Bumbled Beginnings

The voice on the line sounds much younger than the 80-year-old woman I expected. Her rural Kentucky accent has not lost its lively twang. I have tried for a year and a half to reach the Queen of Country and now I can hear her breathing on the phone. This is a chance to clear up a half-century-old mystery, but before the singer speaks, consider the facts of this unusual ditty…

Loretta Lynn's first hit single, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl" was released on the tiny Vancouver, B.C. label Zero Records in 1960. The singer was living with her husband Doolittle (aka Mooney) and their four kids in Custer, Washington, a short hop across the border from the Canadian city. Loretta explains in her 1976 autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter that Norm Burley, a wealthy, retired timber executive from Vancouver, saw her perform on Buck Owen's Bar K Jamboree TV show out of Tacoma. The lumber baron was so impressed with her performance on Buck's hoedown that he decided to start a record label specifically to record her.

It is a cute story, but according to the late Canadian music producer Don Grashey, it is not true.