Husband Oliver Inspired Loretta Lynn But Their Marriage Was A Painful One


The love affair between the late Loretta Lynn and her late husband was as famous as it was infamous, as inspiring as it was despairing. The couple wed in 1948 and stayed together until his death in 1996. Despite spending almost five decades as husband and wife, they did not have a happy marriage, and Lynn opened up about Oliver’s true nature in her 2002 memoir, Still Woman Enough. Here’s what happened behind the curtains.

Oliver Lynn is commonly nicknamed Doolittle, or simply Doo or Mooney, and was born on August 27, 1926, in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. She was a teenage daughter of a coal miner and he was a moonshine runner six years her senior when they met at a pie social. Oliver bought the country legend her first guitar and got her music on local radio stations, laying down crucial foundation for her music career. Just what were the ups and downs that defined this marriage?


The marriage of Oliver and Loretta Lynn started out defined by certain themes

Still Woman Enough, a memoir / Amazon

Loretta got married when she was all of 15 years old and Oliver was 21. Loretta even called herself “just a kid” in her memoir, Coal Miner’s Daughter. Oliver gave her a doll while they were dating and would later tell her, “I raised you the way I wanted you to be.” He also got Loretta her first guitar and served as her talent manager to spread her name.


RELATED: Meet The Late Loretta Lynn’s Six Children

“He thought I was something special,” said Lynn in Still Woman Enough, “more special than anyone else in the world, and never let me forget it. That belief would be hard to shove out the door. Doo was my security, my safety net.” She went so far as to assert, “If it wasn’t for Doolittle, there would be no career,” adding, “I wouldn’t have started singing in the first place, and I wouldn’t have had the inspiration for some of my best songs, in the second place. And I never could have run my business. So in a real sense, Doolittle is responsible for everything we got.”

Though, Loretta stipulated, “I’m explainin’, not excusin’,” because Oliver also ended up the cause of a lot of grief, beyond the problems already inherent in the nature of their relationship when Loretta was so young.

Loretta Lynn opened up about the full nature of her troubled marriage

Loretta Lynn explored her marriage to Oliver in Coal Miner’s Daughter / Amazon

“Doo was a good man and a hard worker,” Loretta wrote of Oliver. “But he was an alcoholic, and it affected our marriage all the way through. He was also a womanizer.” Even here, Oliver ended up inspiring her, albeit in the opposite way; she channeled this grief and betrayal into works like “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Fist City,” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).”

Loretta Lynn, singing, circa 1980s / Everett Collection

The couple started a family when Loretta herself was still young. Even Loretta’s children saw the toll Oliver’s practices had on the singer. “She lived a lonely life, a lonely life and so did Dad,” said her daughter Cissie. Home was not a safe haven for Loretta, who dreaded having to deal with the fallout of Oliver’s drinking.

LORETTA LYNN AND FRIENDS, from left: Tanya Tucker, Dooey Lynn (husband), Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, presenting her with a cake, (aired January 12, 1995. ph: Jim Hagans / ©TNN / courtesy Everett Collection

Loretta was acutely aware of the reactions people have when hearing about doomed, fighting couples who have to split for their own wellbeing. Her memoir acts as the story of one who did stay. For Loretta, it was a pragmatic choice. “I didn’t need him, but he was my kids’ daddy,” she explained.

However, Loretta shared, “He never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice.”

Loretta and Oliver / YouTube screenshot

RELATED: Loretta Lynn Recalled Wearing Flour-Sack Dress To Christmas Mass As A Child

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