Tammy Wynette was raised by her grandparents in Mississippi and taught herself how to play a range of musical instruments as a young girl. She married just before she turned 18, and worked odd jobs to support three children and her husband. But her real passion was music – so when she left Euple Byrd just before the birth of their third daughter, Tammy started to pursue a new career and eventually made it big in the country scene, writing songs which often seemed rooted in her tumultuous life.
How did Tammy Wynette die?
Tammy – whose real name was Virginia Wynette Pugh, died on April 6, 1988, aged 55.
The Stand By Your Man singer was reported to have died of a blood clot in her lung while sleeping on her sofa, after having suffered from ill health for many years.
More than 1,500 attended her memorial service, with Lee Ann Womack saying of the singer: “You knew she knew what she was singing about. You can put her records on and listen and learn so much."
However just a year after her death, a dispute broke out over how the country singer had really died.
Tammy had a hysterectomy shortly after the birth of her fourth daughter, Georgette, in 1970, which cause bowel blockages and intestinal pain.
She was reported to have had around 26 major operations to fix this and became addicted to painkillers.
The so-called First Lady of Country Music checked into the Betty Ford Clinic as an attempt to overcome this, but according to Georgette, this failed to work.
By the time of her death, Tammy’s pain was so bad she had to take food through intravenous tubes.
Georgette told The Independent: “Sometimes she would go for a couple of weeks without eating any solid food.
“But here is the kind of mother she was: one of those times, we were all visiting Tammy and when I got up there she was in the kitchen making this huge breakfast for us all, all our favourite things to eat, even though food made her feel nauseous.
“I told her, 'You don't have to do this', and she replied, 'I love doing this for you and I would be heartbroken if you told me to stop.'"
Following her death, her daughters filed a wrongful death suit against Tammy’s fifth husband and manager George Richey, her physician Dr Wallis Marsh, and pharmacy Care Solutions of Nashville.
In their lawsuit, they claimed Tammy was addicted to three different drugs at the time of her death – Dilaudid, methadone and Versed – and alleged these parcels of drugs were sent to her through extraordinary means.
Georgette said: “Obviously there was something wrong here. You don't have to use much imagination to see that shopping for drugs in these quantities at the pharmacy down the road would have raised the red flag to the drug enforcement agencies."
Tammy’s body was exhumed in 1999 for a further autopsy to confirm whether her death was as first thought or as a result of drugs, at her widower George’s request.
The coroner declared she died from cardiac arrhythmia, after which George was dropped from the lawsuit and a judge dismissed Care Solutions from proceedings.
The case was settled in 2002 between Tammy’s daughters and Dr Marsh for an undisclosed amount.
Tammy is buried at the Woodlawn Cross Mausoleum in Nashville, where many other country music stars are buried, including Porter Wagoner, a contemporary of Dolly Parton.
In 2012, Tammy’s name was removed from her tomb, with the name changed to her final married name, Virginia W Richardson.
A spokesperson for the funeral home said this was done at the request of her family, but it was later reported George Richey’s daughter had asked for the name change after his death in 2010.
After this, Tammy’s daughters launched a campaign to change the name back, with Georgette saying: “She worked very hard and long her whole life for that name.
"That's who she believed she was. That is who she was."
In 2014 the name was changed back to Tammy’s stage name.