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Patty Loveless

 

Patty Loveless was born Jan. 4, 1957, in Pikeville, Ky., with the name Patricia Ramey. As a young girl, she listened to the Opry on a radio propped in the kitchen window and first saw live music when her father, a coal miner, took her to see Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs at the Polly Anna Drive-In. It wasn't long until the big-voiced child began singing -- in another room because she was too shy to look at her audience -- for company.

At 14, her traditional country roots led her to Nashville. She and brother Roger Ramey met with Porter Wagoner to show him her songs; Wagoner, though positive, told her to finish high school. At 16, she had a writing/singing stint with the Grand Ole Opry's Wilburn Brothers, which meant that she could hang around backstage at country music's shrine, learning from such greats as Wagoner and Dolly Parton. She signed with the Wilburns' publishing firm, Sure-Fire Music.

Loveless married Terry Lovelace, the Wilburns' drummer, in 1976, and after moving with him to Kings Mountain, N.C., they both played in various rock bands in the Charlotte area. Her father, who retired at 42 because of black lung disease, died in 1979. After a bout with alcoholism, Loveless moved to Nashville in 1985 to pursue a career in country music again. Although her marriage broke up that year, she kept her married name, changing the spelling slightly.

Her brother Roger, now her manager, helped her secure a singles deal with Tony Brown at MCA Records, and she cut her first album in 1987. Her first Top 10 hit was "If My Heart Had Windows," originally a hit for George Jones in 1967. Other hits followed, including "A Little Bit in Love," "Timber, I'm Falling in Love" and "Chains." The Opry inducted her in 1988, and she married husband/producer Emory Gordy Jr. in 1989.

She left MCA, dissolved her managerial relationship with her brother, and arrived at Epic Records in 1992. She immediately hit No. 1 with "Blame It on Your Heart" in 1993, from the album Only What I Feel. The heartbreaking "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye" entered the Top 10 in 1994. With the feisty "I Try to Think About Elvis," and the delicate "Here I Am" and "You Don't Even Know Who I Am," When Fallen Angels Fly was awarded the 1995 CMA album of the year -- only the second time a woman has won.

With that momentum, Loveless scored two No. 1 hits -- "You Can Feel Bad" and "Lonely Too Long" -- from 1996's The Trouble With the Truth. That year, she was voted the CMA female vocalist of the year and the Academy of Country Music's top female vocalist in 1996. A hard-core country duet with George Jones, "You Don't Seem to Miss Me," earned a 1998 CMA vocal collaboration award.

Loveless' frequent duets with Vince Gill have also earned her accolades. "My Kind of Woman, My Kind of Man" won the 1999 CMA vocal event of the year award and received a Grammy nomination. The song appears on Loveless' 1999 hits package Classics. In 2000, she released Strong Heart, but none of its singles reached the Top 10.

She took a break from commercial country music with the celebrated album Mountain Soul in 2001. Revisiting the Appalachian music of her youth, the album sparked a wave of critical acclaim and led to Loveless performing at numerous bluegrass festivals, joining the O Brother-inspired Down From the Mountain tour and co-hosting the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards. The Christmas album, Bluegrass & White Snow, followed in 2002.

Even without hit singles, Loveless was nominated for the CMA female vocalist in 2003, along with fellow traditionalists Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss and Terri Clark. She released On Your Way Home in 2003.