CR023/PH09 – Loneliness Surrounds: Virginia Wynette Pugh

1200 630 Cocaine & Rhinestones

Virginia Wynette Pugh



Country music is full of rags-to-riches stories, like the one about how Virginia Wynette Pugh became Tammy Wynette. In a way, it’s true. Even after becoming the most successful woman country singer at that point in history, the life she lived was hard and painful. But if you want to know what actually happened in that life then she’s the last person you should ask.


Contents (Click/Tap to Scroll)

Primary Sources

The sources for this episode can all be found in The Main Library and the Season 2 Library.



Transcript of Episode

As part of my agreement with Simon & Schuster to publish a book adaptation of Season 2, the transcripts that have been freely available for over a year will be temporarily removed from this website. Please consider ordering a copy of Cocaine & Rhinestones: A History of George Jones and Tammy Wynette through your favorite local bookstore or requesting that your local library order a copy you can check out.


Liner Notes


Excerpted Music

This episode featured excerpts from the following songs, in this order [with links to purchase or stream where available]:

  • Hank Williams – “No One Will Ever Know” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “You Can Steal Me” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Bonnie Guitar – “You Can Steal Me” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Johnny PayCheck & Micki Evans – “The Way Things Were Going” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Martha Carson – “Satisfied” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Billie Jo Spears – “There’s Not Enough of You to Go Around” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Kay Adams – “She Didn’t Color Daddy” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Bobby Austin – “Apartment No. 9” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “Apartment No. 9” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “Send Me No Roses” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “It’s My Way” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • George Jones – “Apartment No. 9” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “Don’t Touch Me” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Tammy Wynette – “I Don’t Wanna Play House” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • David Houston & Tammy Wynette – “My Elusive Dreams” [Amazon / Apple Music]
  • Don Chapel – “Hurtin’ Time” [Amazon / Apple Music]


Excerpted Video

These videos were excerpted in the episode. For any number of reasons, YouTube may remove them in the future but here they are for now:



Commentary and Remaining Sources

I’m really not looking forward to the reaction some people are going to have to these Tammy Wynette episodes but it’s not my job to tell fans what they want to hear about their favorite artists, it’s my job to actually research the history a lot of people think they know and then turn that into a story that’s as close to the truth as I can get it. I love Tammy Wynette’s music, I respect her as a person and my heart breaks for her when I think about her life. It brings me no pleasure to call her a liar but she unquestionably was and the lies she told cannot be ignored or glossed over because they are a massive part of this story. Those of you familiar with the details of her personal life know there are some extremely difficult subjects I’m going to have to touch on in future episodes. This shit’s gonna get messy and there’s no way around it. Even just talking about the song “Stand by Your Man” in the next episode has to address the controversy that’s surrounded the song since the day it was released. There’s gonna be a lot of things people don’t want to hear about attitudes toward feminism in the 1960s. As I said in the Liner Notes of a previous episode, please try to keep in mind the things you see me say are not necessarily my personal opinions. You will often see me outright state something is my personal opinion if that’s what I’m sharing. At nearly all other moments, I’m trying to paint an accurate picture of the past, no matter how I or anyone else would prefer that picture to appear.

Speaking of pictures, I could not find any pictures or video of Tammy on the Country Boy Eddie TV show. She was still pregnant with Tina when she got the job, so she was supposedly filmed from the waist up for her debut performance but I was unable to confirm this.

George Richey did not actually produce the session for Bonnie Guitar’s cut of “You Can Steal Me.” That was Dot Records co-founder Randy Wood. I don’t know why Randy did that session but George Richey absolutely was Bonnie Guitar’s producer. He produced the a-side of the record, a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ramblin’ Man” and I think it’s reasonable to assume Richey heard the Wynette Byrd demo of “You Can Steal Me” before his artist recorded It. Without just yet getting into why it matters, that would mean this was probably the first time he heard Tammy Wynette sing.

I didn’t include it in the episode because there’s no way to be certain about what happened but there’s been a lot of speculation over the years as to what degree Tammy Wynette was sexually propositioned by male executives when trying to break into the business. According to her, it only happened one time but at least one other version of the story has Billy Sherrill talking an exhausted engineer into staying on the clock to work Tammy’s first session because so many jerks in town had tried to take physical advantage of her and he wanted to show everyone the talent they missed by thinking with their dicks.

The recording of “She Didn’t Color Daddy” from that session did eventually come out on the Tears of Fire box set in 1992, about 25 years later and over a decade after she stopped working with Billy Sherrill. I did technically say it was never released but what I meant is Billy Sherrill never put it out the whole time he was Tammy’s producer.

Don Chapel’s first single released by Epic was “Hurtin Time” which was produced by Billy Sherrill but you can find promo copies floating around out there of an earlier record on Epic,”Flowers and Candy,” produced by Glenn Sutton. I would assume the reason you can only find promo copies is because the song didn’t get enough traction at radio for Epic to feel it was worth actually releasing. If so, it’s reasonable to assume Billy went in the studio himself to see if he was the missing ingredient. Turns out, he wasn’t. I do think the piano lick Billy threw on the record was a pretty great trick, though, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that Ray Pennington song, so I don’t think anyone can say Don Chapel never got a fair shot at the recording career he wanted.

My primary sources were already mentioned in the episode. I’ll save discussion of Jimmy McDonough’s book for next time. As for Tammy’s official autobiography, I sure hope everyone who’s mad at me for calling Tammy an unreliable narrator is willing to take the time to research contemporary reviews of this book. In The Journal of Country Music, Vol.8, No.2, Mary Bufwack sure doesn’t have very many nice things to say about Tammy’s autobiography and points readers to instead seek out Joan Dew’s previous profile in the book Singers and Sweethearts, written more from Joan’s reporting than from Tammy’s attempts to sell a certain version of history. In The Journal of Country Music, Vol. 9, No. 3, Stephen Tucker calls Stand by Your Man the worst of the recently published country autobiographies that he’s read. I would assume both of these reviews exist because of how easy it was for journalists walking the country music beat to spot all of the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Tammy’s version of the story. But, just like George Jones’ success with selling his uncontested version of Pappy Daily, Tammy’s audience was much larger than any country music journalist or publication, so her version of events is the one most people believe.

Alright, come back in two weeks because the episode on “Stand by Your Man” is definitely one of the best in this whole season and I know those of you who’ve been enjoying the intros this time around are gonna be real happy about all kinds of things.