British Columbia is a long way from the Appalachian coal fields, but the role that a south Vancouver chicken coop played in the rise of country music legend Loretta Lynn is being recalled after her death at the age of 90.
The neighbourhood’s connection to Lynn is described in a Vancouver Heritage Foundation plaque that marks the former site of a poultry barn on the banks of the Fraser River that also served as a music hall.
The foundation said Lynn was discovered by Canadian producers Don Grashey and Chuck Williams when she performed at the chicken coop in 1959, and their Zero Records label produced her first hit, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.”
B.C. writer Rob Howatson, who spent years researching Lynn’s connection to Vancouver, said he interviewed her in 2012 and she recalled her performance at the chicken coop.
“That was the main piece of information we were able to get from her when I spoke to her,” said Howatson.
He said Lynn was “so polite, down to earth and without guile that she was a pleasure to talk to.”
In 2013, Lynn performed at the Red Robinson Theatre in Coquitlam, where Howatson met her backstage and gave her a photo of the chicken coop.
“I think she was quite tickled by that,” said Howatson.
The Vancouver Heritage Foundation said investors in Lynn’s first record included future Vancouver mayor Art Phillips.
Lynn’s family said she died peacefully in her sleep Tuesday morning at home on her ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
Lynn’s biggest hits came in the 1960s and ’70s, including “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “The Pill,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Rated X” and “You’re Looking at Country.”
She was the first woman ever named entertainer of the year by her genre’s two major awards shows, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.
Lynn was also awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Howatson said Lynn’s life journey, from poverty to superstardom, represented the American dream.
“I will miss Loretta Lynn’s presence,” said Howatson. “She was a remarkable songwriter and an amazing woman.”
— With files from The Associated Press.