Country singer and songwriter. Born Virginia Wynette Pugh, on May 5, 1942, in Itawamba County, Mississippi. Wynette’s father, guitarist William Hollis Pugh, died when she was eight months old. When her mother, Mildred Faye, moved to Birmingham, Alabama to work for the military, Wynette was sent to live with her sharecropper grandparents. She grew up in a musical household and as a teenager performed on a local Mississippi gospel radio show. While in her late teens, Wynette began a short-lived marriage to Euple Byrd, with whom she had three children before divorcing in 1965.
Now a divorced mother of three, Wynette moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she supported her children by working in a beauty salon. In 1965, she landed a part-time spot on the television program The Country Boy Eddie Show, which led to appearances on The Porter Wagoner Show. The following year, she moved to Nashville, where she auditioned for several labels before producer Billy Sherrill signed her to Epic Records in 1967.
Early in her career, Wynette released a number of successful singles, including “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (both 1967), which earned her a Grammy Award. In 1968, she won the first of three consecutive Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year honors. Later that year, Wynette released the most famous recording of her career—“Stand By Your Man,” which peaked at No.1 on the country charts, while reaching No. 19 on the pop charts. The blockbuster song sold over 2 million copies and became the bestselling single by a woman in the history of country music.
In addition to a prosperous solo career, Wynette was noted for her collaborations with other country artists. Her most notable partner was fellow country singer George Jones, whom she married in 1968. Jones adopted Wynette’s three children and (with his three from a previous marriage) they became a large extended family. The couple recorded 10 albums together and many of their singles became chart toppers, including “Take Me,” “We Go Together,” “We’re Gonna Hold On,” and “We Loved It Away.” However, their songs united them only on stage and the duet ended their stormy marriage in 1975; they continued to record sporadically over the next two decades.
In the 1970s and 1980s Wynette’s music career continued to flourish with the releases of The First Lady (1970), One of a Kind (1977), Sometimes When We Touch (1985), and Next To You (1989). In the early 1990s, Wynette collaborated with the British pop group KLF to create the international dance hit "Justified and Ancient" (1991), and with country superstars Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn for the album Honky Tonk Angels (1993). The 1995 album One marked Wynette’s last recording with ex-husband George Jones.
Throughout the 1990s, Wynette was hospitalized a number of times before she died from a blood clot on April 6, 1998, at the age of 55. Later that year, she was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
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