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Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust
My Friendship with Patsy Cline
By Loretta Lynn
Foreword by Dolly Parton
Read by Patsy Lynn Russell
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Full of laughter and tears, this eye-opening, heartwarming memoir paints a picture of two stubborn, spirited country gals who'd be damned if they'd let men or convention tell them how to be. Set in the heady streets of the 1960s South, this nostalgia ride shows how Nashville blossomed into the city of music it is today. Tender and fierce, Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust is an up-close-and-personal portrait of a friendship that defined a generation and changed country music indelibly—and a meditation on love, loss and legacy.
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Friendship is important, but a friendship between two women is always great. I’m so happy that Loretta and Patsy had that. I have had a best friend, Judy Ogle, for sixty-plus years, and there’s nothing like someone knowing exactly who you are, who you were, who you want to be. It’s nice to be able to be as open and honest with someone else as you are with yourself. I think friendship is a wonderful thing, and it’s beautiful that women can have and share that kind of relationship. There’s nobody like my best friend Judy, and I’m sure that’s how Patsy and Loretta felt.
There is not a person in the music industry who does not feel like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn blazed a trail for the rest of us to follow. With their distinct voices, memorable lyrics, and emotional stories, they set the tone for what all musicians aspire to—to this day. Nobody else sounds like Loretta, and nobody else sounds like Patsy.
The first time I heard Patsy Cline’s voice, it really caught my ear. She is a true stylist, and I just thought it was so very different and so unusual. I have always loved her sound. I’m a great admirer of people who have developed their own style. My favorite song of Patsy’s was “Walkin’ After Midnight.” It was haunting and special and painted a picture that I will never forget. I know the fans loved the song “Crazy,” which I did as well, but we all have our favorites. Just like “Coat of Many Colors” is my favorite song that I’ve written, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is my favorite song of Loretta’s. Everybody loves a story song, and I think Loretta is a true storyteller.
I got to know Loretta because we were both girl singers, so to speak, on two of the biggest-ever syndicated country music shows: The Wilburn Brothers Show and The Porter Wagoner Show. Sometimes I feel like we eclipsed our male counterparts, which caused friction. We drew our own fans, and I think we both kind of knew that. I think we could both smile with each other and say, “Hey, girl, we’re doin’ all right, ain’t we?!” Even though Porter Wagoner and the Wilburn Brothers had been good enough to give us a break and a chance, and we both appreciated and respected that, we were very proud of ourselves and of each other for being able to withstand all that we did and to just stand up there with the best of them.
I think it’s wonderful that women are doing great in country music. There were a few of us back then, and there’s many more of us now. I’m hoping that country music will always open its doors, arms, hearts, and minds to all the young and upcoming women. Any woman with talent who has the desire and the ability to do it should be given the chance and the opportunity.
Women are trying to stick tighter together more than ever, especially with this new wave of female singers that is coming along now. I think it’s flattering that they refer to me, Loretta, and Patsy as their inspiration. The fact that they’re sticking together as women and trying to gain strength in numbers is always helpful. I’m all for the girls. I’m there for you.
Writing My Feelings
Hello, everybody. I’m Loretta Lynn.
Most people know me as a country music singer. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. Seems to me I could sing before I could talk. I have a lot of fans and I love every single one. But the truth is I’d rather be writing than singing for a crowd. Writing songs is part of who I am, down deep. It comes natural as havin’ a baby, which I can tell you ain’t easy. I’ve had six! Putting words to feelings is a lot like that—it’s hard but worth every minute of pain. I started when I was a young woman, singing for my babies, and I ain’t done yet.
I’ve wrote a lot of songs—over 150, but people don’t think of me right off when it comes to books. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m not what you’d call educated. But this ain’t my first book. That was Coal Miner’s Daughter. I was barely forty-three when I wrote that with a fella named George Vecsey—half the age I am now. Seems funny to think I had a life story to tell yet, but that book became a New York Times best seller. Then, after my husband died, I had some things I wanted to set straight, so I wrote Still Woman Enough, and that book was a New York Times best seller, too.
So why write another book at my age? I’m glad to tell you. See, once upon a time I met this woman, a few months older than me, by the name of Patsy Cline. Likely as anything you know her music, and if you don’t, well, you should. Patsy was a popular country music singer. When I first came to Nashville, just a bashful young mother and hoping to make my way in the country music business, she reached out to me. She took me under her wing and became one of my greatest friends in this whole world. She died when we were both still so young. We were here way before Nashville was the destination it is nowadays, with hundreds of thousands of fans coming to see country music artists perform. It was just a little town, really. Me and Patsy bonded close as sisters. As time has gone on, I haven’t stopped loving Patsy or thinking about her and talking to her, even. Not for one single day. She changed my life forever.
Patsy Cline taught me a bunch that I’ll want to share. Things like how to dress for the stage, how to stand up for myself, how to fight for what’s right, and even how to spice up my love life. (I’ve been holding back telling that story for a long time. Just wait’ll you hear it!)
But most of all, Patsy was my confidante and friend. We cooked together, chased after our kids together, helped each other around the house, and talked about our husbands like girlfriends do. I want folks to know how good Patsy was—and not just good at making music, though she was amazing at that for sure. Her voice still sounds like an angel’s to me.
Patsy was the real deal. People throw around the word authentic a lot. But ask anyone who knew her and they’ll tell you Patsy Cline was the most real person you could ever meet. With her, it was always what you see is what you get. That’s one reason we got along so good. When people are fake, I just can’t stand it! Patsy didn’t pretend about nothing. She was as real as it gets. So I’m gonna share stories about our time together. Along the way, maybe I’ll encourage people to listen to her music. Patsy had the richest, most emotional voice you ever heard. There are lots of her songs worth listening to.
People ask me for advice about how to make it in the music business. Here’s what Patsy taught me: Nobody can tell you who you are. Ain’t nobody can be you but you. Work hard and stay true to yourself. That’s it, pure and simple. It’s hard as hell to make it in this business. You gotta work your ass off, and hard work is rare these days. Just ’cause you’ve got a nice voice or good looks, that don’t mean you’re gonna get a hit and be rich and famous. I’m sorry. That ain’t happening. Success don’t happen overnight. Scratch that. There have been a few one-hit wonders.
The truth is, if you have a girlfriend on your side, somebody who knows the real you and believes in you, no matter what, it can make all the difference in the world. It did for me. Patsy was that friend. We understood each other and we had each other’s backs. When you have a friend like that, it changes you. It gives you strength and gives you faith in yourself. That kind of friendship means more than anything. If you don’t have one, I hope you’ll open your heart to find one. Everybody deserves their own Patsy Cline.
Some people say that Patsy and I changed country music for the good of all women who come after us. I am not bragging on myself, but it makes me deeply proud to hear that. How did we change country music? I guess because we were the first to kick down the golden country music doors. Patsy shut up all those folks who said women can’t sell tickets or records. She was the first female country singer to cross over to the pop and adult contemporary charts. She introduced millions of folks to country music and got people who loved her songs to listen to other country artists. She was also one of the first women to headline and sell out her own concerts. And she was the first female to headline in Vegas.
These changes in the early 1960s were major victories for us girls! Back then, Patsy didn’t even realize the path she was clearing for all of us to follow. But if it wasn’t for the strides Patsy Cline made for us, then I don’t know if I would have been able to accomplish all my own firsts, like how I was the first female to ever win the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award and then the first to do it again at the ACM Awards three years later. Those two awards mean so much to me, because they helped every girl singer who came after to stop thinking it couldn’t happen for them. Because, friends, if I, Loretta Lynn from Butcher Holler, Kentucky—the one they called a hillbilly and made so much fun of, a working wife and mother of six kids—could bring home the highest honor that could be given in country music, well, then maybe they had some hope themselves.
As I have said many, many times: To make it you have to be first, great, or different. Between the two of us, I believe Patsy and I had all three covered, and she brought out the best in me and I like to think I helped bring out the best in her, too. Now, did we change country music? Well, you better believe we did!
I named my daughter after Patsy. That’s how much she meant to me. When I had my twins the year after Patsy died, I named them Peggy and Patsy. If only Patsy had been there for that. She’d have liked it. I traveled so much that I didn’t get to spend much time with the twins when they were growing up, but these days me and my daughter Patsy are real close. She’s heard all my stories about Patsy Cline. How could I even say the name Patsy without thinking of her? After a while, my Patsy said, “Mommy, we got to get some of these stories down.” I knew she was right.
So that’s why you hold this here book in your hands. Putting it together has been bittersweet. It’s hurt some, and I’ve cried more than a few times—kinda like when I write a good song. It’s been real good for my soul. I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve loved putting it together for you.
—Loretta Lynn, Nashville, 2019
Sitting Up with the Dead
I walked into Patsy Cline’s house on Nella Drive like I always did, without knocking.
My husband, Doo, carried in the food we’d brought and laid it out in the kitchen. Already there was enough to feed an army: fried chicken, baked ham, deviled eggs, biscuits, pies, cakes. And, of course, drinks: Cokes and beer and liquor. You’d have thought it was another one of her and Charlie’s famous parties.
Things looked the same, but there was something off in that house. I told myself it was because Patsy wasn’t there to greet me like usual, hollerin’, “It’s about time you got here, Little Gal!” But there was something else: There wasn’t no music playin’. When Patsy had folks over, there’d always be a radio on, a record spinning, or tapes on the reel-to-reel. Patsy listened to all kinds of music. She’d opened my eyes to blues and R&B and swing. I remember she played me Etta James singing “At Last.” I was amazed. I loved it!
Now it was too quiet. People was talking, but they was hushed. Patsy liked to talk loud, and whenever she was holdin’ court, the room would be filled with laughter, too. That day the sounds were all wrong in there, seemed like.
I started helping right away, carving up a ham, trying to be useful. Guests were arriving already—the house would be packed before long. But my brain was foggy, and I was in shock. All I could think was, This can’t be right. Patsy’s too young to die. Hell, we were both just thirty, born a few months apart, her in Virginia and me in the hills of Kentucky. There was so much living left to do for both of us. Julie and Randy, her two little kids, needed raising. And Patsy’s dreams had just started to come true! She was winning all kinds of awards, and folks from all over were hearing her music on the radio, getting to know how special Patsy Cline was. How could she be gone from this world?
When there wasn’t no more food left to prepare, I went on into the living room, where her gold casket was on display in front of the big picture window. The drapes were closed. It was chilly for March. Maybe poor Charlie forgot to turn on the heat, I thought. He had a lot going on. I stood by the casket, wishing I could see Patsy one more time, but the lid was closed. The plane crash had been too awful to leave it open. Charlie’d put Patsy’s best publicity picture on top. She smiled in that picture like she didn’t have a care in the world.
This wasn’t nothing like the sittin’-up ceremonies we had in the hills. Back home, when somebody died the body’d be laid out, not boxed up. We used to sit up with a body for days, singing and crying. How else could you get used to the idea of a soul going to heaven? Hilda, Patsy’s momma, planned to have the funeral back in Virginia and bury her there. That would have ticked Patsy off. She used to say, “The next time I set foot in Winchester, everybody in town’ll know Patsy Cline has been there!” Well, at least that’d be true now.
I sat down on the pretty white sofa Patsy’d had made special. In my mind, I couldn’t stop fussing over her. Had they done her makeup good? Patsy hated when her scars showed. They better have had the sense to put her in a good dress. Patsy wore the prettiest clothes, real sophisticated. She’d grown out of the cowgirl look she wore all those years ago when she was just getting started. She gave away a bunch of those costumes and ordered fancy dresses and long gowns special. Nobody could call Patsy Cline a “hillbilly” anymore. She was too elegant. She didn’t care what folks expected of her. To hell with what anybody else thinks, she said. She wanted to feel good.
Most everybody else was in the kitchen, drinking and eating. I was sad and mad at the same time that nobody but me was sitting with Patsy in that living room that she’d fixed up so nice and pretty. So I decided to stay with her a bit, just me and her, like we’d done so many times before. I thought, What am I gonna do now? I don’t have nobody to take care of me or fight for me anymore.
Right then I felt a cold chill—goose bumps running up my arms. I shivered and said out loud, “Dadgum, it’s cold in here!” Like I said, there wasn’t nobody to hear me so I don’t know why I said it out loud. But then I heard Patsy’s voice, like she was right next to me. She said, “Well, turn on the damn heat!” I swear I heard her plain as day. So I got up and did just that.
Funny thing was, I was glad. Patsy was still tellin’ me what to do. Since the day we met, she’d been saying I could do something to change things, encouraging me to stand up for myself and for my music. Whatever it was, she always told me the God’s honest truth and she always had my back. She’d said I could do it and she was right. Patsy hadn’t left me. I would keep hearing her voice, in the days and the weeks after her death. Even now, years later, I still hear her. She came into my life and changed everything. And I know I meant a lot to her, too. She’ll always be a part of me. That’s what real friendships do. We made each other better.
That Girl’s Gonna Be Somebody
The first time I ever laid eyes on Patsy Cline, it was 1957. I was in the front room at the little farmhouse where me and my husband, Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, lived in Custer, Washington. I’d been working all day at Bob and Clyde Green’s dairy farm. I cleaned, washed, ironed, and cooked for the thirty-six ranch hands that worked there. My husband worked there, too. He’d milk the cows in the mornings, work in the fields all day, then milk again in the evening. I always called him Doo—short for Doolittle—but he was a hard worker. We both were—always have been. That’s why the Greens let us live in a little house out there on their farm. I was maybe twenty-four at the time and already had four kids. I guess Ernie would have been about three, Cissie was five, Jack was maybe eight, and Betty Sue was nine.
Me and Doo didn’t have much, but we’d scraped together some money and got us a black-and-white television set from Sears and Roebuck. That was a big deal. We put a payment down, then paid something every month—took about forever to finally own that thing. It was a black-and-white television set with two big wire antennas on the top. You’d wiggle those around just right until you got a signal comin’ in good. This was way before cable or even color televisions. We had about two stations that’d come in good enough to watch. We’d just turn that thing on and watch whatever we could get. We thought we were ridin’ high.
You might laugh—even to me it sounds a little funny now, with people watching shows on their phones on airplanes or standing in line waiting for their coffees at the Starbucks. Back then television was something new, something different. People’d come from miles to watch a TV. Wasn’t no shame in it. We were all poor. We sat on the floor watching. No carpet or nothing. We just barely had a wood floor. Listen, we were poor people.
That night the Arthur Godfrey show came on—Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, it was called. That’s the first time I ever seen Patsy. When she come on, boy, it caught my eye. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She sung like she was singing just for one person watchin’. She sang “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Her voice was so powerful. So rich and pretty with a real lonesome sound. I didn’t know their names yet, but there was Grady Martin and Hank “Sugarfoot” Garland on guitar and Owen Bradley on piano next to her, just a-smilin’. She wasn’t nothing like any of the other girl singers I’d ever heard. Her singing like to break my heart. I thought, That girl’s gonna be somebody.
I had a real good feelin’ about Patsy Cline. I felt real proud of her somehow, like we were connected, even though we’d never met. See, not long before I saw Patsy sing on Arthur Godfrey’s show, I’d started singing myself.
We’d been married about ten years when Doo figured out I could sing. He’d heard me singing for the kids and said I sounded pretty good. In 1957, he surprised me with a seventeen-dollar Harmony guitar that I taught myself to play. Wasn’t much else to do besides cook and clean and chase after the kids. Besides, making music was something I’d always done. I wasn’t too good at chores and, with eight kids, Mommy’d made sure we all pulled our own weight. So I’d make myself useful rockin’ and singin’ to the young ’uns. I remember one night rocking my baby brother on the porch, just a singin’. Daddy hollered, “Pipe down, Loretta! Everybody on the mountain can hear you!” I hollered back, “Don’t matter. They’re all our cousins!”
Wasn’t nothing special about me being able to sing. My whole family did. Mommy had a beautiful voice—much prettier’n mine. When I was little I’d sneak out of my bed to hear my parents sing and play the banjo. Daddy could play anything. Mommy could, too. Mommy taught me songs like “The Great Titanic.” Most of our songs told a story. That’s how folks shared the news, with songs. We didn’t have newspapers or televisions. And we sang hymns. Our family went to church when we could. We sang “How Great Thou Art” and “Where No One Stands Alone.” I was a tenderhearted child, and I liked songs that made me cry. I still get choked up at “The Old Rugged Cross.”
When I started learning to play that guitar, I got a copy of Country Song Roundup to learn the words to all the country hits on the radio. I looked at the songs in there and thought, Anybody can do this. I wrote my own songs to play. I wrote about things that happened, things that I felt—about raisin’ babies, about love and family, and about my feelings. I wrote about marriage and betrayal and hurt. Being able to write about things I felt deep inside was good. And when Doo heard the songs I wrote, he said they were good. Doo hadn’t ever encouraged me like that. I liked it.
Doo worked pretty regular, but we were barely living on what he made. Somehow he decided my singin’ was our ticket. He started acting like maybe I was worth more than just a woman he lived with, having his babies and cookin’ his supper. I won’t lie. I liked it when he saw me that way. It made me think maybe there was more to me, too. After that, me and Doo were a team. No matter what, me and Doo were gonna make something out of ourselves, for our family. He’d say, “There’s a bar down the road and you’re going to learn a song and talk to the man and make him let you get up there and sing.” And I’d do it, or we’d do it together.
Doo believed in me and he pushed me. He’d say, “I think you’re that good.” And I’d listen, because I trusted him. Most of the time he was right, and you don’t disrespect that kind of dedication.
Without Doo, I’d never have even thought to get paid for singing. Where I grew up, folks made their money workin’ in the mines. Or they ran moonshine, maybe. Making music was just something to pass the time and please yourself. Besides, like I told Doo, I just wanted to sing for my kids. I didn’t need nobody else to hear. But Doo said, “Trust me.” He’d been around the world. He knew better than me. Besides, I didn’t go to bars to hear live music. But Doo? He’d been to his fair share of honky-tonks. More than his fair share, really.
At first I didn’t want to do it. But when Doo got an idea in his head, he was bullheaded. I begged and cried and tried to get out of performing in front of people, but he wouldn’t let me. He forced me to go onstage and sing. It was a struggle. I did it ’cause he made me. At first playing for a crowd made me want to turn and run, but Doo wouldn’t let me. So I kept at it. And after a while I got to where I loved performing. And when folks liked the songs I’d wrote, it made it even better. It sparked something in me. Something good.
Doo wasn’t a bit bashful about promotin’ me. He’d walk right in and say, “You ever heard of Kitty Wells?” ’Course they’d say yes, ’cause Kitty was the first female country music star. She had the first number one hit by a woman, in 1952. Doo would say, “Well, I got the best girl singer you ever heard next to Kitty Wells.” That’d get their attention. But they’d usually say, “Bring her over and we’ll let her audition.” Doo wouldn’t let up. He’d say, “Naw, Loretta’s the best. You’re gonna want her onstage tonight!” Doo pushed me. I’d have never made it if he hadn’t. I was too bashful. That might be hard to believe, but it’s true.
So that’s what was going on in the back of my mind when I saw Patsy sing on TV. She was as good as Hank Williams, maybe better—and she was a woman! That was a new thing, newer than television, maybe even. The audience loved her. On Arthur Godfrey’s show it was the applause that told who won the contest. A little meter showed whether folks were clapping hard or not. When Patsy sang, that arrow went right to the top of the dial! I’d of voted for her, too, if I wasn’t three thousand miles away. When she won, I remember Mr. Godfrey asked if she was happy. Patsy said, “Happy as if I had good sense.” I remember chuckling at that. She was funny, and that made me like her even more.
- "Loretta and Patsy had a bond that set the standard for ladies in music today. They taught us to support each other and to life each other up. I have been in a band with two other women (Pistol Annies) for almost a decade, so I understand that sisterhood more than ever. It's important and inspiring."—Miranda Lambert
- "I've always admired the friendship that Loretta and Patsy had. Two "girl singers" breaking ground and changing the times for women in country music together. They got it right. Instead of sizing each other up as competition, they became allies and friends. They paved the way for the rest of us."—Trisha Yearwood
- "Patsy and Loretta are two women who can teach us so much about life, especially how to stand up for yourself and how to deal with being a woman in the world of Country Music today because they had to do it in THEIR day. The biggest difference is, these days, we have huge numbers to face that situation together. They didn't have that security. They fought for it. They came together when they both needed a friend most, and reading this book makes you want to have that same bond with a friend. I think they would encourage you, the reader, to find that special friend in your life. Priceless."—Reba McEntire
- "Lynn reveals her sincere, heartfelt emotions throughout the narrative, giving readers a true sense of the depths of their friendship as well as the haunting pain of Cline's death. A touching memoir filled with the emotional highs and lows of a deep bond."—Kirkus
- "A crackling good storyteller, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and singer Lynn reminisces on her friendship with country music Patsy Cline in this humorous and loving memoir."—Publishers Weekly
- "Lynn's fans will absolutely adore this as much for her typical no-holds-barred style as for her country warmth and the loving description of a deeply missed friendship."—Booklist (starred review)
- "Lynn, with her daughter Patsy, has written a beautiful, heartbreaking valentine to Cline, who was a mentor and passionate and devoted friend-all of which is manifestly conveyed through Lynn's uniquely distinct eastern Kentucky voice and seemingly endless cascade of stories."—Library Journal (starred review)
- "[In] Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust, Loretta chronicles her friendship with Patsy before her tragic passing in 1963. And fans of her classic 1976 memoir, Coal Miner's Daughter, know that nobody tells a story quite like Loretta Lynn."—Southern Living
- "Even if Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn weren't two of the most influential artists in country music, this story about the bond between them as they rose to the top of their fields would be a touching meditation on friendship, loyalty, and loss. But playing out against the rise of Nashville and the price of fame, it becomes something even more absorbing."—Town & Country
- "Lynn is, above all, a great storyteller, and this book is filled with warm and funny stories, as heartfelt and true as any of her songs. But underneath the folksy veneer is an unvarnished view of what it took for her and Cline to make it to the top."—Associated Press
- "With an outstanding Foreword by Dolly Parton, Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust delivers enjoyable short chapters jumping in and out of stories from Loretta Lynn's heart, written in Loretta's own, unedited, authentic, rural mountain voice."—New York Journal of Books
- "The book offers unimaginable only-in-Nashville anecdotes... Each story is told with an unflinching touch of love and honesty, two things Lynn knows best." —Nashville Tennessean
- "[A] quick and illuminating read. . . [Loretta Lynn] offers a heartfelt and often rollicking remembrance of her friendship with the late Patsy Cline."—The Wall Street Journal
- "[A] heartfelt appreciation of how one great singing star lent her hard-won wisdom to another."—USA Today
- "A great storyteller, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and singer Lynn reminisces about her friendship with country music legend Patsy Cline in this humorous and loving memoir."—Jacksonville Journal Courier
- On Sale
- Jun 23, 2020
- Hachette Audio