You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Crystal Gayle on Building Her Music Career After Leaving Sister Loretta Lynn’s Label

With her self-titled debut album for United Artists Records in Nashville nearly 45 years ago, singer Crystal Gayle immediately established a winning sound that would take the 24-year-old younger sister of country music legend Loretta Lynn repeatedly to the top of the music charts. Hit records such as “Wrong Road Again,” “I’ll Get Over You,” “When I Dream,” “Half the Way,” “Talking in Your Sleep” and the ubiquitous jazz-flavored ballad “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” erased all shadows cast over her career by her big sister.

Gayle releases her first new album in 16 years this month, “You Don’t Know Me: Classic Country.” But she arrived in the pages of Variety 47 years ago, on Oct. 25, 1972, when rights org SESAC was celebrating one of the singles from her short-lived association with Decca Records.

You recorded for Decca, your sister’s label, and were produced by Owen Bradley, who also produced your sister’s classic records. Sounds like a lot of pressure straight out of the gate.

My first record, “I’ve Cried the Blues Right out of My Eyes,” was actually written by Loretta. She also wrote some other songs I recorded. That was a time when they leaned on having Loretta on the team helping me. They wanted me to do what she wanted. And I knew I was only there because I was her sister.

But it wasn’t really working. 

Starting in the business was fun. I got to work with Owen Bradley. I was scared every minute I was around him, but those were fun times.

Until it wasn’t.

Not when it’s clear you’re not going to be on the label. People tell you things, and then you see they’re not telling the truth. It was only a three-year contract that was put together by Loretta’s husband, Mooney. We ended that deal by mutual agreement. I was actually thinking about not pursuing a career.

That’s surprising to hear. Did being Loretta Lynn’s sister prepare you for the difficulties?

I grew up with my sister in the business. So I thought, “This is simple. You just go to Nashville and record songs, and you have hit records. I loved singing and I loved what I was doing, though I probably did more things because the agency wanted it than because I enjoyed it. My sister was more ambitious. I watched her work herself into the hospital, and I didn’t want that. I thought, “Nope, I’m not going to kill myself.”

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a country singing star?

I would have become the head of the FBI or something like that.

That’s quite an ambition!

I know it wouldn’t have been easy, being a woman. I probably would have started as a secretary. But I would have worked my way up to the top!

Thankfully for your fans, UA Records signed you, and you started making hit records with producer Allen Reynolds.

I loved Allen’s writing, and his songs fit my voice. He was someone I didn’t think I was going to find in Nashville. The first thing was, he always asked me if I liked the songs. He valued my opinion. And I’d sing, and he’d say, “Let’s try it another way.” He was very wise, and I knew right away that he knew what he was talking about. We worked in a way that was very refreshing compared to a lot of what goes on in Nashville.

Country music radio seemed to have more female voices when you were working at UA.

It’s different today. Men dominate it because it’s music designed for big stadiums. There’s no room for the pop or soft rock like there was in the ’70s. So that’s one of the reasons the women aren’t as big. The men have completely taken over. That’s what people think country music is, but that’s not all it is. I had just as many women fans, and if they don’t like you, they won’t go see you. And men won’t go to stadium concerts by themselves!

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • 'David Foster: Off the Record' Review:

    Toronto Film Review: 'David Foster: Off the Record'

    By the early 1970s, as the counterculture was dissolving and reconfiguring, there were new pop-star archetypes on the horizon that we still tend to think of — the glam rocker, the sensitive singer-songwriter, the hair-band metal strutter, the prog-rock wizard, the belting pop chanteuse, the punk rocker. But there was another figure of the era [...]

  • does self-described "family brands" business Hasbro

    With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

    Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Snoop Dogg Weed

    In the Cannabis Business, Not All Star Strains Are Created Equal

    With the cannabis green rush in full swing, many celebrities are jumping into the fray with their own brands, including such well-known stoners as Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong. But as it turns out, not all star strains are created equal, so we assembled a trio of crack experts to put the product [...]

  • The Cars - Ric OcasekThe Cars

    Ric Ocasek's Death Brings Turbo Boost to the Cars' Sales, Streams and Airplay

    For fans of the Cars, relistening to the band’s music was just what they needed in the hours and days following news of band leader Ric Ocasek’s death. The Cars was the artist with the second-highest overall album sales in the two days following Ocasek’s death, according to BuzzAngle Music, with the Sept. 15-16 long-dormant [...]

  • Richard Branson Jason Felts

    Kaaboo Festival Acquired by Virgin Fest Owner Jason Felts

    Kaaboo, which says it has “shifted the music festival paradigm by offering a highly amenitized festival experience for adults,” is now under new ownership. Virgin Fest founder and CEO Jason Felts (pictured above with Virgin founder Richard Branson) has fully acquired all of the festival brand assets through an affiliate of Virgin Fest, the music [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content