After All Those Little White Lies, the Lady Fesses Up: Patty Isn't Loveless Anymore

updated 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Patty Loveless was just having some fun when she stepped up to the podium to accept the TNN/Music City News Female Artist of the Year Award last June. "All these good-looking guys in country music here, and I don't have a date," she lamented. Next thing she knew, she was rumored to have plenty. Some said she was seeing singer Vince Gill. Others suspected Clint Black or Dwight Yoakam. "I'm very, very committed to a relationship," was all Loveless would ever say. Then in August, the 33-year-old Kentucky native started sporting a cluster of diamonds on her left hand, and Nashville went into gossip overdrive.

"It's time to own up," Loveless has admitted to PEOPLE. Truth is, she says, she is married—to record producer Emory Gordy Jr., 45—and has been for 1½ years. The two met in 1985 while working on Loveless's debut album and were married in February 1989 at a tourist chapel in Gatlinburg, Tenn. "We kept it a secret mainly because I wanted to come across as a strong person, a strong artist, and get established on my own," says Loveless. Divorced just two years earlier from rock drummer Terry Lovelce (whose name she kept but altered), Loveless says, "I didn't want to appear wishy-washy. I wanted to appear in control of my life."

It apparently has worked. She racked up a No. 1 single last year with "Timber, I'm Fallin' in Love," has a fourth album (On Down the Line) on the charts and stands a good shot at being named Female Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Association awards (CBS, Oct. 8). But the singer, a distant cousin of Loretta Lynn, insists that fame hasn't made secret-keeping any tougher than it was before. After all, she spends eight months on tour each year and lives in her own apartment near Nashville's studios, while Gordy, who has two grown children from his first marriage, lives 210 miles away in Dallas, Ga. ("He's very good about it," says Loveless, who reports seeing Gordy a few times a month. "He says, 'We knew what we were getting into.' ")

And now, of course, so does everyone else, including any would-be suitors. "I'm definitely a one-man woman," says Loveless contentedly. "And I'm glad I finally found that one man."

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