Country music star Crystal Gayle coming to Fort Hall Oct. 13
One of country music’s legendary pioneers will be performing at Fort Hall’s Shoshone-Bannock Events Center on Oct. 13. Grand Ole Opry inductee, Grammy Award winner, two-time Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, first American Country Music Artist to perform in China, “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue,” and her signature floor-length hair are just a few of Crystal Gayle’s honors and claims to fame.
Because Gayle’s career, life and musical style were so different from her illustrious country-singing sister, Loretta Lynn, it’s sometimes hard to remember that they were both “Coal Miner’s Daughters” who rose from the same humble circumstances. Born the youngest of eight children in small-town Paintsville, Kentucky, in 1951, Crystal, named Brenda Gail Webb, was only about 8 years when her father died of the black lung disease which affected many coal miners.
“We never thought of ourselves as being poor,” said Gayle said in an interview with UK Living Live. “My mother said she always had food on the table and a roof over her head, so I never felt like anything was really wrong. I don’t look back on my childhood as being poor.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gayle said her father’s death affected her immensely. She said she is shy and introverted like her father and that after his death, she internalized the pain and “went into a shell.” When she developed nervous habits such as wringing her hands, her mother took her to a stern German doctor who commanded that she stop the habit immediately which finally snapped her out of her spiraling grief.
In an email, Darrell Beatty, of Gayle Enterprises, Inc., stated that after Crystal’s father died, her mother, Clara Webb Butcher, worked hard to continue to put food on the table for the family. Among other jobs, Clara worked the midnight shift at a nursing home.
“Being a strong-willed woman from the hills of Kentucky provided (Clara) with the skills, wisdom, and strength to provide for her family,” Beatty said, “all the while showing a young Crystal how to be a strong, independent woman while still being a lady.”
According to Beatty, both of Crystal’s parents descend from Cherokee ancestry. Though not registered with a tribe, Crystal is very proud of her Native American heritage for which she was honored by being inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2001.
Music surrounded the young children of the Webb home.
“In the hills of Kentucky, music was a way of life,” explained Beatty.
Crystal’s mother sang and played the banjo and all of Crystal’s siblings learned to play instruments and sing.
Beatty added that Crystal “mentioned many times that her mother said Crystal could sing before she could talk.”
Crystal’s professional singing career began in her early youth doing summer tours with Loretta. When she graduated from high school, Crystal signed with Loretta’s label at Decca Records, but because they had already signed another singer named Brenda (Brenda Lee — “I’m Sorry”), she needed a new stage name, which was eventually given to her by Loretta. Upon inducting Crystal into the Grand Ole Opry, Loretta laughed as she admitted, “You were named after a chandelier.” Loretta had been looking at a crystal chandelier and thought how “bright and shiny” it was and decided it was the perfect name for her sister. At first, Crystal didn’t like the name, but said, “I got over it. It’s my name now.”
For nearly 50 years, Gayle has helped pioneer the bridge between grassroots country and pop music, which influenced the direction of today’s country sound. According to Beatty, Crystal did not hesitate to just record songs she felt were wonderful, without worrying about being “too country” or “too pop” which opened up her appeal to many audiences across the world. Because of her innovative style, she added her name to the list of legendary artists like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn who have received the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award.
Crystal said Loretta encouraged her to do something different from Loretta’s “honky-tonk” style because she didn’t want Crystal to be compared to her. Crystal’s new cross-over sound was sometimes labeled “slick country.” To Rolling Stone, Gayle stated that what they considered “slick” back then sounds more “country than anything being played (on country radio) now.”
Though Gayle has seen many changes in the sound and themes over the years in country music, she laughed as she told UK Living, “You know, they are really just looking for the hit song. I don’t think they are very worried about the idea. If it’s going to be No. 1, they don’t really care what it says.”
Crystal added that she has never known whether her songs are going to be a big hit or not, except in one case. “I knew when I recorded, ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,’ that it was a very special song. I wanted it to be my very first song out there and I knew that if I didn’t record it, someone was going to take it from my album. I finally talked the record company into it and I’m glad I did.”
For all those who have coveted Crystal’s floor-length tresses, in an interview with TV talk show hosts Crooks and Chase, Crystal said that it does have its drawbacks. She often gets it shut in doors or caught on buttons. When asked if she had ever cut it, she said she cuts it all the time because it grows over a foot per year.
Crystal and her husband Bill Gatzimos have been married for over 45 years. Crystal’s husband earned degrees in psychology and a doctorate of law. He has worked as Gayle’s manager and is the president of Gayle Enterprises. The couple has two children.
Crystal will be joining another country legend, Lee Greenwood, writer of “God Bless the USA,” for the Oct. 13 performance, which starts at 7 pm. Ticket prices range from $39 to $59.