Sixty years ago, Loretta Lynn made her debut on the world famous Grand Ole Opry, fulfilling a dream she had held since childhood. The young singer from Kentucky took the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, the Opry’s home at the time, and admitted to feeling nervous and a little shaky. Lynn joined the Opry in 1962, and became one of the show’s most treasured members. On Tuesday, October 20th, Lynn was honored for her contributions to the Grand Ole Opry and country music with the unveiling of a statue in her likeness on the Ryman’s Icon Walk. Lynn’s statue was the third to be erected there, accompanying those of Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe.
Lynn, unfortunately, was not able to attend the ceremony. Her daughters Patsy Russell and Peggy Lynn had been scheduled to appear, but canceled due to illness. Gary Levy, General Manager of the Ryman, Colin Reed, CEO of Ryman Hospitality, and Pete Weien of Ryman Hospitality, all spoke on Lynn’s behalf. “Her contributions to country music and to this building remain some of the most impactful and enduring of any artist that has ever played here,” said Levy in his opening remarks. Reed began his address by sharing some of the Icon Walk’s history, noting that the first Icon Walk statues of Dickens and Monroe were unveiled in 2017, on the 125th anniversary of the Ryman Auditorium. “Now we have the pleasure of honoring a living legend,” Reed noted. “I don’t think it’s possible to tell the history of the Opry or the Ryman without talking about Loretta. She’s a trailblazer who has remained one of the most beloved entertainers to ever set foot on this wonderful stage.”
Weien read a statement from Loretta herself, as she recalled her dream of playing at the Ryman and offered her thanks for the statue. “My dream like thousands of other singers was just singing on the Grand Ole Opry,” Lynn’s statement began. “Being a member of the Grand Ole Opry has been one of the greatest honors of my life. Many years, I have stood on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium and there is no place like it. Now, they are unveiling this statue in my honor. It’s like I’m going to get to be there for many more years to come.” Her statement continued, in part, “It means so much to me to have this statue. One day soon, I’m going to get to come to the Ryman and see it for myself. But for today, I want to say thank you and I love each and every one of you for thinking of me.”
Starting with her 1960 debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Lynn forged a superstar career and became a pioneer for women in country music. She was the first female to win the prestigious CMA Entertainer of the Year award (1972), and took home Female Vocalist of the Year honors three times. Lynn scored No. 1 hits with such female anthems as “Fist City” and her first career chart-topper, “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” Lynn was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
Lynn’s statue depicts her dressed in Western garb with a guitar by her side. The statue was designed and sculpted by artist Ben Watts, who also fashioned the statues for Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe. Fans are encouraged to visit the Icon Walk and grab a selfie or two alongside these enduring legends of country music.