Oliver Vanetta Lynn married country legend, Loretta Lynn, when she was just 15, and he was 21. It was a marriage that would go on to have six children and would stay together up until Oliver died in 1996.
However, Oliver and Loretta’s marriage was not sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it was even extraordinarily complicated and filled with abuse, infidelity, and turmoil. Yet, Loretta stayed by Oliver’s side, whom she fondly called “Doolittle” or “Doo.”
Oliver Lynn Had a Turbulent Marriage With Loretta Lynn
Doo was born of Irish descent in Butcher Hollow, in Johnson County. He was a coal miner and moonshine runner in Kentucky in which earned him the nickname Mooney.
He married Loretta Lynn on January 10, 1948, just one month after they met. The couple left their home state of Kentucky while Loretta was pregnant with their first child. They traveled to the logging community of Custer, Washington, where they settled down. The Lynn family quickly grew. Their first four children, two daughters, and two sons were born over the course of only six years.
But their marriage was far from ideal. The problem with Doo was that he was very physically abusive. His acts of rage were usually caused from days or nights of heavy drinking.
But this doesn’t mean Loretta did not put up a fight.
“If he smacked me or anything, I’d stand up and be fightin’ him just like I’d be fightin’ the other woman,” Loretta said about Doo, who was also notorious for womanizing. “He’d smack me, I’d smack him; he’d pull my hair, I pulled his hair. That’s the way it was.”
Loretta recalled one such fight that started when Doo came home drunk. Doo got her on one of her pin curls. She fought back by throwing a punch and was shocked when it landed in Doo’s mouth. “There was a hardwood floor, and I’m telling you, the teeth broke into tiny little pieces, and it seemed like they just kept falling. Click-clack-clack-clack. I thought: ‘I’m dead. I am dead. I am completely dead,'” Loretta recalled.
But Doo did not say a word and just laughed. He lost two of his front teeth and was only replaced after Loretta started making money from singing.
He Was The One Who Persuaded Loretta To Start Her Musical Career
Loretta credits Doo for her successful music career. It was actually Doo who bought Loretta her first guitar, a $17 Harmony. Loretta taught herself how to play it, and Doo served as a constant source of encouragement. He’d tell her that she’s as good or even better as most of the girls singing and making money.
“I could never have done it on my own,” Lynn said and how she had never sung in front of anybody until Doo pushed her out there. “Whatever else our marriage was back in the days…without Doo and his drive to get a better life, there would have been no Loretta Lynn, country singer.”
Loretta Lynn’s spouse also generated material. His drinking and cheating fired up Loretta to write signature songs just like her first No. 1 hit, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” A few years later, she wrote a frank yet bubbly warning to a would-be rival, “Fist City,” for a real woman in Tennessee who was making eyes at Doo while she was singing.
“I wrote about my heartaches, I wrote about everything,” Loretta said. In fact, she had never written any song without her husband in it, though Doo didn’t know which line he was in.
“The more you hurt, the better the song is. You put your whole heart into a song when you’re hurting. You can’t be protected. I didn’t try to be protected. I didn’t want to be protected. When I wrote a song like that, I was mad, and somebody else needed protection, not me.”
When Loretta’s first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” came out, Doo also helped with the promotion. He traveled along with Loretta as they visited radio stations, having a shot at getting airtime for her song.
He Was Instrumental to Loretta’s First Opry Visit
Loretta Lynn’s husband was also instrumental in helping Loretta get to the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. The day before Loretta’s performance, the couple spent the night in Nashville, but in a much more humbling place than a hotel.
Since the Lynns lacked the means to obtain the comforts of life, they ended up sleeping out in their car. They parked directly across the Opry. Though they only had a little money, Doo made sure to buy a special treat for Loretta before her big show.
“The first morning, we slept in the car. He parked it in front of the Grand Ole Opry, and I didn’t know he’d done that. And I woke up and seen the Grand Ole Opry,” Loretta said. “We didn’t have any money, but he went and got us doughnuts. And we were eating doughnuts.”
He Died Of Congestive Heart Failure After A Four-Year Battle With The Disease
The hard-drinking Doolittle died at home on August 22, 1996. He had been hospitalized repeatedly since 1993 because of diabetes and heart failure. His feet were also amputated in recent years.
Doo was 69 years old when he passed away and was married to Loretta for almost 50 years. Though what they have was a combative marriage, it was an enduring one. In 2018, Loretta released the title track of her forty-fifth solo studio album, “Wouldn’t It Be Great?”
It’s the last song the country superstar wrote for Doo and found herself wishing to hear one last “I love you” from her man.
“My husband liked to drink a lot, and that’s where that song comes from. ‘Say you love me just one time, with a sober mind,'” she explained. “I always liked that song, but I never liked to sing it around Doo.”
“I sang it to him when he was dying,” Loretta revealed.