After just a handful of numbers by the night’s backing band, a few of which featured dueting twins Patsy and Peggy Lynn, the sisters introduced their family matriarch, the Queen of Country, Loretta Lynn.
Loretta promenaded onto the stage in a long-sleeve ball gown so sequined that all of my friend’s photographs returned Heavenly white silhouettes of reflected light. Looking every bit as immaculate as one would expect of such an icon, untouchably pristine, Loretta and the band comfortably strolled their way through classic hits including “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, the taboo-smashing “The Pill”, “You’re Lookin’ at Country”, “Blue-Eyed Kentucky Girl”, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore”.
Despite the porcelain restrictiveness of Loretta’s dress, she needed a moment to rest on a stool onstage and to clear her runny nose (it must have been our northern climate). Her band took over a few more songs, with her granddaughter Tayla Lynn joining to perform “Mrs. Leroy Brown”. Tayla’s pizazz seemed out of place with the rest of the show; even the seated Loretta could be seen (lovingly) rolling her eyes and waving dismissive gestures in Tayla’s direction. At the end of the song, Tayla’s toddler son ran onto the stage, bringing four generations of the Lynn family tree to the night.
Maybe it’s just the way they rib each other down in Butcher Holler, but rolling her eyes and waving off Tayla weren’t the only jabs Loretta threw: Her remarks to her band became less and less passive, with “I’m going to fall asleep at my own show!” after a slow number immediately prompting the feisty “Fist City”, played as quickly as I imagine Loretta throwing fisticuffs in her 1968 number one hit. But overall, the banter was charming – remarkable how quickly and casually everyone served insults back and forth.
Vancouver holds a very special place in Loretta’s heart, and she made sure the audience knew why. As she recounted in several stories throughout the night, it was in our very city where the pioneering country legend signed her first contract. The imprint: Zero Records, initially founded with the sole purpose of signing Lynn. Her first studio album, Loretta Lynn Sings, followed on Decca Records three years later in 1963.
Loretta’s current tour celebrates fifty years in the music business, a milestone that likely explains why she has ventured out of the South for the first time I can remember. The occasion also likely explains why the family came along, except for her son, who was “probably drunk”, Loretta said when pondering his absence. It’d been ten years since she last came to Vancouver, and although Coquitlam lies a bit outside of Vancouver’s boundaries, The Red Robinson Show Theatre, which adjoins The Boulevard Casino, provided just the right amount of glitz befitting an icon such as Lynn. Coquitlam may not be Hurricane Mills or Butcher Holler, but for one night only, to Lynn, it was home.