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Becoming the 'Coal Miner's Daughter'

August 20, 2011
By Cindy Votruba ( , Marshall Independent

Gloria Jean Wieneke said all her life she was told she couldn't sing.

"I tried out for choir every year and didn't make it," said Wieneke, who hails from Lismore.

But she liked to sing, so Wieneke kept at it until a promoter noticed her and booked her for a Loretta Lynn tribute band.

Wieneke will perform a "Loretta Lynn and Friends" tribute concert at 7 p.m. today in the Murray County Central High School auditorium in Slayton. The concert is part of the Murray County Fair events.

A few years ago, Wieneke was singing karaoke at the Eagles Club in Luverne when a promoter came up to her and asked to look up songs in the karaoke book. She said she asked the promoter if she should pick a performer and sing like that person. He told her, "no, you're Loretta Lynn.

Wieneke then studied Lynn's voice and music and made the trip to Lynn's dude ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.

"I wanted to figure out more about Loretta Lynn and the show," Wieneke said. She realized there was an annual talent search at the ranch, which included a museum, the house that was used in the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter," and the Western Town Saloon.

Wieneke entered the talent search, made friends with the staff and Lynn's family. In 2007-2008, she got the chance to sing at the Western Town Saloon during the summers.

Wieneke's "day job" is doing research for a pharmaceutical company. In 2009, she spent most of the year in Branson, Mo. recording an album, "Windmills and Cornfields," in which she co-wrote three of the songs. She has two other albums - "A Tribute To The Ladies of Classic Country" and "Conway and Loretta Tribute Shows."

"I may not sound exactly like her, but I'm the whole package, I have all this trivia," Wieneke said. "I dress like she does on stage with the big dresses."

Wieneke said trivia on Lynn includes stories about Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline.

"They usually roll off the tongue when I'm on stage," Wieneke said about the trivia she relates during the tribute show.

Wieneke hasn't met the woman she personifies in a one-on-one basis, but said Lynn is aware of the tribute show. She tries to make all of Lynn's concerts at Hurricane Mills and in the upper Midwest.

Of Lynn's most recent music, Wieneke said she really enjoys "Country in My Jeans," which came out in 1995.

"That is my most favorite album of hers," Wieneke said.

Wieneke is backed up by a seven-piece band called Hot Hits Orchestra.

"Things have moved upward and onward," Wieneke said.

Wieneke said the orchestra she works with for the tribute show has worked on playing as close to the original way Lynn's band did back in the day.

"I do feel like I'm singing along with the record," Wieneke said.

Since Loretta Lynn and Friends is a national show, Wieneke said she performs anywhere from casinos to county fairs, but mostly in theaters. This past year, a new set of music has been added, which includes numbers from Wynette, Cline, Dolly Parton and Crystal Gayle.

Wieneke said she's glad Lynn continues to perform, even at age 76.

"The longer she's around, the better my shows will be because I'm still learning from her," Wieneke said. "I'm so glad she paved the way for the rest of us."



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