Honky Tonk Girl

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-04-03
  • Publisher: Knopf
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One of the most beloved country music stars of all time gives us the first collection of her lyrics and, in her own words, tells the stories that inspired her most popular songs, such as "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Don't Come Home A' Drinkin'," and, of course, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Loretta Lynn's rags-to-riches story--from her hardscrabble childhood in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, through her marriage to Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn when she was thirteen, to her dramatic rise to the top of the charts--has resonated with countless fans throughout her more than fifty-year career. Now, the anecdotes she shares here give us deeper insight into her life, her collaborations, her influences, and how she pushed the boundaries of country music by discussing issues important to working-class women, even when they were considered taboo. Readers will also get a rare look at the singer's handwritten lyrics and at personal photographs from her childhood, of her family, and of her performing life. Honky Tonk Girl: A Life in Lyricsis one more way for Lynn's fans--those who already love her and those who soon will--to know the heart and mind of this remarkable woman.


"The Story of My Life"

I wrote the song "The Story of My Life" just because I was born in old Kentucky in them hills where folks are lucky!

I wrote this song in about 1959. It was one of my first ones. Doo and I'd just started, and I was learning how to write songs. For me, I could and can only write what I've lived. I recorded this song on my very first session on Zero Records and forgot about it! Patsy, on the other hand, didn't. I told ya'll she is my biggest fan. She loved

it, drug it out, and wrote a couple of new verses to it, played it for Jack White, and the rest is history. Now I can forget about this song again (laughing)!

He's the story of my life,

Listen close and I'll tell ya twice.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey.

I was born in old Kentucky

In them hills where folks are lucky

And it's paradise to me.

Well, I got a feller right over the hill

If he asks me to marry well I know

I will.

He asked me to marry, got kids of four

And I'm tellin' you I don't want no more.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey.

Doo got me a guitar, I wrote me a song

Moved to Nashville and it wasn't long

Till I was on the Grand Ole Opry.

We bought us a mansion on the hill

Livin' big like we were big deals

Scarlett O'Hara, GoneWith the Wind

I was pregnant again.

Oh gee, oh Lord I swear

The babies are comin' in pairs.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey.

Well, some big shot from Hollywood

Thought a movie about my life would be good

It was a big hit, made a big splash

What I wanna know is what happened to the cash.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey.

Now me and Doo married forty-eight years

Six kids later, a lot of laughter and tears.

I have to say that I've been blessed

Not bad for this old Kentucky girl I guess.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey.

Well, here's the story of my life,

Listen and I'll tell it twice.

Yeah hey, yeah hey, yeah hey . . .


If it wasn't for Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, I don't know if I would have gotten to be as successful as I became in country music.

I met Doyle for the first time in 1960. I had just recorded my record "Honky Tonk Girl" on Zero label. We met at a DJ convention out west. I gave Doyle my record, and he gave me his address and told me if me and my husband ever got to Nashville we should let him know. As soon as I got home, I started writing the Wilburns letters. And they always wrote me back. I told them I really wanted to get my foot in the door in the music business. So Doyle and Teddy sent me out six songs and said to learn them and if I ever came to Nashville, Tennessee, they would demo me singing them. That was all we needed to hear! Me and Doo loaded our oldest off to Doo's mom and daddy, and Ernest and Cissie went to my mommy's house in Indiana . . . then we drove straight to the Wilburn Brothers' office. Lord, them boys were surprised to see us.

The Wilburns were a big family, and the whole family worked there. They took me and Doo in, found us a place to stay, fed us, gave us money, and treated us like their family.

Teddy and Doyle did what they said they would do. I learned all the songs they sent me, and they cut my first demos. The boys and I became close, like sister and brothers. Teddy and Doyle were already pretty big stars in country music and really good businessmen. They started working with me, teaching me how to sing and how to think about writing songs so I could become a better songwriter. Heck, Teddy even bought me my first pair of high heels. He said that I came to Nashville looking like Annie Oakley's lost sister! I put on those high heels, and Teddy made me walk up and down the hallway at his office until I had blisters.

I wrote with both Teddy and Doyle. I had never written with anyone be-fore, so it was like stepping into a whole new world. I learned so much from them. The boys said they were learning from me, too. Teddy and I spent the most time together, since he was the more musical of the two. Doyle was more of the manager type, at least when it came to working with me.

Both always encouraged me to write my own songs. They also got me signed to Decca Records, and they asked Owen Bradley to produce me. Later, the boys got their own TV show and asked me to be the girl singer on the show. Throughout the sixties and early seventies, they became my partners in songwriting, my publishers, and my managers. The whole family, from Lester to Leslie, kept our books and paid all our bills. Momma Wilburn became like a second mom to me and Doo.

All the Wilburns, like Doolittle, have passed away. But like my kids are now helping me run my business, their family is the same. Not too long ago, me and my kids and Arvimia and her sons were all together. It was so great to see our children talking about songs and pitching songs and talking business. Just seeing them working together was great. I couldn't stop smiling. Family . . .

"I'm a Honky Tonk Girl"

Release date: 1960

I always heard music when I was growing up, but writing a song is a bit different than just listening. In the mountains people would write about the things that happened, good or bad, so that's just what I did. I guess I had been singing three or four weeks when a girl I had picked strawberries with started coming in the little club where I worked. She would sit in the same booth every night. She never had drunk before, so after about two or three beers she would start to cry. One night on my ten-minute break I got down offstage and asked her why she was coming to the club alone and drinking. She told me her husband had left her and their seven children about three months ago for a younger woman who didn't live too far from where she lived. Then we both cried. That night I wrote this song about her. It was the first song I ever wrote.

Ever since you left me I've done nothing but wrong

Many nights I've laid awake and cried

We was so happy my heart was in a whirl

But now I'm a honky tonk girl

So turn that jukebox way up high

And fill my glass up while I cry

I've lost everything in this world

And now I'm a honky tonk girl

I just can't make a right with all

of my wrongs

Every evening of my life seems so long

I'm sorry and ashamed for all these things you see

But losing him has made a fool of me

So fill my glass up to the brim

To lose my memory of him

I've lost everything in this world

And now I'm a honky tonk girl

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