The Truth About Loretta Lynn's Relationship With Her Husband Doolittle

Throughout the history of country music, several women have been equally important to the genre as the men who pioneered it. Country music wouldn't be what it is today without the profound influence of the likes of Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn. As History notes, Loretta (born Loretta Webb) expanded the opportunities for women in the genre, singing about her hardscrabble life in Kentucky.

As was not atypical for women in her day –- particularly Appalachian women -– Loretta married young, tying the knot with Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn. According to Lynn's autobiography, "The Coalminer's Daughter" she was only 13 when she got married, but an Associated Press reporter later uncovered her birth certificate and it put her nearer to 16 when she wed her husband in 1948, according to Rolling Stone, while "Doo" was six years her senior, per USA Today. Regardless, Loretta and Doolittle's marriage was a mixed bag: Doolittle was a philandering abuser, but he could also be loving and supportive, as described by Biography. Other than a brief separation early in their marriage, she stood beside him until his death in 1996.

Loretta Lynn didn't brook Doolittle's philandering

The fact that Doolittle Lynn wasn't prepared for married life became apparent a few months after he and Loretta got hitched. As Biography notes, he brought her home to her parents while she was quite pregnant — because he wanted to chase skirts. However, they later reconciled, and Loretta's patience for her husband's philandering ways came to a quick end. Indeed, her song "Fist City" was inspired by a woman who was "making eyes" at her husband while she was singing. "I let her know she was gonna get a mouthful of knuckles if she kept it up," she said in her book, "Coal Miner's Daughter."

Despite Loretta's threats to other women, Doolittle's philandering did not come to an end. According to Biography, he would oft cheat on her while she was on the road, going so far as to invite other women into their home. "I put up with it because of six kids," she said, via CBS News.

For whatever it's worth, Doo's infidelity, and other character traits, provided plenty of fodder for Loretta's songs. She once noted that Doo was in every song she wrote, though he never knew which line was about him.

There was toxic violence in Loretta and Doo's marriage

As toxic as Doolittle's philandering was to their relationship, there was also the matter that Doo had a fondness for the bottle. So fed up was Loretta with Doolittle's alcohol abuse that at times she thought she'd rather be anywhere else. As she told Nashville Scene in 2000, "There was a lot of times I'd have rather not come home. And if it hadn't have been for my babies I wouldn't have," she said.

Along with Doo's alcoholism came domestic abuse. Loretta was candid that Doolittle hit her often. On one occasion, for example, he became enraged over his dinner being late. However, whatever he gave, he got back twofold. "Every time Doo smacked me, he got smacked twice," she said. And on one occasion, the violence in their home turned into something of a joke between them: Loretta hit Doolittle so hard that she heard his teeth hitting the floor, and feared there would be hell to pay. Instead, according to Country Thang Daily, he just laughed it off and went without two teeth for a while, only replacing them when Loretta started making money.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Doolittle was the driving force behind Loretta's career

Despite the toxicity in their marriage, it was also based on love and mutual support. Indeed, Loretta has been clear that, had it not been for Doolittle, who bought the country legend her first guitar and practically forced her onto the stage, there would have been no groundbreaking country music career for the Kentucky-born woman. "I could never have done it on my own. Whatever else our marriage was back in them days ... without Doo and his drive to get a better life, there would have been no Loretta Lynn, country singer," she said, via CBS News.

Loretta and Doo spent a few months of their marriage traveling around the country, trying valiantly to get radio stations to play her song, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." She called that period of their marriage some of the best times of her life, despite the pair being so broke they had to sleep out of their car. Indeed, in one touching moment, via Country Thang Daily, Doolittle provided doughnuts the morning she debuted at the Grand Ole Opry. "I woke up and seen the Grand Ole Opry. We didn't have any money, but he went and got us doughnuts," she said.

Loretta was devastated when Doolittle died

Loretta's career was still going strong in the early 1990s, according to Biography, but it came to a screeching halt when Doolittle's health problems took a turn for the worse, and she put her schedule on hold to care for him. In 1996, Doo died of complications of diabetes and heart failure, according to Country Thang Daily. "I sang [one of my songs] to him when he was dying," Loretta said.

The loss of Doolittle had a profound impact on the country star, at the time in her middle 60s. Even 12-years later, Doolittle and Loretta's daughter Patsy Lynn told Rolling Stone that her mother was basically in a fog. "I don't think she has totally accepted my dad's loss. It's almost like he's gone on a long vacation or something," she said. Similarly, seven years after that, in 2011, she admitted to Timeout that what her daughter had said was true: she still hadn't moved on from Doolittle's death. "Yeah, I think I see him everywhere I'm at, and everything at home and everywhere I'm goin'," she said of Doo.