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Tammy Wynette’s Sequined Dress

Location: NYS Country Music Hall of Fame at the Cortland County Music Park & Campground at 1824 NY-13, Cortland, NY
(42.628749, -76.152412)

Walking the silent halls of the New York State County Music Hall of Fame, you may find yourself struck breathless by a long black dress. Covered in painstakingly hand-sewn sequins and tailored to fit every inch perfectly, Tammy Wynette’s evening gown is a thing of haunting beauty. Some might suggest that the dress itself might just be haunted.

Tammy Wynette lived a life of glamour and heartache. It was during the area, in which she wore this stunning dress, that she suffered one of her greatest tragedies. A story that through the years had nearly been forgotten. 

On Oct. 4, 1978, Tammy Wynette was shopping for a gift for her daughter, Tamala Georgette Jones, at Cain-Sloan Department Store in Nashville. When she returned to her unlocked car, she found herself accosted by a masked man. “I felt a poke in my side and heard a man’s voice say, ‘Drive!'” she recounted to People a few weeks later. “All I could see was a brown glove, a lot of hair on his arm, and two inches of gun barrel.”

Terrified, she drove as instructed, during which her kidnapper attempted to strangle Wynette with a pair of pantyhose so forcefully that it left burn marks. Her attacker then punched her, before leaving her in a town 80 miles away, alone and shaken, while he made his escape. Wynette, bruised and bloody, hobbled to the house of a woman named Junette Young, pleading for help.

“It was the most terrifying experience of my life,” she told People magazine. “At times like this, I have to say I wish I weren’t famous.”

Wynette never saw the face of her assailant, leaving the violent kidnapper’s identity an enduring mystery.

Many though were suspicious of Wynette’s story. Jackie Daly later wrote in her memoir that she believed the kidnapping had been an elaborate hoax devised to hide the abuse Wynette received from husband number five, George Richey. Daly claimed, in her tell-all book, that Wynette herself had told her so.

Wynette’s daughters weren’t the only folks who were suspicious. Even the Nashville police thought the whole thing was “very puzzling”, according to the Boot. While Wynette’s face and neck were black and blue, and she did suffer a broken cheekbone, she had not been robbed. Her kidnapper left both her cash and credit cards after the strange and random attack. What was her kidnapper’s motive after all?

Wynette was publicly hurt by such rumors. In an interview with the Washington Post Wynette said “Two-thirds of the people were wonderful. The other third I would have to say were the cranks who said it was all done for a publicity stunt, which broke my heart, or that it was done to hide an affair I was having. It says all those things were discounted because ‘Tammy was seen doing this’ or ‘Tammy was seen doing that,’ but a lot of people won’t even read that line — they’ll get just so far down and quit: ‘Ah, hah, she did it herself,’” she continued. “But that doesn’t make sense; I don’t know any woman who would want her face damaged. If I wanted publicity, I’d go down to Possum Holler [a club owned by George Jones] and dance all night.”

What then was the motive behind Wynette’s kidnapping? Clearly, there was no robbery or ransom. The kidnapper’s face remained concealed, so it couldn’t have been for fame. Did something go wrong, unbeknownst to Wynette, to botch a more heinous crime? Or had it been a publicity stunt, to revive a wilting career? Or, darker still, was it indeed a welded plot devised to hide her husband’s abuse? Sadly, Wynette’s untimely death means her secrets will always remain hidden, even when they are in plain sight.

1. Zaleski, Annie. “43 Years Ago: Tammy Wynette Reportedly Abducted in Nashville.” The Boot, 4 Oct. 2021,