Tammy Wynette Is Passion Personified
March 2, 1978
By Greg Tozian
Tribune Staff Writer
Plant City — Mildred Lee sat munching carnival-stand popcorn in a mobile home behind the stage at the Strawberry Festival grounds Monday night, waiting for the second performance of country superstar Tammy Wynette.
A polite fiftyish-looking woman with gray-brown hair, Lee, like almost everyone else who’d seen the first show that evening, was talking about the blonde country singing star.
Only she knew Tammy Wynette better than everyone else.
Less is Wynette’s mother.
“She (Tammy) started singing before she went to school. She was always in little talent shows and things,” said Lee about her now world-famous daughter.
“But we never pushed her when she was growing up,” Lee said of her only child. “She always wanted to sing. And I don’t know what she would have done if she couldn’t have. It’s her life.”
The singing idol’s mother added that Wynette’s real name, Virginia Wynette Pugh, was changed by her producer more than 10 years ago, “because Tammy sounds more commercial than Virginia.”
Fifty feet away, in her plush red-velvet-lined private bus, the former Virginia Wynette Pugh was greeting hordes of local residents and well-wishers, after her one-hour opening performance.
Wynette, wearing her golden hair in regal swirls atop a face as pretty as any of her album cover likenesses, smiled and clutched an armful of long stemmed red roses.
The bright light of flash bulbs, pointed at the country queen, popped constantly inside the bus.
“Thank you,” said Wynette politely, smiling each time a photographer, professional or amateur, took her picture.
About 20 minutes before the second, 8 p.m. show was to begin, Wynettes’ manager diplomatically backed the curious fans off of the singer’s bus so the band could change for the last performance.
At 8 p.m. sharp, Wynette’s six-piece band strode on stage wearing black tuxedos and white ruffled shirts ad tuned up their instruments.
When “the First Lady of Country Music” walked out smiling for the second show she was greeted by thunderous applause from the thousands of people crowding the grandstands, an echo of the accolade she’d received two hours before for her first performance.
The tall singer bowed gracefully. Her full-length black gown was slit up the sides, revealing long shapely legs, and her spangled black jacket glittered almost as brightly as the huge diamond ring on her right hand.
The band went immediately into a rousing rendition of “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” a characteristic Wynette favorite.
Like the majority Wynette’s 34 gold records, the opening tune told the tale of a woman with man troubles — or if you like — just plain troubles.
But Wynette’s own style of country music, while it does tend to center around lamenting housewives, is still somehow univeral.
Her popularity goes way beyond the country market, allowing her to be jut as vigorously accepted in New York as she was Monday at Plant City.
At the Strawberry Festival, Wynette’s voice was honey-dipped sorrow as she crooned favorites like, “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” where a little girl explains that “playing house” makes her mommy cry because her daddy’s left home.
Throughout the show, whether singing gospels like “Amazing Grace,” or one of her numerous million-sellers, the singer’s voice was clear, effortless and sweeter than the strawberries that were being served in the nearby exhibit building.
Between beautifully sung numbers, the show was peppered with smart remarks by band members, about Wynette’s much publicized divorce from veteran singing star George Jones.
But the majority of the interest and affection was centered around Tammy Wynette’s one-of-a-kind, lilting voice.
And when the 36-year-old, ex-beautican-turned-top-female-vocalist walked into the grandstand trailing a 300-foot microphone chord to sing the classic “Stand By Your Man,” there could be no doubt.
Tammy Wynette is a star. But she’s real people too.