RAMBLIN: Hey Loretta! Already missing Loretta Lynn

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Oct. 7—It's going to be hard to get used to a world without Loretta Lynn in it — and I'm still trying to get used to a world without Johnny Cash.

Since Loretta's passing from this world last Tuesday, Oct. 4, at her ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, the tributes and accolades have come pouring in as befits an artist of her unique talents, not only as a singer but as a songwriter too. Her family and fans can take solace in the fact that Loretta also received a bevy of accolades in her lifetime while she was still around to enjoy them.

Even if some of the accolades are a little overblown, that's takes nothing away from Loretta. Over the past week, I've seen her referred to as the first great female country music songwriter.

I believe that honor goes to Cindy Walker. Even if Cindy didn't have as high a profile as Loretta among the general public, she had a great deal of respect among her peers, both singers and songwriters.

Walker's song "You Don't Know Me" became a #10 hit for Eddy Arnold on the country music charts in 1956, years before Loretta and her husband "Doolittle" hit Nashville. In 1962, the song shot to #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 when Ray Charles released it as a single from his groundbreaking album #1 album, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Walker was far from a one-hit wonder, with songs she wrote including Roy Orbison's #1 hit "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" along with a couple of songs recorded both by Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys and Merle Haggard: "Bubbles in My Beer" and "Cherokee Maiden."

So by the time Loretta and her husband "Mooney" moved to Nashville to break into the music business, Walker had already blazed the songwriting trail — but Lynn soon blazed a path of her own.

She landed a job on "The Wilburn Brothers Show," featuring Teddy and Doyle Wilburn — and quickly became the best thing about the program. "The Wilburn Brothers Show" had a similar format to most country-music syndicated shows at the time. They usually opened with an uptempo number, featured a guest artist, would often include a gospel song and also featured a "girl singer" as they were referred to at the time.

While Loretta held the honors on "The Wilburn Brothers Show," another country music syndicated television program,"The Porter Wagoner Show" would also feature two country music songstresses. Porter began with the lady he always introduced as "Pretty Miss Norma Jean" — another of Oklahoma's great country music artists.

When Norma Jean decided she wanted to return to family life in Oklahoma, Wagoner soon found a replacement — some young, blonde singer named Dolly Parton. I wonder what ever happened to her?

Meanwhile, with Loretta quickly becoming the best thing on "The Wilburn Brothers Show" on television, she also became the brightest star on their touring show as well.

While Loretta is considered as one of country music's greatest songwriters, she didn't pen all of her own hits at first. She wrote "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," which broke as a regional recording in the Pacific Northwest and rose to #14 on the country music charts, which helped her land her major label deal with Decca Records.

Some of her other early hits, including "Success," "Happy Birthday," "Before I'm Over You," "Wine, Women and Song" and "Blue Kentucky Girl" were all written by other songwriters.

Once Loretta delved deeply into her songwriting — most often with subject matters from her own life — she did so in a way that eclipsed many of those earlier hits written by others.

Many are the songs for which Loretta is still celebrated today, such as "You Ain't Woman Enough (to Take My Man)" and "Fist City" — both of which are not-so-veiled warnings to women she thinks are after her husband, "Doo."

The in-your-face lyrical warnings to women chasing after her man delved into subjects rarely touched on in other musical genres, including rock and soul music.

Her song "Fist City" made me smile with its earthy warnings to someone aspiring to be the "other woman." I don't know if they used the expression up north or on the West Coast, but anyone who grew up in southeast Oklahoma at a certain time was familiar with the phrase "fist city" and knew exactly what it meant.

The song cracked me up with its humor — although Loretta didn't sound as if she was kidding around — and also left me impressed with her writing skills in addressing the subject head-on:

"You've been making your brags round town that you've been a-lovin my man. But the man I love, when he picks up trash, he puts it in the garbage can."

Loretta was just getting started though: "If you don't want to go to fist city, you'd better detour around my town. 'Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head and I'll lift you up off the ground." Ouch! Yea! You go girl!

And go Loretta did, winning the County Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year Award and soon becoming the first woman to win the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year Award.

What many consider her greatest song came in 1970 with "Coal Miner's Daughter," her true-life song about growing up in the mountains of Kentucky. Not only did it become a number one song and album, Lynn used "Coal Miner's Daughter" as the title of her best-selling autobiography, which of course, became the model of the acclaimed movie, with actress Sissy Spacek winning a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Loretta.

The song often makes me think of my own mother. When I talked to my brother by phone Thursday night, one of the first things that we talked about was the passing of Loretta. We didn't have to buy her albums growing up — our mom took care of that. We reaped the benefits of listening to them, though. We both were awakened on many a school day with the sounds of Loretta's voice resonating through the house mingled with the smell of coffee.

My mom, Stella, affectionately called "Pooly" by her friends, seemed to have an affinity for Loretta, more so than any other female artist. It could have been because, as my brother reminded me, she and Loretta had a couple of things in common.

Both were friends with Conway Twitty — and both were a coal miner's daughter.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.