THE READING ROOM: Loretta Lynn Recounts Support and Sass from Her Friend Patsy Cline
Loretta Lynn says she feels like Patsy Cline is watching over her sometimes, especially when life gets hard or when she feels like she’s ready to give up and lose sight of the many blessings she’s been given in life. In her new memoir, Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline (out April 7 via Grand Central), Lynn tells the story of playing in a club in Las Vegas after Cline’s death. “It was time for me to be going out onstage. My knees started shaking like they used to back when I first started out. My band started up a song I was supposed to walk out to, but the music sounded far away and too loud all at the same time. I was about to turn tail and run when all of a sudden I looked into the audience and there she was. It was Patsy! She was up there in the corner, smiling that half smile of hers, holding a lit cigarette. She nodded at me and I could hear her say, ‘Go on now, Little Gal. You’ve got this.’”
Lynn and Cline were as close as sisters from the time Lynn arrived in Nashville in 1961 until Cline’s death on March 5, 1963. At the time of Cline’s death, though, Lynn’s career was taking off: “I had a manager, a publishing contract, a record deal with Decca, and I was a member of the Grand Ole Opry,” she writes, but most of all, “I learned that Patsy believed in me, so I should believe in me, too.” Cline’s unwavering support for Lynn is a thread that runs through Lynn’s sparkling memoir. Plenty of times Lynn lacked self-confidence until Cline showed up to restore it.
One of those events involves the “Cadillac bitches.” Lynn writes that when she first became successful she knew people were talking behind her back, making fun of her, calling her hillbilly, and even saying that the only reason she’d been asked to be a member of the Opry was that she’d slept with someone. One day, Cline told Lynn that some women had invited her to a “Loretta bitch meeting.” At first, Lynn was hurt at the thought that Cline would go to such a meeting and betray their friendship. However, Cline calls up Lynn and says, “Don’t you worry, Little Gal, you and me are both going to that meeting; that will shut their asses up.” When they pull up to the house in Madison, the street is lined with Cadillacs. As they walk through the door, Cline looks around and says, “Hey, everybody! Y’all know my friend, Loretta?” Lynn says that the women greeted her like an old friend after that. “I can’t tell you what that meant to me,” Lynn writes; “nobody ever had my back for no other reason than just they loved me. Whatever happened from then on, I’d have done anything for her.”
Lynn and Cline were best friends, but Lynn also wants us to remember Cline, too, for the lessons she taught Lynn about the music business. “Nobody can tell you who you are. Ain’t nobody can be you but you. Work hard and stay true to yourself. That’s it, pure and simple.”
Lynn tells a cracking good story, and she’s affectionate and candid. She regales us on every page of this memoir with hilarious stories about her and Cline, as well as about Lynn and her husband, Doo. More than just a memoir, though, this is Lynn’s tribute to a dear friend and a chance for her to introduce some sides of Patsy Cline that the world might not know. In Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline, Lynn laughs a lot, she cries a lot, and she gets angry some, too, but, most of all, she celebrates her best friend and all Cline taught her. Lynn says that if readers take away one thing from the book it’s that “I hope they have a friend like I had; if they don’t have one, they need to get a friend like the one I had in Patsy.”