Tammy Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh. Her producer Billy Sherrill said that she reminded him of Debbie Reynolds in the movie Tammy And The Bachelor, and suggested that she change her name to Tammy Wynette.
Her father, a musician as well as farmer, died when she was nine months old, leaving behind musical instruments. Her mother moved away to work, and Tammy was raised by her grandparents in Mississippi, teaching herself how to play music on her father's instruments.
Wynette got married when she was only 17, the first of a string of five marriages. From this first marriage to Euple Byrd she had three daughters, and the divorce was finalized shortly before the third child was born. She left Euple because he responded to her desire to become a country singer with the comment, "Dream on, baby."
Her marriage to the Country singer and songwriter George Jones was the most publicized and least happy. "There's no love in the world that can't be killed if you beat it to death long enough" Wynette wrote in her autobiography. However, the couple were musically prolific together. "I've always said that the one regret in my entire career was that we'd never won any awards or recognition for the stuff we'd done together, and I really hated that. The most fun, the most wonderful part of my career was working with George."
Wynette's first #1 Country hit was "My Elusive Dream" in 1967, a duet with Country singer David Houston. She would score 19 more #1 hits and earn the title "First Lady of Country Music."
In the space of two years between 1968 and 1969, Wynette produced five #1 Country hits: "Take Me to Your World," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E
," "Stand By Your Man
," "The Ways to Love a Man" and "Singing My Song." These hits, and the many that followed in the next decade, established Wynette as one of the top female Country music artists of all time. This is a perception of Wynette that CMT (Country Music Television) made official when she was ranked #2 in CMT's "40 Greatest Women of Country Music" in 2002.
Wynette won two Grammy Awards for Best Female Vocal Country Performance. The first was in 1967 with the song "I Don't Wanna Play House," then again in 1969 for "Stand by Your Man."
Although Wynette openly confronted domestic issues in her music and refused to make excuses for the useless men in her life (including the alcoholic Country singer and songwriter George Jones, her third husband), she was still considered a mouthpiece for the "silent majority."
In 1986, Wynette entered the infamous Betty Ford Clinic to be treated for painkiller addiction.
Wynette had severe health problems resulting in 26 major surgeries in her lifetime.
In 1997, Tammy Wynette appeared in a BBC Charity Single version of Lou Reed's song "Perfect Day" (originally from the album Transformer in 1972,) in which she appears alongside an array of famous singers, including Bono. The song was a #1 hit in the UK for three weeks running.
Wynette became wildly successful in the UK in 1975 when "Stand By Your Man" went to #1 on charts seven years after it was first released. The song was released for the fifth time when it finally caught on, and when it did, Wynette followed with a successful tour and compilation album (also titled Stand By Your Man) to capitalize on newfound demand for her back catalogue. Her single "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" was also re-released in the UK in 1975, making #12
Before her music career took off, Wynette worked as a hairdresser in Mississippi. She kept up her license for the rest of her life just in case the music thing didn't pan out.