Patty Loveless signing a shirt at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in July 2004
|Birth name||Patty Lee Ramey|
|Born||January 4, 1957|
|Origin||Pikeville, Kentucky, USA|
|Years active||1973–1975; 1985–present|
|Labels||MCA, Epic, Saguaro Road|
|Associated acts||Vince Gill
Emory Gordy, Jr.
Since her emergence on the country music scene in late 1986 with her first (self-titled) album, Loveless has been one of the most popular female singers of the Neotraditional country movement, although she has also recorded albums in the Country pop and Bluegrass genres.
Loveless was born in Pikeville, Kentucky, and was raised in Elkhorn City, Kentucky and Louisville, Kentucky and rose to stardom thanks to her blend of honky tonk and country-rock, not to mention a plaintive, emotional ballad style. Her late-1980s records were generally quite popular, earning her comparisons to Patsy Cline, but most critics agreed that she truly came into her own as an artist in the early 1990s.
To date, Loveless has charted more than forty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including five Number Ones. In addition, she has recorded fourteen studio albums (not counting compilations); in the United States, four of these albums have been certified platinum, while two have been certified gold.
She has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1988. Loveless is also a distant cousin of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle. She has been married twice, first to Terry Lovelace (1976–1986), from whom her professional name "Loveless" is derived, and to Emory Gordy, Jr. (1989–present), who is also her producer.
Patty Lee Ramey was born the sixth of seven children to John and Naomie Ramey outside of Pikeville, Kentucky on 4 January 1957. Although born in Pikeville, the family lived in Elkhorn City, Kentucky where her father was a coal miner.
Patty Ramey's interest in music started when she was a young child. In 1969, when she was twelve, the Ramey family moved to Louisville, Kentucky in search of medical care for John Ramey, who was afflicted with "Black Lung Disease" (Coalworker's pneumoconiosis).
Her older sister, Dottie Ramey, was an aspiring country singer, and would perform frequently at small clubs in Eastern Kentucky, with her brother Roger Ramey, known as the "Swinging Rameys". Traveling with Dottie and Roger to Fort Knox in 1969, and hearing her sister perform on stage, Patty Ramey decided that she would like to become a performer as well.
When her sister Dottie married in 1969 and quit performing, Roger Ramey convinced Patty to perform onstage for the first time at a small country jamboree in Hodgenville,Ky. The forum consisted of foldout chairs in a small auditorium and was called the "Lincoln Jamboree". She was terrified at first, but with her brother performed several songs, however she loved the applause she received for her performance, and after the show she was paid five dollars, the first money she ever earned.
Patty Ramey joined her brother Roger and started singing together at several clubs in Louisville Kentucky, under the name "Singin' Swingin' Rameys". Loveless and her brother would perform in various clubs in the Louisville area. A local radio announcer, Danny King with a country radio station in Louisville was a supporter of the Ramey kids. Whenever there was an opportunity for them to appear on stage, he would call up the Rameys and try to get them a booking.
It was her brother Roger who initially took Patty Ramey to Nashville, Tennessee in 1971. Having grown up listening to the music of the Grand Ole Opry both in Pikeville, and then in Louisville, Roger had moved to Nashville in 1970 and became a producer with The Porter Wagoner Show.
When they arrived in Nashville, Roger went to Porter Wagoner's office without an appointment and managed to introduce his sister to Wagoner. Roger was able to convince Wagoner to listen to his sister sing, and she performed a song she wrote for their father, John, called "Sounds of Loneliness". To both Roger and Patty's surprise, Wagoner thumped his hand on his desk and said he was going to help her out. Wagoner introduced them to his singing partner at the time, Dolly Parton, and encouraged her to go back home and finish school, although he did invite her to travel with him and Dolly Parton on weekends during the summer.
In 1973 Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, the Wilburn Brothers, and Jean Shepard were scheduled to appear in a touring Grand Ole Opry show in Louisville Gardens. However, Jean Shepard was caught in a flood, and she wasn't able to make it in. Danny King, sensing an opportunity, gave the Rameys a call. Loveless and her brother Roger appeared in the show for about fifteen minutes on stage.
The Wilburn Brothers listened to Patty Ramey and after her performance asked her if she had ever sung professionally. She explained that she had worked with Porter Wagoner some and had traveled with him and Dolly Parton on weekends and during the summers. Doyle Wilburn asked if she wanted to come to Nashville and work with their band to replace their female singer, to which Patty Ramey agreed. Between 1973 and 1975 Patty Ramey traveled with the Wilburns on weekends and during the summers when school was out. Loveless's parents insisted that the Wilburns watch over her while on the road.
Doyle Wilburn was slowly grooming Ramey to replace Loretta Lynn as his lead female singer, he also held a music publishing contract on her with Sure-Fire music, his songwriting agency, as Wilburn realized that she was also a very talented songwriter. In addition, during the summer when the group wasn't on the road, Doyle Wilburn had Patty Ramey work at his various enterprises in Nashville, having her wait on tables in one of his restaurants and clerking at his Music Mart USA record store.
After graduation from High School in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1975 Patty Ramey became a full-time member of the Wilburn Brother's band as their lead female singer. About this time she met the Wilburn's new drummer, Terry Lovelace. Lovelace came from a small town in western North Carolina, Kings Mountain, and shared many things in common with Loveless. At first Patty kept her friendship and her growing relationship with Lovelace a secret from the Wilburns, however eventually Dolyle Wilburn learned about it and asked Patty to break it off. However, Ramey being the rebellious teenager instead quit the Wilburns and left with her boyfriend for western North Carolina. In early 1976, she married Terry Lovelace and began performing with him in a pickup-band based in Kings Mountain.
In North Carolina, Patty and her husband Terry played in a circuit of small bars and concert halls. She sang covers of late 70s rock songs, along with Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt tunes, with the occasional country song. (After her marriage, she adopted the professional name Patty Loveless, as not to draw any connection to porn actress Linda Lovelace .)
During this time of her life she also was distant from her family, as she had married without their consent. According to Loveless, "...I think my father thought I had lost my mind. This music is going to just ruin your life... it ruined your life... But it was a music that I learned from again... You wouldn't believe the people that would come to this club. They would get off from work, and they wouldn't go home. They'd come to this club and have a few beers, or ... dance.... I learned a lot about people and life in those places. I mean there was all walks of life... people who had hit the very bottom. And myself, there was times I felt myself becoming one of those people too. There was some hard times for us both, my ex-husband and I. And I think at the time, it caused us to be torn apart, and we lost respect for each other. And it got to the point that we didn't know each other..." A low point of her life was in August 1979, when her father, whom she idolized, died in Louisville while Loveless was in North Carolina.
The years in North Carolina were not successful for her, as the police started busting the clubs she would perform in and shut them down. When she wasn't performing she was working as a waitress at her mother-in-law's restaurant. By 1984, she was singing in a club and was singing country music for a change of the rock she would normally perform. There was a new generation of artists in Nashville, singers like Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris who were changing the traditions of country music.
According to Loveless, "...I learned so much about what to feel in a song from those years of playing those clubs. I was saddened sometimes because I thought 'I left Nashville, I left all that for this? What happened to me? What is wrong with me?' But I think what was happening was that I was beginning to find... me. Find who I really was. And what kind of person I was inside and out. I still believe to this day it happened the way it was supposed to happen."
In April 1985, Loveless felt her marriage to Terry Lovelace was ending (they eventually divorced amicably in 1986). She contacted her brother Roger to help her get back to Nashville. After being in the rock 'n' roll scene for so long she felt completely out of the country-music loop but wanted to sing country music again. Roger Ramey helped his sister cut a five-song demo tape, one of them being a rough cut of her self-penned song "I Did", which Loveless first wrote as a teenager, then later included on her first album. Roger Ramey then began to spread the word around about her talent. She and her brother disagreed about including "I Did" on the demo tape. Loveless didn't believe the song was good enough, but Roger argued that it would be what got her a contract. Once the demo was finished, Roger started trying to get her a recording contract with a major label in Nashville.
Roger Ramey sent the demo tape out to every major label in Nashville, and was met with a solid wall of rejection by them all. After a month of not getting anywhere, out of desperation to help his sister, he decided to take a chance with MCA Nashville. MCA, being the industry leader at the time was his first choice of labels. Taking a cassette of the five song demo of Loveless, Roger bluffed his way past the receptionist of Tony Brown, the head of A&R (Artist & Repertoire – in charge of finding and developing new talent) by pretending to be someone else who was late for an appointment.
As soon as they met, Roger told Brown him he had the "best girl singer to ever come to Nashville". Tony Brown said he'd give Roger 30 seconds to sell him, and he quickly played the tape of Patty singing "I Did". Brown listened to the entire five-song tape, and asked Roger to leave it with him so he could play it for some other execs and get back to him. Roger refused and told Brown that he wanted a commitment that day, and if he didn't want her on MCA, he knew another label that did.
With Roger Ramey waiting in his office, Brown took the tape to Jimmy Bowen, President of MCA Nashville at the time. Hearing the tape, Bowen wasn't impressed with Loveless, but told Brown to go ahead and sign her, but only to a short-term, singles-only recording contact.
Tony Brown brought in one of his top producers, Emory Gordy, Jr., to help develop Loveless for MCA. Together, they produced a series of songs for Loveless, and all of them were released to radio stations with varying degrees of success. MCA released her first single, "Lonely Days, Lonely Nights" on December 7, 1985, charting on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 8 weeks, reaching #46 on January 25, 1986.
Loveless' second single, "I Did", was released in April 1986. The song had gone out with releases from four other MCA singers, all of whom had album contracts. Shortly after its release, Roger Bowen asked Loveless to come into his office where he explained to her that he wanted to pull the song from radio because it was succeeding too well. "I have to be fair to the other artists". In return, he would give Loveless an album deal and she could release "I Did" as a single from her first album. This gave birth to the self-titled Patty Loveless album, being initially released on October 1, 1986 in a promotional form, with a full release on February 21, 1987. Several other singles, "Wicked Ways" and "After All", were released from that album, which again, did not do well on the charts but garnered sufficient airplay that Tony Brown decided to sign Loveless to a long-term recording contract.
It was her second album, If My Heart Had Windows, released on January 25, 1988, was the one that got Loveless noticed in the country music world. "If My Heart Had Windows" and a Steve Earle song, "A Little Bit in Love", both of which reached the country music top 10. Also, in 1988 Loveless was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, which put her firmly in Nashville to stay. The critics praised Loveless' first two albums, but they didn't sell all that well. On the road, Loveless was the opening act for the top MCA artists, such as George Jones, Reba McEntire and George Strait, which had people coming early to the shows to hear her sing. However, her concert popularity did not translate into album sales for her label.
For Loveless' third album Honky Tonk Angel, Tony Brown took over as sole producer. Brown used his shrewd commercial instincts by releasing a series of upbeat, up-tempo singles from the album, one after another. With five tracks from the album charting in the Billboard Top Ten Country Singles, including two at #1, it served as the breakthrough album for Loveless. The album itself was Loveless' highest charting at #7 on the Country Albums category. The two #1 singles were "Chains" and "Timber, I'm Falling In Love". Loveless also did a cover of the Lone Justice song, "Don't Toss Us Away", which featured Rodney Crowell on backing vocals. The song charted at #5. Famed songwriter Kostas had a major role by writing three of the album's tunes, including "Timber, I'm Falling in Love" and "The Lonely Side of Love", which peaked at #6.
In February, 1989 Loveless and her producer, Emory Gordy, Jr. secretly married in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. For a year and a half afterward, they publicly hid the fact that they were married, in large part because Loveless didn't want to hurt her former husband, Terry Lovelace, who still loved his former wife and hoped to rejoin her.
While at MCA, Loveless released two more albums, On Down the Line in 1990 and Up Against My Heart in 1991, scoring hits with songs such as "I'm That Kind of Girl"; "Hurt Me Bad (In a Real Good Way)", and "Jealous Bone". She toured endlessly and performed on television frequently.
Although MCA had given her stardom, there was the belief (rightly or wrongly) that the record label did not promote her albums well. Both Loveless and her husband believed that her career was just not taking off the way they believed it would if she had the same level of promotion as Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna. Changes in her band, also replacing her brother Roger as her manager did not improve matters. The fact remained that the other female singers on MCA were selling millions of records, while Loveless, with a gold record for Honky Tonk Angel, sold less than half of that with her two follow-up albums.
Larry Fitzgerald, her new manager believed a major change was in order. At the end of 1992, Fitzgerald met with Tony Brown to try to get Loveless out of her MCA contract. He worked out an agreement with MCA that Loveless could leave the label, but retained an option to record with other MCA artists on the MCA Label. Quickly, Fitzgerald arranged a meeting with Roy Wunsch, the head of Sony Nashville. Their Epic label was looking for a "name" female singer and worked out a contract for Loveless to record for Sony under their Epic label.
With the new recording contract, Loveless headed into the recording studio to record new material for Epic. In the studio, her producer (Gordy) noticed that her voice was not as strong as it had been when she last recorded two years previously. The fact was that beginning as far back as 1990, Loveless felt some pain in her throat when singing, and when she saw a doctor, he noticed a red spot on her vocal cords. By 1992, Loveless was on a regimen of steroid tablets and cortisone to prop up her voice.
Despite the voice problem, Loveless had booked a fall 1992 tour. Also she had been invited to appear on a CBS television special about "Women In Country". The day before leaving on the tour she asked her manager to accompany her to her throat doctor's office. In the office, her doctor compared her 1990 results versus what he saw during the exam. Her vocal cords had developed an enlarged blood vessel that looked like a varicose vein. The juxtaposition was dramatic. If not treated, it could end her career and there was no guarantee that surgery could correct the problem.
Although Loveless went ahead and sang in the television special, her manager canceled all of her tour dates for the rest of 1992. On October 21, Loveless had corrective throat surgery. For the next nine weeks, she could not sing or talk. Her husband, in order to communicate with her, attempted to teach Loveless Morse Code, as well as using pen and paper with yellow Post-It notes. After this her interest in Amateur Radio developed and she was eventually licensed with the callsign KD4WUJ, although her license currently shows as canceled.
On her 36th birthday, January 4, 1993, Loveless re-entered her professional life by performing at the Grand Ole Opry. She was fully recovered, although her voice was changed by the surgery. It had a deeper, fuller quality which enhanced her career over the following years.
Going back to work in the studio, Loveless and Gordy re-recorded all the material they had worked on the previous fall. The changed voice was stronger than what it was previously and a different Patty Loveless recorded her first album for Epic, Only What I Feel. The album was released in April and was promoted strongly and heavily by Epic. Loveless' #1 single "Blame It On Your Heart" firmly put her back into the spotlight. The release of Only What I Feel gave Loveless two CMA nominations for Single of the Year and Video of the Year for "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye". Some critics said that this album with Epic was her personal best.
Perhaps her crowning achievement was that album's follow-up, When Fallen Angels Fly. It won the Country Music Association's Album of the Year award and gave her four Top 10 singles. She followed it up with The Trouble with the Truth in 1996 which gave her Female Vocalist of the Year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
Although she continued to record for Epic throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, her commercial momentum slowed down, as neotraditionalist artists like Loveless were eclipsed on country radio by flashier, trendier young performers like Shania Twain and Faith Hill; none of the singles released from her 1997 album Long Stretch of Lonesome or 2000's Strong Heart reached the top ten. (The albums themselves continued to do well, however, with Long Stretch reaching # 9, and Strong Heart peaking at #13 on the country albums charts.)
In an effort to control her own destiny, rather than be controlled by country radio, Loveless made an abrupt move away from commercial, country/pop and made a stone-cold bluegrass album in 2001. Mountain Soul was released to numerous critical accolades and sold decently despite a lack of radio support. She used the same bluegrass approach on a Christmas album, Bluegrass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas, in 2002. On Your Way Home, a return to more commercial oriented country, was released in 2003 to critical acclaim. Though she has not scored a top-forty country single since "On Your Way Home" reached # 29 in 2004, Loveless' albums still do well, usually charting in the country albums top forty, despite the fact that she no longer has the support of mainstream country radio or a major label.
In 2005 she released Dreamin' My Dreams. While critical reception was good, it did not fare well commercially. The album debuted and peaked at number 29 on Billboard's country album chart while no song from the album made the singles chart. This was the last album Loveless recorded for Epic Records before the label closed its Nashville division in 2005 and released Loveless from her recording contract.
After her release from Sony Nashville, in 2006 Loveless sang a duet with Bob Seger on his Face the Promise album, also collaborating with Solomon Burke on his Nashville album and performing a duet, "Out Of My Mind", with Vince Gill on his album These Days. This was their first recorded duet since "My Kind of Woman, My Kind of Man", which they recorded in 1998.
She took a two-year sabbatical from touring in 2006 and 2007 to heal from the loss of her mother & mother-in-law and enjoy home life with husband Emory Gordy, Jr., though she & Gordy performed several times at the Grand Ole Opry and did a couple of guest appearances at other shows.
Returning to the studio in 2008, Loveless appeared on a track on George Strait's Troubadour album, as well as a track on Jimmy Wayne's Do You Believe Me Now. Later in 2008, Loveless signed a recording contract with Saguaro Road Records., and recorded a Tribute album, Sleepless Nights, which was released on September 9. Sleepless Nights received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Album.
Patty's second recording for Saguaro Road, Mountain Soul II, was released on September 29, 2009. Mountain Soul was originally released in 2001 by Epic.
Loveless resumed touring in September 2008, and continued touring through 2010, though breaking from touring in 2011.
Kentucky Music Hall of Fame
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