“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”                                 Lou Holtz

 April 1932 – Butcher Holler, Kentucky: The Webbs couldn’t afford the hospital 10 miles away in Paintsville, so Loretta was born in the one-room cabin that her daddy built. The tiny cabin had no electricity, running water or indoor toilet. Ted Webb sold a milk cow and paid an 80-year-old mountain midwife $30 to deliver his baby and help with her care for a week.

During the Great Depression extreme poverty was a familiar foe in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. There wasn’t much time for dreaming. Men labored in the coal mines trying to feed their families. Ted walked a mile to the Consolidation Coal Company’s No. 5 mine to work the 4 p.m. to midnight shift

Loretta wore flour sack dresses that her mother sewed, and every September got a new pair of shoes. Most days she went barefoot to school and church. She walked to the one room schoolhouse two miles down the holler and attended through the eighth grade.

Loretta was raised on mountain music. Hillbilly music. Her granddaddy played the banjo left-handed, and when he was drinking moonshine whiskey, he played it with his toes. Loretta loved to sing, even though her daddy complained that she sang so loud it hurt his ears. When she was 11, the family got their first battery-powered radio and on Saturday nights, the family listened to the Grand Ole Opry on radio station WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. Curled up by her daddy, Loretta dream of singing on that stage one day.

When Loretta was 12, she met Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn at church. The next day, he drove his jeep up the holler and took her for her first automobile ride. People in the holler said that ‘Doolittle’ got his nickname, honestly. He was 21, had fought in World War II, been a coal miner and traveled around doing menial jobs. Over her parent’s strong objections, Loretta dated him and when she was 13, they got married. She was a mother at 14 and had four babies by 18. Loretta would be a grandmother at 29.

Although Doolittle promised Loretta’s mother that he would never beat her or move her away from Butcher Holler, early in their marriage he broke both promises. Doolittle was an alcoholic who sometimes cheated on Loretta and physically abused her. He hit her for the first time on their wedding night. A few months later, he moved his child bride to Custer, Washington, and joined an army buddy in the logging business.

He loved to hear Loretta sing and encouraged her to pursue a singing career. When she was 18, he bought her a $17 Harmony Guitar from Sears. After the kids went to bed, Loretta taught herself to play. With Doolittle’s support, his young wife soon performed regularly for honky tonk audiences in Custer. Loretta got her first big break when she won first place on the country singer Buck Owens’ TV show amateur night.

In the fall of 1959, Doolittle and Loretta headed to Nashville. They were broke, so a friend paid for Loretta to record her first song, I’m A Honky Tonk Girl. The song was a hit, and her career took off. Her first album, Loretta Lynn Sings, went to number one. It was the first album by a female artist to gross a million dollars in sales. Decca Records signed the 29-year-old shy housewife turned singer to a contract and gave her $1,000 to pay the rent and past due bills.

Loretta Lynn would later sign a lifetime contract with Decca, and she released more than 60 albums in a career that spanned almost seven decades. In 1972 she became the first female artist to win the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year award. She is the most awarded woman in country music history and a member of the Country Music, Songwriters and Grand Ole Opry Halls of Fame.

“Doo and I certainly had our share of ups and downs, but I owe my career to him,” said Loretta. “It never would have happened without Doo.” Today, outside Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, stands a bronze statue of one of the matriarchs of country music – a little girl from Butcher Holler, Kentucky who dared to dream of one day singing on that iconic stage.