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Born Virginia Wynette Pugh on May 5, 1942, on a cotton farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi, she spent her youth picking cotton, working as a beautician, a waitress, and a shoe-factory employee before her rise to stardom.

Beginning in 1965 she began making regular trips to Nashville meeting producers and trying to attain a recording contract. In 1966, after months of rejections and on the brink of giving up, she made the daring decision to move to Nashville anyway. She had no job, no place to live, and three small children totally dependent on her.

She eventually auditioned for Epic records producer Billy Sherrill who signed her and changed her stage name to Tammy. Her first single, “Apartment #9,” was released within weeks, hitting the charts almost as soon as it hit the record racks. Her next 11 albums went to number one and within four short years, Tammy had won two Grammys and three CMA “Female Vocalist of the Year” awards.

From a naïve farm girl totally unfamiliar with the music business to one of the most recognizable voices in country music, she went on to sell more than 30 million records, grossing more than $100 million. Her recording of “Stand By Your Man” is still the biggest selling single in the history of country music. Her releases have made the number one position on the charts some 20 times and she was the first female Country artist to sell a million albums.

Take a listen to The First Lady of Country Music with “Stand By Your Man” performed live:

Other talented ladies who paved the way to make country music what it is today 👇