It’s doubtful that you would find anyone that would say 2016 wasn’t a year of incredible loss. Some of these heartbreaking losses have hit country music directly. This year, we mourned the passing of Joey Martin Feek of Joey+Rory, Texas troubadour Guy Clark, iconic songwriter Curly Putman and the legendary Merle Haggard. But we also found ourselves grieving for celebrities who were influences and inspirations to our country stars, like Glenn Frey of the Eagles and pop superstar George Michael.
On Dec. 28, just one day after the death of her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds passed away. There were country stars who spoke warmly of the loss of this triple-threat entertainer, of how she sang and danced her way into hearts as Kathy Seldes in “Singin’ in the Rain,” or her Academy Award-winning performance in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Besides being the real life mother of Princess Leia, Carrie’s role in “Star Wars,” they remember Debbie playing the mother of Grace Adler in the hit NBC sitcom “Will and Grace.”
Tucked somewhere in the middle, not at the beginning of her career, nor at the end, was Debbie playing the sweet country girl “Tammy.” Released in 1957 and set in the Delta region, “Tammy and the Bachelor” featured the El Paso, Texas native playing the role of plucky, but naive backwoods country girl Tambrey “Tammy” Tyree. The serendipitous story has a classic happily-ever-after fairy tale ending, but the other thing it has is the doe-eyed Debbie singing the No. 1 hit, “Tammy.”
“I hear the cottonwoods whisperin’ above, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy’s in love.”
It’s hard to hear it now without feeling a little tearful and a lot nostalgic. I was named for the song. As a child, my mother sang it to me constantly, and when the movie came on TV, she introduced me to the character. I was mesmerized and completely enchanted by her angelic voice. I was a naive little country girl, too.
So, no matter what other roles Debbie Reynolds played or what heights of success she achieved, she will forever be the young, beautiful, innocent, funny and original country girl, “Tammy,” to me.
“Wish I knew if he knew what I’m dreaming of, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy’s in love.”