Remember When Loretta Lynn Made Her Grand Ole Opry Debut?

62 years ago this month
Loretta Lynn Debut Grand Ole Opry
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Loretta Lynn, who passed away Tuesday, was one of the most iconic country singers of all time, but she was just a nervous 28-year-old when she made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry on Oct. 15, 1960.

Lynn had only recently released her first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” which she and her husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, had been self-promoting by mailing out copies to radio stations and then stopping by those stations in person as they drove to Nashville from their home in Washington State. They arrived in Nashville the night before Lynn’s scheduled Opry debut, which she didn’t even know was on the books. The couple slept in their car the night before her first performance on the hallowed stage.

“He’d parked it in front of the Grand Ole Opry, and I didn’t know he’d done that,” Lynn recalled to Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper in 2014. “I woke up and seen the Grand Ole Opry, so I could not believe I was sleeping over from the Grand Ole Opry, but that’s where we were, sleeping in the car.”

Lynn performed “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” on the Opry that night, but would later confess she remembered very little about that show.

“The first memory I have of the Grand Ole Opry was, when I went out to sing, I remember patting my foot, and that’s it,” she told the Tennessean. “I don’t remember even singing. Now, I was so excited, I don’t remember singing, but I remember patting my foot. I went offstage and thought, ‘I forgot to listen to myself sing!’” she recalled.

Opry management liked Lynn’s debut performance so much that she soon followed it with a record-setting 17 subsequent performances, according to Rolling Stone. She and her husband moved her family to Nashville, where she began to record for Decca Records and build one of the most impactful careers in country music history. Lynn was formally inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry just two years after her debut, in September of 1962.