Even President Ronald Reagan loved Tammy Wynette’ssignature song, “Stand By Your Man.”
Maybe a little too much…
At the Congressional Barbecue in September of 1982, the former First Lady of Country Music allegedly ruffled the feathers of the former First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, when she apparently got a little too flirty with President Reagan for Mrs. Nancy’s liking during her performance.
Legend has it that she sat on his lap while singing her song, but in the video below, you never actually see her do that. She does sing to the President, and they stand pretty close together while she does it, but I never actually saw her sit down.
Before she starts singing, Tammy introduces the song like this:
“I’ve been accused, among other things, of doing most of my writing for you ladies. But back in 1968, I did write a song that was special for all you guys.
We don’t want you to go away feeling slighted, this is special for all of you.”
“Stand By Your Man” was a co-wrote by Tammy along with producer Billy Sherrill, and became the lead single and title track of her subsequent album.
It eventually peaked at #1 on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart, as well as the Billboard U.S. Adult Contemporary chart.
In fact, it might just be one of the most recognizable (and controversial) country songs of all time. And, ironically, it was written right in the middle of her infamously tumultuous marriage to George Jones.
Many self-proclaimed feminists at the time took issue with the fact that they interpreted the song as Tammy encouraging women to be treated like a doormat, though she has explained over and over again that was never the case or intention.
In Jimmy McDonough’s 2010 book Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen, he quoted Tammy’s longtime hairdresser, Jan Smith, as saying that Tammy’s flirtatious nature that day apparently upset Mrs. Reagan:
“After it was over, Tammy said to me, ‘Oh my God, Jan, that was so embarrassing! He swabbed my tonsils!’
Well, Nancy Reagan got real out of joint about it.”
There are several photos of Tammy and President Reagan kissing over the years (like the cover photo for this article), especially in the 80’s, so that might’ve been what the real controversy was or how it started, I don’t know…
It’s hard to know how true it all really is, seeing as Tammy joined them for at least four other events in the following years after this BBQ, helping raise money and awareness for subsequent campaign efforts.
In an interview from 1992, when asked, Tammy says she was just “having fun” that day, and that no one ever said a word to her about it anything being out of line or any sort of issue:
“I did, and I didn’t know that there was any problem, everybody was having fun. And I didn’t know that it was not proper protocol, nobody said anything, and he certainly didn’t say anything.
We had all chances to say something, but it caused a stir I guess between Mrs. Reagan and President Reagan.”
And clearly, if the secret service or anybody else was uncomfortable with anything she did there in the presence of the President, I certainly don’t think they would’ve just stood by and watched…
There is footage of said performance, too, where Tammy stuns in a gorgeous bright red ballgown, flirting with various members of the audience, as well, not just President Reagan.
It wasn’t uncommon at all for her to do so, engaging members of the audience and putting on a show, like she did best. It looks very innocent and good-natured, and I have no doubt in my mind that’s exactly all it was.
At the end, though, President Reagan gets up to address the crowd, saying the performance gave him goosebumps, adding that he was the one who was nervous, as opposed to Tammy, who said something to that effect from the crowd:
“We certainly all appreciate Tammy Wynette… you were nervous? I had goosebumps! Tammy, it was beautiful, thank you so very much for being with us.
And you know, I’m gonna get a record of that, and send it up to these ladies and gentlemen on the hill. ‘Stand By Your Man,’ I like the whole idea.”
What a story…
It’s the kind of thing that only happen in country music, I’m convinced.
You can watch the performance here, and I promise that it’s definitely worth the three minutes of your day: