NASHVILLE — Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn only knew each other a short time before Cline’s death at the age of 30, but the friendship formed between two trailblazers of country music is enough to fill a book.
Lynn’s new memoir, “Me and Patsy: Kicking Up Dust,” which was released Tuesday, chronicles their unbreakable bond as pioneering artists whose music spans generations, as well friends who leaned on each other through good times and bad.
“We were two bad ones. If she’d still be around, we’d probably both be in the pen,” the 87-year-old Lynn, said while laughing in a phone interview with The Associated Press from her Tennessee home.
Cline, one of the most powerful and recognizable voices in country music, took the Kentucky singer-songwriter under her wing in the early ’60s. The two became quick friends, bonding over their music, their marriages and motherhood. At the time they knew each other, Cline was reaching the peak of her career with crossover hits like “Crazy,” while Lynn was just starting out.
“Patsy was always there to tell me what was right and what was wrong,” said Lynn. “She was my big sister that I never had.”
Lynn, whose previous memoir “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was a bestselling hit and adapted into a Golden Globe-winning film, co-wrote the new book with her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell.
The two first met shortly after Cline was badly injured in a car accident in 1961, just months after releasing her song “I Fall To Pieces.” Cline heard Lynn singing on the radio and asked her to come to the hospital to meet her.
“Bless her heart. I could tell she was in a lot of pain,” said Lynn. “Her arms and her head were all bandaged up. And it broke my heart.”
Lynn was there for support when Cline struggled to hide her scars from the wreck. Cline also taught Lynn not to get pushed around by men in the business, telling her she should demand to get her concert payments up front and that she should confront male artists who pinched and touched her backstage.
“The men knew exactly what Patsy thought and they’d try to get away with things with me, you know? But she’d seen them act funny, and she’d tell them off,” Lynn said.
Cline and Lynn shared everything, like sisters. Cline showed Lynn how to shave her legs for the first time, taught her how to drive and gave Lynn dresses to wear on stage. Lynn even has a pair of lace panties that Cline gave her as a way to spice up Lynn’s marriage.
“I’ve got a pair of panties that she gave me that I wore for four years,” said Lynn.
But as Cline’s career was at the peak with songs like “Crazy” and “She’s Got You,” disaster struck. Cline was killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee, on March 5, 1963, as she was heading home from a show. Her manager, Randy Hughes, and country stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins also died.
In the book, Lynn recalls sitting by Cline’s coffin at the family’s visitation and hearing Cline still talking to her.
Lynn never stopped thinking about the advice Cline gave her and it guided her as her career blossomed in the ‘60s and ’70s, becoming a huge star with hits like “The Pill” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” She recorded tribute albums for Cline after her death, wanting to make sure fans remembered the late singer.
Even five decades later, the bond remains strong for Lynn.
“She’s on my mind all the time,” she said. “A lot of times, not even expecting it, but I’ll be sitting and thinking and I’ll see Patsy. I know a lot of people don’t believe that, but she’s with me all the time.”
Kristin M. Hall, The Associated Press