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Wynette Funeral Under Way

Country music star Tammy Wynette's funeral is under way in Nashville - a private service in advance of a public memorial later Thursday.

Among those who have filed into Judson Baptist Church on Nashville's south side for the service are former duet partner George Jones, Garth Brooks, Naomi Judd, and Crystal Gayle.

Wynette, who grew up in Red Bay, Alabama, died Monday night at her home in Nashville of a blood clot in her lungs.

The public memorial service begins at 5:30 p.m. EDT Thursday at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Travis, and the Oak Ridge Boys are scheduled to sing at a memorial service for the "first lady of country music."

Singer Kenny Rogers told reporters Tuesday, "It just breaks my heart. It really is a tragic thing. She was a great lady." Rogers toured with Wynette in England in 1997, and he is currently on a concert tour of Australia with fellow country singer Reba McEntire.

Wynette scored many duet hits with George Jones, her husband from 1969-75. They tended to be about either domestic bliss or strife, as did solo Wynette hits like D-I-V-O-R-C-E and My Man. She had a robust voice that could deliver entire songs seemingly on the verge of tears.

Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on a cotton farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi. She picked cotton as a child, and as a young woman worked as a waitress, a doctor's receptionist, a barmaid, and a shoe factory worker.

In the mid-1960s, she was working as a beautician in Birmingham, Alabama, and making periodic 180-mile trips to Nashville in hopes of getting discovered as a singer. On one of those trips she met Epic Records producer Billy Sherrill, who co-wrote Stand By Your Man with Wynette.

He signed her to Epic, gave her the name Tammy, and produced her pivotal early hits.

"She was as soulful a singer as I've ever heard," said Don Was, producer for Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and others. "In her own way, she was every bit as soulful as someone like Aretha Franklin."

To country singer Patty Loveless, Wynette "was what womanhood was all about ... Tammy, Dolly [Parton] and Loretta [Lynn] that was, and always will be, the heart of this music."

After romances with Burt Reynolds and Rudy Gatlin, Wynette's personal life settled down in 1978, when she married her fifth and final husband, George Richey. She said her love for Richey brought "the end to the sad songs."

Besides her husband, Wynette is survived by five daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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