Tammy Wynette's Daughter on Pain, Redemption and a Faked Kidnapping
By Nicki Gostin Posted Jul 6th 2011 07:38PM
'The Three of Us: Growing Up With Tammy and George,' and reflects on mom's "con man" of a fifth husband, who she believes abused Tammy and concocted a still-murky kidnapping story in 1978 to account for bruises on the star.
How did this book come about?
I had recently read a book about my mom and put it down by page 90 because I was so upset by the things that were being written and I couldn't read anymore. It became more and more important for me to tell what my parents were really like. That book made my mom look the absolute opposite of what I knew my mom to have been like. So many people have told me stories how she helped them, how kind she was the book made her look very manipulative and devious and ready to step on anyone to get where she wanted and that wasn't the case. And there are lots of stories about my dad and most of them have been very negative. I didn't want people to think of this man as just an outlaw figure who partied and round around crazy. I wanted people to know the person I'd finally gotten to know. He's a very loyal friend and very generous, a good person. I wanted people to see that. I felt like it wasn't out there.
You didn't see your dad much when you were growing up.
My parents divorced when I was four and for the next ten years I would see my dad maybe two or three times a year for my birthday or Christmas. He would come over to my mom's house for like an hour. I started to try visiting him when I was 14 but I think at that point in my life and his too, me being a teen and him trying to do things with his career and manage the turmoil in his life, he was still drinking and had problems of his own that he was trying to shelter me from, neither of us really knew how to communicate and tell each other our concerns. Our way of handling it was to avoid it and each other.
When did things start to turn around in your relationship with him?
I got to a point where I completely shut him out. I got tired of trying to call and feeling rejected. The more I learned about my dad and the more I started spending time with him I realized this is a man who had been hurt so many times by his family and close friends. I think he had just built up a wall against everyone. He really was scared to let anyone it. I finally got to a point where I had to accept his past and accept who he was and find a way to get past it.
I went for a while not speaking to my dad and then my mom passed away and he came to the house. He was there for me. My step-father at the time didn't do anything. My dad and step-mom went with me and my sisters to the funeral home, not to make decisions but to be there for me, for support. It meant so much to me that he was there when I needed him the most. I thought at that point I'd have to try again if he was trying and I'm really glad that we did because things have improved a lot.
Your mother was a complicated figure.
People want to portray her as very fragile, very sick and sad person. For me growing up my mom was so spunky and full of life and happiness for a very long time. It wasn't until my teenage years that I started seeing that charge. I certainly don't think the majority of her life was tragic by any means. She did have some terrible things happen in her life, she dealt with some things wonderfully and terribly in others but so do I and so does most everyone.
Do you think your step-father Richey was responsible for your mother's death?
In my personal opinion, I have no legal evidence, I do think he was indirectly responsible for my mom's death. That's my personal opinion. We found out so many things after my mom died. I wish I didn't know those things. It's painful to think that my mom lived the kind of life she lived and we didn't understand some of it. We knew we had to be nice to Richey. If we didn't act nice towards him then he would prevent us from talking to mom. He was very manipulative and devious and tried very hard to separate mom from her family and friends so he could be the only person she could turn to. I think she felt like she had no choice and it was too difficult to fight and had become more dependent on pain medication. There were times my sisters and I reached out and said you can always come stay with us. She liked to put up a big front as if she was very strong. There would be very few times where should would break down and be vulnerable and tell us what was going on. It's hard for me to look back at those things at times because it makes me very angry.
You tried to do an intervention.
Mom grew up in an age where you didn't ask your doctor questions. She really did have pain and surgeries so she thought 'I'm having pain, the doctors are giving me pain medication, it's ok.' The one time we tried to do an intervention my step-father called us to come confront my mother when she came back from a tour. So we all came and a church pastor and counselor. When my mom came in off the tour bus and asked us what we were doing there the counselor tried to explain that we were all there for her because we loved her and were concerned about her. And Richey said immediately, 'I can't believe you girls would do this to your mom when she comes off the road, I can't be a part of this,' and he walked out and left as if it was not his idea. People would say how could he get in between you and your mom, what they don't understand was how good he was at being a con man and manipulate a situation.
Was it an abusive relationship?
If nothing else it was an emotionally abusive relationship. Also there are some people who witnessed mom saying she didn't want any pain medication, to not give her anymore and Richey would continue to inject her anyway and there were times when she did want it because she was in pain and refused to give it to her. She did admit to my sister that when all that stuff came out about her being kidnapped and beaten in 1978 that she and Richey had had a fight and he had beaten her. He threatened to destroy her life and write a tell all book so she decided to stay with him ... so they had to come up with a cover story why she had all these bruises ... so he concocted the kidnapping story for PR.
You're a singer. Were you hesitant about becoming a singer because of the comparisons?
Absolutely that's one reason why I waited so long. I also waited because I wanted to have a family and I didn't want to be gone all the time. I have twin boys that are nearly 18 and I waited until they were singing till I started singing full time and stopped nursing. The other reason I hesitated was because those kind of shoes to fill, to me seemed impossible. I knew it was human nature to compare me. I thought how could I possibly compare to either one of them favorably. But as I got older I thought I love music too much to want to look back one day and regret not doing everything I could in it. It's my passion and it's what I enjoy.
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