Loretta, We Miss You

Nashville is screamingly busy today. This swollen town almost looks like New York, or L.A. Except for all the out-of-towners in cowboy hats and tennis shoes.

I come from cow-people. We had an expression for folks like this: All hat and no cattle.

I meet a young man from Cleveland, wearing a huge Stetson. He is half tight, enjoying the scenery.

He says, “Everyone’s a cowboy in Nashville, man.”

I am standing on Fifth Avenue. At the Ryman Auditorium. Home of the Opry.

I’m here to pay my respects to an old friend. I drove a long way to be here.

The brick and stone tabernacle is the mother church of country music. And when I say “country,” I mean old country. Not the modern sewage of today. The stuff on the radio today is pure-T carrion. And you can quote me.

The Grand Ole Opry began on November 28, 1925. It was a holy day. Radio host George Hay took the mic. He introduced the maiden broadcast by announcing to the world, off the cuff:

“Ladies and gentlemen, for the past hour we’ve been listening to music from the Grand Opera, in New York City, but we now present the Grand Ole Opry.”

And the world was never the same.

Those days are gone, however. The Opry is dead. They still do the Opry broadcast at Opryland. But it’s not the same. Think: Disney World with fiddles.

Beside the Ryman, on the sidewalk, is a bronze statue of Loretta Lynn. She’s not far from the statue of Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass. They both played here.

Loretta is posing with her Epiphone Excellente. She’s wearing her Western fringe.

She died a few days ago. And country music lost its matriarch.

She got her first guitar when she was 18. Which sounds young, except it wasn’t. Not for her.

Not when you consider that Loretta was married to an Army man at age 13. She was a mother by age 14. She was a grandmother by age 29.

Loretta Lynn’s story was the story of my grandmother. And her grandmother before her. I guess what I’m getting at is: She was us.

She started recording music in 1960. She was 28. Her music was well-written. The lyrics were clever. She sang about love. Drinking. Heartbreak. Jesus. Sex.

Because that was country music in the ‘60s. It was uncivil. It was untamed. It was raw. It was the truth, is what it was.

Her voice had a breathy quality, like she’d smoked too many Old Golds. Although she didn’t smoke. Her voice was genuine. Tinged with experience. Not like the fake accents you hear on the radio today.

I first saw Loretta Lynn in concert when I was 9 years old. She sang “Don’t come home a’drinkin’ with lovin’ on your mind…”

My father sang along.

“Who is that?” I asked my old man.

“That is the mother of country music,” he said.

And he was right, in a way. Yes, experts would say that Maybelle Carter is the official Queen Mother. Others would argue that Patsy Cline is the entitled Dowager.

But for my money, it’s Loretta.

I still listen to her music often. Because it reminds me of ancestors I’ve lost.

Her lyrics remind me of the common language my grandmother once used. Her rural accent harkens to an older age. An age before iPhones and worldwide broadband connectivity ruined our regionalism.

She was beautiful. She was true. She was Loretta Lynn, for crying out loud.

Today, Lorretta’s statue is ornamented with hundreds of colorful bouquets. There are roses, carnations, baby’s-breath, and lots of lilies. I place my own bouquet beside her feet.

I bought the flowers at Publix. Preuvian lilies. White.

A young man in a cowboy hat sees me positioning the flowers before her bronze carving. The young man says, “Who is that lady statue supposed to be?”

“That’s Loretta Lynn,” says another onlooker.

“Loretta WHO?” says the young cowboy hat.

“Never mind,” says a nearby man. “If you don’t know her, then you shouldn’t be wearing that hat.”

And somehow, I think Loretta would’ve liked that.


  1. Steve Winfield (lifer) - October 9, 2022 6:47 am

    Perfect, Sean.
    One things for sure. You recognize real talent.

    • Susan Ronson - October 10, 2022 4:41 pm

      You are so right !. I can’t even listen to the ‘so called Country Music ‘, coming out of Nashville these days !!, SHAMEFUL !!!!😡

  2. Ed (Bear) - October 9, 2022 8:22 am

    Interesting ending Sean. The young clammer for identity. I think it’s rare for us to find it so quickly like Loretta Lynn did. If life’s too easy, or we’re mentally disordered, identifying one’s “self” has far less stabilizing spiritual grounding. Sometimes it takes a while.

  3. Gordon Charles Kendall - October 9, 2022 8:43 am

    The world my world has changed and I must accept life on life’s term

  4. stephenpe - October 9, 2022 10:14 am

    Publix flowers,like Loretta, are beautiful.

  5. Leigh Amiot - October 9, 2022 10:48 am

    I have one of those little imitation vintage Victrolas, it plays CDs, vinyl albums, cassette tapes, and in a nod to the modern world, it has bluetooth capability, and I can play songs from the music collection on my iPhone. Yesterday, I found a CD of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline singing gospel songs at the Goodwill in Thomasville, GA. My late mother loved Patsy Cline’s voice, Daddy was more into Loretta Lynn’s singing style. In the 1960s, their hi-fi stereo console was playing every day, mostly country, bluegrass, and gospel.

    Old country music definitely is on the soundtrack of my upbringing, though I presently listen to some Luke Bryan, too. 😂 Does that make me a heretic?

    RIP Loretta Lynn, and I’m glad, Sean, you got to go to Nashville and pay homage to her.

  6. mccutchen52 - October 9, 2022 11:42 am

    I have told this story before but living on a farm in Arkansas, the cub scouts gave us instructions on building a crystal diode radio. I put my antenna from the pump house to the roof and into the window. On a clear night I could pick up the Grand Ol Opry. I could feel their music as I went to sleep.

  7. David Britnell - October 9, 2022 12:13 pm

    The world is better for having had her in it!

  8. JACKIE LEON DARNELL - October 9, 2022 12:58 pm


  9. MaryJo Smith - October 9, 2022 12:59 pm

    So true. She was our Queen

  10. Anissa Beard - October 9, 2022 1:10 pm

    Thank you for the moving tribute to Loretta Lynn. She will be greatly missed. I told my best friend that it does not feel right to live in the world without Loretta.

  11. Sally - October 9, 2022 1:28 pm

    You could listen to Chapel Hart Thier great real country…

  12. Cheryl A Brown - October 9, 2022 2:18 pm

    A fitting, and very beautiful tribute to Miss Loretta. An era has come to an end, there will never be another…..

  13. Paul Alge - October 9, 2022 2:22 pm

    The Grand lie Opry is still held at the Ryman on some nights. And you can still find real music talent if you know where to go Like the Bluebird Cafe. Douglas Corner. 3rd and Lindsey and others. And real Tn. country people are on the outskirts of town like any big city. What you have downtown is tourist. There is still good music here they call it Americana now. Find the small places outside of town. It’s still here. Murder on Music Row didn’t kill all of it. I know it’s not the same. But what is ?

  14. Gigi - October 9, 2022 2:40 pm

    “If you don’t know her, you shouldn’t be wearing that hat”, is perfectly stated. Kudos to the man who said it. I’m from Loretta’s home state, Kentucky, and Loretta is Our Queen. Thanks for the tribute to her Sean. I’m sure she’d love those white lilies. RIP Loretta.

  15. H. J. Patterson - October 9, 2022 3:55 pm

    I’ll be at the Ryman this Thursday for a concert by the queen of jazz, Diana Krall. I’m going very early to tour the “mother church” that stands because of what Loretta and so many others did to promote the great American art form. Then later on Diana will open up a new song book and lets all thank the Lord that we have these people that make life worth living. RIP Coal Miners Daughter.

  16. Margie Fairchild - October 9, 2022 4:24 pm

    So perfectly said! RIP Ms. Loretta Lynn.

  17. Steve Stacey - October 9, 2022 4:30 pm

    Great story. In rural North Dakota, this Ala. boy learned that Loretta was right there with Hank amongst the wheat farmers. I found the music that touched my heart.

  18. Corky Smith - October 9, 2022 4:48 pm

    We just returned from the Mediterranean. Every single site/sight & city was mobbed with tourists. We live on Maui. Hawai’i is likewise mobbed by tourists, but as I told a guide in Dubrovnik (when she explained that locals feel like hiding inside in May & not coming out until the “season” ends in October), in Hawai’i the “season” never ends. We felt like touring with bags over our heads, so embarrassed were we to be tourists like the ones you describe & the ones here who say “HA-loha”, “Haywhyee” & never learn “mahalo” (thank you)! Asking who Loretta Lynn is in Nashville is like not recognizing “the Duke’s” statue on Waikiki or that of King Kamehameha in front of Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Shameful ignorance!

  19. Paula - October 9, 2022 4:57 pm

    Sho would have LOVED that!

  20. Karen - October 9, 2022 5:03 pm

    Well said. 💖

  21. Chasity Davis Ritter - October 9, 2022 5:47 pm

    That’s awesome you made the pilgrimage and left some flowers for her today. Yep you said it all. I know who she is. Grew up with a lot of her music too. I was singing it to my daughter the day she passed and I’m sure she thought I was half nuts. I thought of all those she had lost in life that she was now reunited with. 90 years… I’m sure she was ready to see them all again. My great aunt Edith went with her too this week. She was 87. The last of 14 children to find her way back home to her parents. We’re gonna miss them both but can’t be sad for either. Lives well lived. Lives touched through their music. Their cooking. Their love. Their legacies. Fly free Miss Loretta. Fly free Aunt Edith. See ya when we get there.

  22. Sandra Gallagher - October 9, 2022 6:50 pm

    Well said! Todays youth, including many of todays so-called country music artists, have no clue what real country music is all about. God rest your soul, Loretta! ❤️

  23. Jimmy E. - October 9, 2022 6:58 pm

    My friend was the biggest of Loretta fans; at a concert in Macon, Georgia, they met, and LL said, “honey – come on up here and let’s get our ‘pitcher’ took together.”

  24. Julia - October 9, 2022 9:47 pm

    I think she would have liked it too. Thank you Sean. I love Loretta.

  25. john swetnam - October 9, 2022 11:09 pm

    Loretta is one of those people, who when they die, I feel like our world is diminished.

  26. Carlotta clemons - October 10, 2022 2:35 am

    I am 75 yrs old. Raised on real coubtry music. Iwas telling my 45 yr old pastor today about lorettas song. The pill being banned on the radio stations. He asked me 2x. What kind of pill. I loved u. Alway loretta. U sang for all of us. U made it special tobe a hillbilly

  27. Debra White - October 10, 2022 4:45 am

    Like Loretta, my parents were born and raised in southeastern Kentucky. My parents lived most of their lives in Ohio, but Kentucky was always home. There was a time when I was young and foolish and embarrassed by my hillbilly roots. My mom accused me of getting above my raisin’. Now that my mom and dad are gone, I treasure those roots. The country music of Loretta Lynn and the musicians of that era, true country people singing about true country life mean something to me. They’re my people. I too mourn a Nashville that’s gotten above its raisin’, run by people who have traded in their God fearin’, gun totin’ past for acceptance of the cosmopolitan, woke crowd. Beautifully written tribute. I agreed with every word.

  28. Craig - October 11, 2022 5:44 am

    She will (is) be missed.

  29. MEllENY M SIMPSON - October 13, 2022 6:49 pm

    Yes indeed.

  30. Kathy Moran - October 16, 2022 2:02 am

    Great tribute to the well respected lady of country music. I always love her attitude.


Leave a Comment