest book, Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline, such a delight to read.

After all, how many women would reveal they didn’t learn to shave their legs till they were 29 (Cline taught her and gave Lynn her first razor) or that they had never had an orgasm until after four children and more than a dozen years of marriage? Lynn holds nothing back in the book, which she wrote with the help of her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell, who was named after Cline.

Loretta Lynn; Jacket design by Phil Pascuzzo, Jacket photo of Loretta – Michael Ochs Archives, Jacket photo of Patsy Cline – Patsy Cline Enterprises, LLC, Author photo of Patsy and Loretta – Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum 2019

“That’s alright. It’s the truth,” Lynn tells Sounds Like Nashville when asked if she was at all hesitant to share such personal details. “I hope the girls that read this book get good friends like me and Patsy was. If you’ve got a good friend, you’ve got everything.”

In addition to celebrating their friendship in her new book, Lynn has also released her version of Cline’s hit “I Fall to Pieces,” accompanied by a poignant video spotlighting their friendship. “I Fall to Pieces” is a special song to Lynn. Written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard, the song was Cline’s first No. 1 hit on the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts. Cline had been in a horrific car accident and was recuperating in a Nashville hospital when she heard Lynn singing her song on Ernest Tubb’s “Midnite Jamboree.” Cline sent her husband, Charlie Dick, to bring Lynn to visit her at the hospital.

“That wreck almost killed Patsy,” Lynn recalls in a phone conversation from her Hurricane Mills, TN ranch. She remembers helping her friend as she struggled to recover and adjust to the scars she was left with after the accident. “Patsy’s face was all banged up and she had gashes all over her face right down to her eyebrows. She worried herself to death about those scars. Finally, I told Patsy, ‘I can’t see scars.’ That made her feel better when I told her, and I said, ‘If there is a scar, we can always fix your hair where it would cover it up.’ So she felt better.

“I’ve often wondered what she would be doing today if she was here,” Lynn sighs. “It would be something else. I can’t even imagine. It’s too bad we weren’t together more and longer. We would have tore up Nashville that’s for sure.”

In the book, Lynn talks about her early days in Nashville, becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry, severing ties with her mentors/managers the Wilburn Brothers and the painful lawsuit that ensued. “The most important thing Patsy taught me was do not let people run over me and take up for myself,” she says. “Be my own person.”

Lynn tells about the sexy underwear and revealing red lace nightie Cline gave her to help spice up her marriage and help keep her philandering husband at home. (The red lingerie and the razor Cline gave her are in her museum in Hurricane Mills.) Lynn also speaks candidly of the time Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe pinched her on the butt. His behavior was devastating because she had idolized Monroe. “I was so bashful and backwards and hadn’t been in Nashville long,” Lynn says recalling the incident. “He pinched me on the butt and I didn’t say a word or move. He probably could have molested me and I wouldn’t have moved.”

Cline taught Lynn how to stand up for herself in the face of such inappropriate behavior. Soon after when Faron Young patted Cline on the bottom as the two women were entering the Ryman Auditorium’s backstage door, Lynn kicked him in the shin and Cline howled with laughter. Young and Lynn later became friends. “I loved Faron Young,” she laughs. “Faron was a real good guy.”

In another incident, Lynn and Cline’s husband Charlie had gone to pick up food at a local restaurant. While they were waiting for their order, a woman came in and sat on Charlie’s lap. Lynn was outraged that the woman was acting so inappropriately with her friend’s husband. She asked the woman to show her where the ladies room was (even though she’d been there many times and knew exactly where it was located). Lynn walked into a broom closet, pretending she thought it was the restroom, and when the woman followed her in to tell her she was in the wrong place, Lynn slipped past her, locked her in the broom closet and left her there. “I was so mad! I thought that’s ridiculous,” Lynn says. “Patsy would have done the same thing for me. She’d probably knocked her out of his lap.”

As chronicled in her new book as well as the film, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Lynn was devastated when Cline was killed in a 1963 plane crash at age 30.

“I helped her through stuff and she helped me,” Lynn says of their close friendship.  Both were working mothers and helped support and encourage each other as they dealt with careers, husbands and children. “It was very hard on me,” Lynn says of leaving her family to tour. “If I would have known how hard it was going to be, I don’t know if I still would have wanted to sing because I loved my family and I didn’t want to be away from them.”

Despite the challenges, Lynn successfully carved one of the most iconic careers in American music. She has sold millions of records, earned numerous awards and had an Oscar winning movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, made from her autobiography. She was the first woman to win CMA Entertainer of the Year, and she was named the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade (70s). Lynn is a longtime member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, and has received countless other accolades.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 20: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Loretta Lynn (C) in the East Room at the White House on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Despite all the achievements, Lynn still seems as down to earth as the young girl who grew up in Butcher Holler. Though she suffered a stroke in 2017 and a broken hip from a fall in 2018, Lynn is as resilient as ever. “I think it was harder to come back from my hip than anything,” she says. “With the stroke, I started working on it by myself even at night. I’d work my arms and legs while I was laying in the bed. I didn’t rest. I just kept working. If you’ve got an arm that doesn’t work, work on it day and night. If you’ve got a leg that doesn’t work, work on it day and night. That’s the way I had to do it.”

As the interview draws to a close, Lynn shares her tips for making great chicken and dumplings (Use the whole chicken—the more fat on the chicken, the better) and reveals she’s been writing songs and working on a new album.

When asked what she’s most proud of in her career, Lynn replies, “Making it. I set out to make it and I did. I set out to do what I wanted to do and I did it.”