Tribute concert to honor Loretta Lynn’s local start

Loretta Lynn. Photo by David McClister

By Oliver Lazenby

She was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Most fans of Loretta Lynn – or just country music in general – know that. It’s the first line in one of her biggest hit songs.

What they may not know is that the country music legend got her musical start playing taverns in Custer and Blaine. This detail isn’t celebrated locally, and it’s not well known among younger residents.

Arlene Hartley wants to change that. Hartley, a part-time Birch Bay resident, is bringing Lynn’s music back to Blaine with a tribute concert at the Wheel House Bar and Grill in Blaine on Saturday, April 14, Lynn’s 86th birthday. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and features Patsy Thompson singing with the Silver City Band.

The Silver City Band will play a set with Thompson singing many of Lynn’s biggest hits, including “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “One’s On The Way,” said Bruce Rowell of the Silver City Band. Rowell’s band will also play some of its own songs.

Hartley aims to make something permanent for Lynn in Blaine – possibly a street sign, a square, park or kiosk at the site of Bill’s Tavern, near Peace Portal Drive and Hughes Avenue, where Lynn played nightly in the beginning of her career.

“While it’s fun for us seniors to reminisce about Loretta’s days spent locally, I think it is important for the young folk to know of her,” Hartley said in an email.

Hartley’s been spreading the word about Lynn for years without much support. This concert is a sign she’s making progress – the city of Blaine’s Tourism Advisory Committee awarded her a $750 grant to organize the show.

“I am trying to take one step at a time,” Hartley said. “I have so many ideas for future events.”

Lynn was 14 and pregnant with her first child when she left Butcher Hollow and rode a train across the country to Custer, where her husband found work on a farm, according to her autobiography.

Lynn’s husband thought she had a promising voice and bought her a guitar for her 18th birthday. Lynn started playing local granges and taverns in the early 1950s. She made her first record in 1960 and moved to Nashville by the end of the year.

Lynn became one of the most awarded artists in country music. She sold more than 45 million albums worldwide, had 27 number one singles and more than a dozen number one albums.

Lynn was at times one of the more controversial artists in country music as many of her songs involved adult subject matter. While her songs such as “The Pill,” “Rated X” and “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” were banned from the radio, male stars at the time were able to sing about similar topics without much objection.

Lynn currently lives in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. She suffered a stroke in 2017 and broke a hip on the first day of 2018. She’s expected to make a full recovery from both, according to her website.

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