All About the Late Country Star's Brothers and Sisters: Loretta Lynn's 7 Siblings

Loretta Lynn is the undisputed queen of country music, with eight Grammy Awards and the first-ever best female country vocalist Country Music Award in 1967 — but she’s not the only musical one in her family

Published Time: 12.05.2024 - 19:31:09 Modified Time: 12.05.2024 - 19:31:09

Loretta Lynn is the undisputed queen of country music, with eight Grammy Awards and the first-ever best female country vocalist Country Music Award in 1967 — but she’s not the only musical one in her family. Lynn and her seven siblings grew up singing, and many of them went on to have careers in country music, including her country-pop superstar sister Crystal Gayle.

“I thought everybody sang, because everybody up there in Butcher Holler did,” Lynn wrote on her website’s biography. “Everybody in my family sang. So I really didn’t understand until I left Butcher Holler that there were some people who couldn’t. And it was kind of a shock.”

Lynn, born in 1932 in rural Kentucky, was the first daughter of Clary and Ted Webb. The couple had Melvin “Junior” Webb, then Lynn, followed by six more children: Herman Webb, Willie “Jay” Lee Webb, Donald Ray Webb, Peggy Sue Wright, Betty Ruth Hopkins and Brenda Gail Webb, also known as Crystal Gayle.

Lynn rose to fame by writing honest stories about the difficulties of real life, from growing up in poverty to maintaining a strong marriage. Much of it was based on her childhood with her siblings, including her song “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which inspired an autobiographical book and movie. Lynn also wrote a cookbook that included many recipes from her childhood, You’re Cookin’ It Country.

When Lynn was collaborating with Jack White on her album Van Lear Rose, she invited the White Stripes frontman to her home and made him dinner, what she called a “family favorite” recipe. "I fixed chicken and dumplings and homemade bread, and he said that was the best bread he ever ate," she told PEOPLE in 2004.

Lynn died in 2022, at age 90, after more than 60 years as one of the most famous and beloved country music stars. "The world lost a legend,” Gayle posted on X (formerly Twitter) at the time. “We lost a sister. Love you Loretta❤️????."

Keep reading for everything to know about Loretta Lynn’s seven siblings.

Lynn and her seven siblings grew up in a mountain cabin in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, which had no electricity or running water, according to The Washington Post. The family was so poor, the Post reported, that Lynn didn’t ride in a car until she was 12. Their father was a coal miner, who died at age 52 of black lung, a condition that affected many mine workers.

Despite living in a musical home, none of the siblings had big dreams of musical stardom. "When I was growing up with my sisters and brothers, we all sang and rocked the babies to sleep, but that was as far as we ever did," she told NPR in 2010. It wasn’t until Lynn was married and the mother of four that she began to play guitar and write songs.

"Me and my husband both worked,” she added. “I took care of a farmhouse, cleaned and cooked for 36 ranch hands before I started singing," she explained to the outlet. "So singing was easy. I thought 'Gee whiz, this is an easy job.' "

In the late 1950s, Lynn started her first band, Loretta & The Trailblazers, which included her brother Jay Lee Webb playing guitar, according to her website biography. They played small shows in Washington state, and got the attention of a record label. Lynn signed with Zero Records in January 1960 and released her first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” that year. Later, Peggy Sue also toured with Lynn’s band.

In 1966, Lynn was nominated for a Grammy Award for her hit “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin,’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” a song she co-wrote with Peggy Sue about a woman with an alcoholic husband.

The following year, Jay Lee wrote the song “I Come Home A-Drinkin’ (To a Worn-Out Wife Like You)” as a response to Lynn’s hit. It was one of Jay Lee’s biggest hits. While he had small recording contracts and put out many singles, most of them didn’t chart well. Throughout the 1960s, Jay Lee performed in nightclubs, but eventually left music behind to open a drug store, according to Wide Open Country.

In 1970, Lynn released the song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” about her childhood. “Well, I was borned a coal miner's daughter / In a cabin, on a hill in Butcher Holler,” Lynn sang. “We were poor but we had love / That's the one thing that daddy made sure of / He shoveled coal to make a poor man's dollar.”

The song was so popular that Lynn wrote an autobiography of the same name in 1976, which became the 1980 movie Coal Miner’s Daughter. Sissy Spacek won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1981 for her portrayal of Lynn in the movie.

Born Brenda Gail Webb, the youngest child of the Webb family also had musical aspirations — but her recording label advised her to change her name to avoid confusion with “I’m Sorry” singer Brenda Lee, which led to the name Crystal Gayle.

Lynn was 19 when Gayle was born, and was already married and a mother of her own children at that point. The sisters never shared a home, and by the time Gayle arrived, the Webb family had already moved away from the mines and was living in Wabash, Indiana. However, the sisters were close. Lynn helped Gayle get her first -

recording contract, in 1970.

Named to Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time,” Gayle has had 18 chart-topping country songs, the biggest of which is “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Unlike Lynn, though, Gayle has more of a country-pop sound that has made her a crossover artist and also avoided some of the comparisons that inherently come with having a super-famous older sister.

“I went middle-of-the-road because Lynn said, ‘Don’t sing my songs and don’t sing anything I would sing, because you’ll be compared,'” Gayle told Rolling Stone in 2014. “She was right. I wouldn’t have made it if I had just done that. But I love those songs.”

Gayle is still performing, and released a big band song with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in March 2024. "Being in the music business is not easy," Gayle told PEOPLE in 2021, "but if you really love it, then it's all worth it."

As late as 2017, Lynn and Gayle were working together, with Lynn making an appearance on a track on Gayle’s classic country album You Don’t Know Me. "It's very special that she would do it," Gayle told PEOPLE. "She came in and sang it, and said, 'What's next?' If I'd had 10 tracks done, she would have sung every one of them that day. I should have had more than one."

Peggy Sue also appeared on that album, and Gayle included her brother Jay Lee’s song, “You Were Never Mine.”

Gayle might be a famous country pop star, but she has another huge claim to fame: her incredibly long hair, which has been her signature look for decades. She told PEOPLE in 1984 that she washed it every day while touring and every other day at home. A 1990 article in The Los Angeles Times reported that it had taken the singer five hours to wash and dry ahead of a performance. “It was catching on every knob in the trailer,” Gayle said of her hair. “It’s like wearing a gown.”

In 2021, Gayle told PEOPLE that she’s been tempted to cut her signature locks many times.

"There's been days where I just want to take the scissors," she said. "When my children were younger, they'd say, 'Mom, you won't be Crystal Gayle when you cut your hair.' So they've been waiting for that moment."

Peggy Sue was a featured act on Lynn’s 1960s tours, and co-wrote three songs with her sister, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” in 1966 and “No Woman Can Hold Him Too Long” and “Love Whatcha Got at Home,” both in 1969.  

Peggy Sue got her own recording contract and in 1969, she released two singles, "I'm Dynamite," and "I'm Gettin' Tired of Babyin' You," that both made it to the Country Top 30. She also released a number of singles and albums in the 1970s and early 1980s.

In the 1980s, Peggy Sue also started performing with Crystal Gayle, and has done many times over the years since.

While many of his siblings pursued fame, Herman chose to live in the family’s hometown and keep the memory of their humble beginnings alive.

Fans of Lynn and Gayle can still visit Butcher Hollow to see the family’s cabin, decorated with memorabilia and belongings from the family’s early years. Another landmark in the community is Webb’s Grocery, which was owned by Herman, and was once the mining camp store. As well as running the store up until his death in 2018, Herman also gave tours of the family cabin, according to Wide Open Country.

Even after she became a superstar, Lynn would still work herself to the point of exhaustion. In 1978, Gayle told PEOPLE that she’s been able to learn by example from her big sister.

“I’ve learned from her mistakes,” Gayle said. “She never knows ahead of time what she’s doing. When the time comes, she’s told. I’m more my own boss. I’ve learned to say ‘No.’ ”

“I’m still soft-hearted and haven’t learned a thing. But I’m proud of Brenda. She’s gonna be all right.” Lynn told PEOPLE in the same interview.

One of Gayle’s breakthrough moments came at age 16, when she performed at the Grand Ole Opry in place of Lynn. "Loretta was sick," Gayle told PEOPLE in 2016. "I know Mooney, her husband, talked somebody into letting me go on stage that night."

Gayle added that while people tried to pit the sisters against each other as rivals, there was nothing to back that up. "Mooney was taking me around to radio stations and getting me going," she said. "But some stupid woman remarked to Loretta that she should watch her baby sister. It only takes a seed of doubt. In the back of her mind I think she always thought, 'Hmmmmm.' "

Despite those rumors, Gayle said there was never any bad blood. "We're sisters, so of course we're going to have our words," she explained, "but it was never anything major. We'd laugh about it and go on with our careers."

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