Forty-five years ago today, female vocalist and country music legend Tammy Wynette reportedly survived a near-fatal abduction in the Green Hills neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee.
Just as any ordinary shopping trip starts, Wynette says she went to the Cain-Sloan Department Store in 1978, but when she and the birthday gift she had just bought for eight-year-old Tamala Georgette Jones left the department store to head home, the unthinkable happened.
Wynette says her car was left unlocked, and a man snuck inside, ready to make his attack.
“I felt a poke in my side and heard a man’s voice say, ‘Drive!’ All I could see was a brown glove, a lot of hair on his arm and two inches of gun barrel.”
As she did what the man had instructed, they drove for 20 minutes when he suddenly choked her with pantyhose so tight that it left her gasping for air and with serious burn marks around her neck.
The man behind the crime then took the wheel, driving for another 90 minutes further out of town. Once he reached a spot he felt was desolate enough, he beat Wynette and fled to another car, leaving her battered and bruised.
After leaving Wynette in poor shape on the side of a Tennessee back road, she stumbled into the driveway of Junette Young, Wynette’s saving grace in the situation.
“I couldn’t believe it was the real Tammy Wynette. I wanted to say how I just love her and George Jones together, but it wasn’t the time or place to talk about her ex-husband.”
Young claimed she was a mega fan of Wynette but could hardly afford her records as a mother to eight.
After news broke of her kidnapping, many thought it was all a publicity stunt until Wynette’s friends, who saw her bruised body, stepped forward to defend her.
Tammy Wynette recalled in the interview with People.
“It was the most terrifying experience of my life.”
While Wynette only took two days off the road, she wanted to keep performing for her fans despite the terrifying incident. The one part of the story that is very eerie is that during a South Carolina show shortly after, despite having 50+ bodyguards, Wynette found a note thrown onto the stage saying:
“I’m still around. I’ll get you.”
As Wynette never saw the face of the man who tried to kidnap her, the note left a bad taste in her mouth, and she feared for her life, knowing that man was still somewhere loose.
“At times like this…I have to say I wish I weren’t famous.”
However, years later her daughters would claim that the abduction was actually a cover-up to hide abuse that Wynette had suffered at the hands of her then-husband, George Richey.
Jackie Daly, daughter of Wynette and her first husband Euple Byrd, revealed in her 2011 book Tammy Wynette: A Daughter Recalls Her Mother’s Tragic Life and Death that her mother told her she had concocted the story to explain her bruises after being abused by Richey.
And in her 2011 memoir, Georgette Jones wrote:
“She did admit to my sister that when all that stuff came out about her being kidnapped in 1978 that she and Richey had had a fight and he had beaten her. He threatened to destroy her life and write a tell-all book so she decided to stay with him.”
Whatever the truth is, it’s a tragic story, one that thankfully, Wynette lived to tell.
After this, Wynette might have considered changing the lyrics to her hit “I Don’t Wanna Play House.”