The Story and Music of Crystal Gayle

Introduction to Crystal Gayle

Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb in 1951) is an American country and pop singer-songwriter whose popularity in during the 70s music era up to 80s rested on her crossover appeal, as well as her physical beauty, not to mention her famous floor-length hair. She is the sister of another country star Loretta Lynn, who is 19 years older. Her family had been musically-inclined, and so she trained herself on singing as well as playing the guitar. Brenda’s first professional recording career was at Decca Records, where she released her first country single “I’ve Cried (The Blues Right Out of My Eyes)” written by her sister Loretta, who composed many of Brenda’s early songs. Decca saw Brenda as the “little Loretta” and demanded more of her older sister’s songs. Disheartened with this, Brenda left Decca and signed up with United Artists label, where producer Allen Reynolds gave her the creative freedom she had been looking for. Seeking a different identity apart from her older sister, Brenda changed her name into Crystal Gayle. Under United Artists, Gayle scored her first Top 10 country hit “Wrong Road Again” in 1975. She eventually achieved the first of her fifteen #1 country smashes, “I’ll Get Over You,” which also crossed over to the pop chart in 1976 (at #71). Gayle achieved her greatest success in 1977 with “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” which went to top 10 of both pop and adult contemporary charts. Her next recordings were deliberately tailored for crossover tastes. Gayle’s other hits were “Ready for the Times”, “Talking in Your Sleep” and “Half the Way” which had successfully appealed to many listeners of different genres. Most of her highest-charting hits were country, and some of them also registered well on the adult contemporary listings. By the mid-1980s, Crystal’s crossover appeal began to wane, having scored her last country hit with “Cry” and “Makin’ Up For Lost Time,” the last which she duetted with Gary Morris. She had her own specialty store which dealt with jewelry, and is still performing up to this day especially for the oldies music-loving audiences.

Crystal Gayle’s early years

Known mainly with the 1977 breakthrough country-pop hit “Don’t Make It My Eyes Blue,” Crystal Gayle is born Brenda Gail Webb on January 9, 1951 in Paintsville, Kentucky. When she was four, their family relocated to Wasbah, Indiana. Gayle was the youngest of the eight brood in the family. They were so poor that Gayle was the only child in the family to have been born in the hospital.  At first she was shy, but she was later encouraged by her mother to entertain visitors at their home by singing in front of them.

As an adolescent, she was inspired to play the guitar and do backup in her brother’s folk band because of her sister Loretta Lynn, whose musical career was prospering at that point. Later, she was already joining her sister for several summer tour dates. In 1970, she finished her high school and later signed a record contract on her sister’s label Decca Records. Since there was another talent named “Brenda Lee” on Decca, she was advised to change her first name to Crystal Gale.

Gayle’s recording journey

Later in 1970, Gayle released her debut single  “I’ve Cried (The Blue Right Out of My Eyes)” which peaked at #23 on the country singles chart. Since the song was penned by Loretta Lynn, Gayle sang it in a similar style of her sister which she kept on doing for a couple of years more. But the idea did not help Gayle’s career to flourish.

Around 1974, Gayle switched to United Artists label. There he worked with producer Allen Reynolds who let her creative freedom pour all throughout the recording. Later, she issued her self-titled album which included the single “Wrong Road Again.” Produced by Gayle herself, it became her first Top Ten country hit, peaking at #6. She gained her first #1 country hit in 1976 with “I’ll Get Over You” which was also her first single entered the Billboard chart, peaking at #1. A string of country hits followed in the following year with “I’ll Do It Over Again” (#2) and “You Never Miss a Real Good Thing” (#1).

Gayle’s biggest hit “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”

In 1977 Gayle achieved her biggest success with her a single titled “Don’t Make It My Eyes Blue.” It reached its peak position at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #3 on the adult contemporary singles chart and #1 on the country singles chart that year. It also topped the Cashbox singles chart as well.

Because of the song’s success, Gayle won a Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and songwriter Richard Leigh earned an award as well, winning the Country Song of the Year category. It also helped her fourth album We Must Believe in Magic to sell well, making her the first female country artist to ever reach the platinum record award.

Gayle’s other country hits

In the 1980’s, Gayle continued to make a succession of #1 country hits: “It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye” (1980),  “Too Many Lovers” (1981), “Our Love Is on the Fault Line” (1983), “Till I Gain Control Again” (1983), “Baby What About You” (1983), “The Sound of Goodbye” (1983), “Turning Away” (1984), “Cry (1986), and “Straight to the Heart” (1987).

Gayle in the 1990’s and recent years

In the early 1990’s, Gayle tried to re-established herself by releasing these two albums Ain’t Gonna Worry (1990) and Three Good Reasons (1992) but none of them made any major commercial impact. On the other hand, she issued two gospel albums in the mid 1990’s. She also released a tribute in 1999 entitled Crystal Gayle Sings the Heart and Soul of Hoagy Carmichael.

In 2002, Gayle made to the list of CMT’s 40 Greatest Women of Country Music where she was placed at #33. In 2009, Gayle received a star on to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Up to this day, Gayle is still actively performing.