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Thursday, July 9, 1998 Published at 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK


British say goodbye to Tammy

The First Lady of country music: Tammy Wynette

British fans have gathered in London to pay their last respects to the "First Lady" of country music, Tammy Wynette.

Sir Cliff Richard led the tributes at a memorial service to the singer, who died in April, saying she was "not afraid to be sentimental".

More than 300 people joined him at the ceremony, at St James church in Piccadilly, singing hymns and listening to poems.

[ image: Husband George Richey]
Husband George Richey
Ms Wynette, who recorded her first single in 1966, was 55 when she died suddenly, from a blood clot, at the start of April.

She had made more than 50 albums and sold more than 30 million records, but will always be best remembered for her 1968 hit Stand by Your Man.

Her husband of 20 years, George Richey, was at the church, where flowers and candles surrounded a large black and white picture of the glamorous singer.

Mr Richey, who flew in from America for the day, read a poem and said his dream was now to "join Tammy for eternity".

[ image: Sir Cliff: She was
Sir Cliff: She was "not afraid to be sentimental"
With hymns such as Abide With Me and Jerusalem, the sombre mood of the service struck a contrast with the American thanksgiving ceremony in Ms Wynette's home town of Nashville, Tennessee.

Then, more than 1,500 loyal fans stood for hours in freezing weather waiting to pay their last respects. Some of country music's best-known names - including Dolly Parton, Lorrie Morgan and the Oak Ridge Boys - were among the mourners.

The London service was set up by Ms Wynette's UK manager Richard Gillinson, who worked with the star for 15 years.

He decided a British ceremony would be a "fitting tribute" and a proper chance for friends, colleagues and fans on this side of the Atlantic to pay their last respects.

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