Loretta Lynn Married Just Shy of 16, Not at 13, as Long Claimed

05/22/2012 at 07:30 AM EDT

Loretta Lynn Age Discrepancy
The young Loretta Lynn
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
One of country's greatest legends – that Loretta Lynn was married at 13 – has been shot down by a new report that the Coal Miner's Daughter, believed to be 77, is really three years older than she claims to be.

Combing through the records at the state Office of Vital Statistics in Frankfort, Ky., and checking the records of relatives', the Associated Press reports that Lynn was born April 14, 1932, in the Bluegrass State's Johnson County and is actually 80.

As was memorably told in her bestselling 1976 autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter, which then became a 1980 box-office hit that won a Best Actress Oscar for leading lady Sissy Spacek, Lynn wed husband Doolittle "Doo" Lynn at 13, moved with him to Washington State at 16 and was mother to four (of their eventual six kids) by 18.

So she said. But as uncovered by the AP, the 1948 Lynn marriage certificate shows that Loretta got hitched just shy of her 16th birthday, which the news service calls "not unusual in Kentucky at that time." Doolittle was 21.



When contacted, Lynn's Nashville-based spokeswoman, Nancy Russell, declined comment, saying the country icon had sternly informed her, "If anyone asks how old I am, tell them it's none of their business!"

Lynn's younger brother, Herman Webb, also declined to state his sister's age, though he did concede to AP that once she moved to Nashville to begin her music career, a "mix-up" with her paperwork might have occurred.

"Doo" died, of diabetes, in 1996. But as Loretta wrote of him in a later book, 2002's Still Woman Enough: A Memoir: "I married Doo when I wasn’t but a child, and he was my life from that day on.

Lynn's collaborator on Coal Miner's Daughter, New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey, told the AP that he never verified the book's age claims with official documentation.

"It's her book, and I never saw a birth certificate, marriage license. It's what they told me," Vecsey said.

Whether any of this really matters to Loretta's longtime appeal remains to be seen. Last week brought an announcement that Zooey Deschanel will star as Lynn in a Broadway musical version of Coal Miner's Daughter, having been cast by the singer herself. No opening date has been announced.

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