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‘The place was packed’: A look at the late Loretta Lynn’s local gigs and legacy

Oct. 4, 2022 Updated Wed., Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:36 a.m.

Loretta Lynn, performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 20, 1972, died Wednesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.  (New York Times)
Loretta Lynn, performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 20, 1972, died Wednesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. (New York Times)

The Coal Miner’s Daughter was apparently comfortable in Spokane.

Loretta Lynn, the Queen of Country music, died Tuesday at her Tennessee home. Lynn, who was 90, performed on at least eight occasions in the Lilac City and at least once in the Idaho Panhandle.

Considering she and her late husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, spent the early years of their marriage in the Western Washington community of Custer, between Bellingham and Blaine, it’s not surprising she’d feel somewhat at home in the Northwest.

Lynn sang at the Coliseum in February 1973, April 1974 and October 1988. The charming icon played the Spokane Opera House in February 1977 , September 1981 August 1982 and July 1986. In 1995, she was in the lineup of the Festival at Sandpoint. Her final Spokane appearance was before a sold-out Northern Quest Resort and Casino in 2012.

The local reviews were mixed over the years, but when Lynn was on, critics gushed. The Spokesman-Review’s Don Adair was captivated by Lynn after experiencing her 1981 show at the Opera House. “She radiated a charismatic strength that carries its roots in something deeper than success. She is a survivor and more. She is an artist whose personal vision has been quickened by the struggle to always go forward. Because she writes her own songs, and because in each of them is, as she says, a little piece of her, we’re given parts of a puzzle that come together with a surprising depth.”

Lorrie McLaughlin, who worked at the Coliseum in the 1970s, recalls experiencing Lynn there in 1974. “Loretta Lynn was excellent,” McLaughlin said. “I remember her wearing one of those long dresses and the place was packed. We all know how Spokane loves country.”

Country sensation Walker Hayes, who will headline the Spokane Arena on Nov. 10, flashed back to childhood upon hearing of Lynn’s death. “I remember my parents making me watch ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ ” Hayes said by phone from Nashville. “I remember saying, ‘I don’t want to see it.’ But I loved it. It’s an amazing story. It was her story. The funny thing is that what is covered in that movie, the visits to the radio station and the live performance, it’s really not that different all these years later. Loretta Lynn was a great one.”

The three-time Grammy winner was the most awarded female country recording artist. Lynn had 24 songs that topped the country charts and 11 No. 1 albums. Lynn ended 57 years of touring after she suffered a stroke in 2017 and broke her hip in 2018.

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