Loretta Lynn's Songbird Suit

Loretta Lynn filing lawsuit in effort to gain copyrights to her music

By Sarah Hall Oct 06, 2004 11:00 PMTags

Loretta Lynn is woman enough to want what's rightfully hers.

The queen of country crooning filed a lawsuit in Tennessee this week, asking a judge to void a contract she signed with Sure-Fire Music Co. in 1966 that awarded the company the copyrights to some 114 of her songs.

Lynn wants the rights to songs such as "You're Lookin' at Country," "You Ain't Woman Enough," and her signature tune, "The Coal Miner's Daughter," back in her possession.

At the time Lynn signed her agreement with Sure-Fire, the company was owned by brothers Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, who, as the Wilburn Brothers, went down in country music history as one of the most celebrated brother duos.

Both have since died, and Teddy Wilburn's family is battling over his estate in Nashville Probate Court. Meanwhile, Lynn wants out.

"The music industry is built on relationships, and Loretta Lynn had a long one with Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, the original managers of Sure-Fire Music Co.," Lynn's manager, Nancy Russell, said in a statement.

"Sure-Fire enjoyed the benefits of Loretta's success as a songwriter and entertainer for more than 40 years. Sadly, as we all know, Teddy and Doyle are no longer at the helm of Sure-Fire."

Doyle Wilburn died in 1982; Teddy Wilburn died last November.

Lynn maintains that her contract stipulated that the agreement with Sure-Fire could be terminated if the label changed hands.

The singer first met the Wilburn brothers while promoting her first album. At the time, the brothers were powerhouses in the world of country, commanding both a syndicated television show and a touring act and running the Sure-Fire company.

She entered into business negotiations with them in 1961 and signed an exclusive songwriter's contract, according to the lawsuit. While drawing up the agreements, Lynn had no independent counsel of her own and shared Sure-Fire's attorney, according to the suit.

Though she may not technically own her music, Lynn's still being honored for it. She's set to be recognized as a BMI Icon at the upcoming BMI Awards Nov. 8 in Nashville.

Her most recent album, the Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose, opened at number 24 on the Billboard charts in May?her highest debut ever.