Country legend Tammy Wynette is synonymous with songs about heartbreak. But her woes sometimes came from places other than her love life. On a list of odd and unfortunate circumstances she faced, there’s a note that her tour bus once “went up in flames.”
According to a witness on the scene, one part of the singer’s collection took priority over the others during that event. And that was because of how important those items were to the star and her live shows.
Tammy Wynette helped create a space for women in country music
Having finalized her first divorce before she was 23, Wynette was a mother of three young daughters by the time she arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, with hopes for a music career. Her third daughter developed spinal meningitis, and she worked as a hairdresser to pay bills before inevitably landing a record deal in the ’60s.
In 1969, Wynette released “Greatest Hits Volume 1,” and Rolling Stone reported it was the first album by a female country artist to go gold, according to the standards of the Recording Industry Association of America (via Country Living). Importantly, Wynette was also one of the first touring artists to incorporate elaborate costume changes into her live performances.
Tammy Wynette’s costume and wig collection got priority when her bus went up in flames
In Erin Duvall’s book Country Music Hair, Wynette’s one-time hairstylist, Nanette England, revealed that the “Stand By Your Man” singer preferred wearing wigs to styling her natural hair for performing (American Songwriter). So, she kept more than a dozen to style and go as needed.
Wynette was well known for wearing hairdos that were “jacked to Jesus,” as was customary at the time. But England revealed her “baby fine” hair was hard to work with as a stylist, which Wynette likely could have understood since she was one herself. So, her wigs made things go faster and were an essential part of her wardrobe to achieve her chic country style.
And when Wynette’s tour bus “went up in flames,” England said that’s what got priority. She recalled, “I was like, ‘OK, get under that bus and get the wigs and costumes out.’”
She said she “was directing traffic” to ensure those vital items were secure.
Tammy Wynette’s bus fire was on a list of unfortunate events she experienced in her life
Notably, Wynette’s bus fire goes on a relatively long list of unfortunate events the singer faced — including break-ins and a rash of fires at her home, not to mention an unsolved abduction that left her face injured and bruised (The Washington Post).
As far as her personal life, Wynette once said she lived her songs. Having been married five times and divorced four, she thought her fans could connect to her because she connected back.
She experienced a long list of medical ailments in the last decades of her life, including infection and inflammation of the bile duct, which sometimes required surgery or hospitalization. Eventually, she became reliant on painkillers, contributing to her death at 55 in 1998.
Oddly, the fires connected to her didn’t end then. In 2009, a blaze destroyed a home she once stayed in after her divorce from George Jones (per Nashville’s WTVF via The Boot).
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