Loretta Lynn recalls her friendship with Patsy Cline in new book

Lynn shares the details of her friendship with Patsy Cline, along with remembrances of her own career, in a just-released book, Me and Patsy Kickin' Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline

Loretta Lynn believes that her close friendship with the legendary Patsy Cline was truly “meant to be.” After all, they were both cut from similar cloth. They grew up poor, Cline in Virginia and Lynn in the coal mining areas of Kentucky, were tough and feisty when necessary, and were relatively close in age. The two bonded in Nashville and enjoyed not only a friendship but a mentor-student relationship as well, with Cline handing out career and personal advice to Lynn. Their bond came to an abrupt and tragic end when Patsy was killed in a plane crash in Camden, Tennessee, March 5, 1963, at the age of 30.

Now, Lynn shares the details of her friendship with Patsy Cline, along with remembrances of her own career, in a just-released book, Me and Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline. The book is full of anecdotes, warm and funny memories, insides into the music business, and honest emotions, all told in Lynn’s unique and colorful style. To help celebrate the book, Lynn has released a newly recorded version of Cline’s 1961 No. 1 hit, “I Fall to Pieces.” Lynn talked with S&E Nashville about writing the book, and naturally her relationship with Cline, in a telephone conversation from Lynn’s home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

 Lynn wrote the book with some assistance from her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, who was named for Patsy Cline. “My daughter and I are so close,” says Loretta. “We are together all the time. We talked about writing this book because I have never stopped thinking about Patsy. My daughter told me, ‘Mama, we have to get these stories down, They are so good.’ Some of these stories in the book I am telling for the first time.”

Lynn says Patsy Cline would have them over for dinner all the time when they first moved to Nashville. Photo by David McClister

Many fans know that Lynn and Cline first met at a Nashville hospital in 1961, when Cline was recovering from a car accident. Lynn had appeared on the radio show “Midnight Jamboree” following the Grand Ole Opry one Saturday night, and sang Cline’s big hit at the time, “I Fall to Pieces,” dedicating it to Cline, who happened to be listening to the program in her hospital room. Through her husband, Charlie, she arranged for Lynn and her husband Doo to pay a visit. Loretta went to the hospital the next day and the two became immediate pals. “That’s the way it started,” Lynn says. “I remember that I couldn’t wait to meet her.” The two ladies talked about a variety of subjects – the music business, clothes, their respective husbands. Lynn recalled that Cline treated her like an equal, even though Lynn was still an up-and-comer and Cline was an established star. In the book, Lynn writes, Before we left, Patsy asked Doo and I to come over for dinner once she got out of that hospital. From that day on, me and Patsy was friends.

That first dinner consisted of broiled shrimp and mashed potatoes, as Lynn recollects. Pretty fancy fare for a couple of newcomers, Lynn thought. That was only the first of several dinners that Cline would host for Lynn and her husband. “She would have us over for dinner all the time when we first came to Nashville,” Lynn tells S&E Nashville. ‘She was a very good cook and enjoyed fixing dinner for her friends. Sometimes, she’d have about ten or twenty people over for a big meal.”

Loretta also remembers the advice Patsy would pass along. Cline was a tough-talking, no-nonsense woman when it came to the music business, and she would stand up to male producers and managers, much to Loretta’s shock at first. Cline advised Lynn to get at least half of her appearance money up front, though Lynn confessed to being reticent about that particular venture. At that, Cline exhorted Lynn to get some guts, though that wasn’t the exact term she used. “You’re gonna need them in this business,” Lynn quotes Cline as saying. “If you don’t, you will starve to death.”

Loretta says Patsy Cline’s way of standing up to music producers was shocking at first, and that Cline recommended she always get half of her appearance money up front.

The early 60s era was definitely a man’s world in the music industry, even more so than today. Cline knew that she had to be tough and passed on that notion to Lynn. “It was pretty hard for a woman back then,” Lynn says. “There were not that many women in country music and men tried to take advantage of that. Women can make it in this business if they work hard, but sometimes we have to work twice as hard.” In the book, Lynn points out, I learned a lot watching Patsy. Nashville is a funny place, and the rules don’t always make sense to me. Seemed like you were supposed to act like you didn’t care about money – especially if you’re a woman. Patsy was clear about what she wanted. She knew how to get it, too. You can definitely hear that feisty side of Lynn in songs like “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Fist City” and others.

Readers will also discover that Patsy and Loretta discussed matters that went beyond business. Patsy gave Loretta grooming tips and marriage advice, always willing to help out her friend. Lynn admits in her book to being somewhat naive in certain areas of marriage, just one example of the candid nature of Lynn’s writing.

Loretta Lynn / Singer & Songstress
Photo by David McClister

“I did not want to hide anything or sugarcoat anything,” Lynn explains firmly. “Fans want to know all about you and you need to be honest with them. I don’t think you ought to hide anything from the public. Patsy did tell me once how to spice up my marriage and I kinda held back telling that one for a while. But it’s there in the book.” She will confess, though, that certain portions of the book proved difficult to get down on paper. “It was hard to write about my last day with her,” Lynn says. “I still hate thinking about losing her because that day is still fresh in my mind.”

Lynn is often asked how Patsy’s career would have turned out had she lived a full adult life. “I think she would have been a big superstar,” she says, matter-of-factly. “There’s no telling what she would have done.”

Me and Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline, by Loretta Lynn with Patsy Lynn Russell, is available now at retail and online outlets such as amazon.com. Please visit Lynn’s website for more information.