Tammy's Early years:
Tammy Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on May 5, 1942 in Tremont, Mississippi. She was the only child of William Hollice Pugh and Mildred Faye Russell. Her father died when she was just nine months old, and her mother left her in the care of her parents, while she moved to Memphis and worked in a World War II defense plant.
Wynette lived a hard life, working the fields picking cotton as a child. She taught herself how to play a variety of instruments when she was young, and sang Gospel music with her grandmother.
Country Music is an Escape from a Hard Life:
Tammy escaped her difficult life by listening to country music, playing records of her idols, Hank Williams, George Jones, Patsy Cline and Skeeter Davis on her children's record player, dreaming that one day she too would be a star. A month before graduation, she married her first husband, Euple Byrd, and in 1963, she attended beauty school in Tupelo, Mississippi, and became a hairdresser.
Moving to Nashville:
She left her husband, before the birth of their third daughter, and in 1966, packed up the girls and moved to Nashville to pursue her dream. After being turned down by nearly every record company she'd met with, she finally auditioned for producer Billy Sherrill. He was impressed with Tammy's talent, and signed her to Epic Records in 1966.
The Hits Start Coming:
While her first single, "Apartment Number Nine" didn't make the Top 40, her second single, "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" became a big hit for her, peaking at No. 3. She earned her first No. 1 in 1967, with a duet with David Houston ("My Elusive Dreams"), and later obtained her own solo No. 1 later the same year with "I Don't Wanna Play House."
"Stand By Your Man":
Tammy's signature song, "Stand By Your Man" was recorded in 1968, in the middle of the women's rights movement. It was very controversial, with its stance that you should stand by your man, even if he is weak and adulterous. But, the song became very successful, reaching No. 1 on the Country charts, and also reaching No. 19 on the Pop charts. This was Wynette's only solo Top 40 pop hit. By 1969, the song won Tammy a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and was considered a country classic by critics.
The 1970's and 1980's:
During the 1970's, Tammy was one of the most successful female country artists around, along with fellow artist Loretta Lynn. In addition to her solo success, she also had a string of hits with country star George Jones, whom she was married to from 1969 - 1975.
Although her chart success began to wane in the 1980's, she continued to record, and in 1981, a television movie based on her memoir Stand By Your Man aired, starring Annette O'Toole, playing the role of Tammy.
The 1990's 'Til Her Death:
Tammy suffered many medical problems over the years, and had gone through approximately twenty-six surgeries over the years. She died in her sleep on April 6, 1998 of a pulmonary blood clot. She was 55.