Linda Ronstadt: The Britney Spears of her time?

Cash_ronstadt_lOkay, maybe that’s a bold statement, but so was 22-year-old Linda Ronstadt’s panty-less debut on the Johnny Cash TV show in 1969. A two-DVD best-of set of the series (which saw 58 episodes air on ABC from 1969 to 1971) released by Sony-Legacy last month includes this peculiar detail, recounted by the show’s makeup artist, Penni Lane. "At rehearsal, June [Carter Cash] noticed that Linda didn’t have any panties on, so she came running back to the dressing room, [saying], ‘Somebody get down the street and buy her some bloomers, she’s out there showing herself!’," Lane claims. "When Linda was told she would have to wear underwear, she was very upset. She said, ‘I sing better bare-butted.’" June’s response at the time? "Not in front of my Johnny!"

We asked longtime Cash manager Lou Robin, who also booked Ronstadt’s early tours, to verify this story. "That was true," he said. "June wasn’t too thrilled about it, that was Mrs. Johnny Cash speaking out. But Linda was a free spirit, and she sure could sing. John really enjoyed having her on the show. She made a total of five appearances." (Judging by the length of her skirt, it’s no wonder.) Continues Robin: "She would always come in barefooted, which was thought to be kind of unusual in those days." Something else she has in common with our beleaguered Brit! My, how times don’t change.

But all panties aside (did I just say that?), I highly recommend checking out the DVD, which includes history-making performances by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, and Ray Charles (doing "Ring of Fire"), among others. And Robin says we could see a couple more editions in the coming years, possibly one dedicated to Johnny’s many duets.

Comments (33 total) Add your comment
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  • Strepsi

    Do not forget Tallulah Bankhead in Alfred Hitchcock’s LIFEBOAT. She would climb in and out of the lifeboat set panty-less, and the cast complained. Hitchcock said, “It was a dilemma. I did not know whether to call costume, makeup, or hairdressing.”

  • Joe C

    I might check that out. I really enjoyed Johnny Cash, and I wish I’d been old enough to appreciate that variety show. As for comapring Linda Ronstadt to Britney, I’m glad you made it clear that you were joking, lol.

    • Ryan

      Yeah, the difference being that Linda Ronstadt had talent whereas Britney was a talentless bleach blonde lip synch video phenom.

  • SDT

    Outrageous, maybe. The only songs that were written for her were “Poor, poor Pittiful Me, and Different Drum”. She was mainly a cover artist similar to UB40 except she did not sing to a reggae pop beat. You can’t compare her to Spears vocally because Rondstat has a great range, Brit can’t sing

  • orville

    I don’t think Different Drum was written for her. Didn’t Michael Nesmith (he wrote it) record it first with his First National Band? Cover artist or no, she has great pipes and is one of my favorite female singers of all time.

  • RTA

    To compare Linda to Britney is like comparing a T-Rex to Barney. LR was prettier, vastly more talented and certainly didn’t go “bloomerless” in order to make the front page of the tabloids. Cash probably wasn’t wearing his jockeys, either.

  • Kevin

    Wow…that answers SO many questions. When I was a kid, I noticed that my dad had a bit of a crush on Linda Ronstadt. But this was in the 80s and I never understood the attraction. Now, seeing that picture of her above, I FULLY understand…she was a hottie!

  • WH

    I forgot how much of a “kook” she was back then. Sooooo much more talented than Britney. And so much cuter. Johnny Cash & June were cool too. I guess it was about breaking boundaries then; being free spirits. Not trying to be “daring” or trashy to get attention. (I’m old, but just a toddler then.)

  • Sharon

    The only thing you can compare ronstadt and brit too, is there massive popularity, ofcourse it took ronstadt 5 years after this to become the Top female singer of her era.
    AS far as cover artist, she was not, she is a song interpreter, and her albums sold more, and in the albums were vast new songs, including some she wrote. She only had hits with some remakes, but he majority of her chart success came from her ALBUMS.

    • edwardlajeunesse

      Oh definately a cover artist. Used her looks / voice to get noticed. The hard part as already done for her by original artists, she just puts her “take on it”. been going on forever. Cover artists ughhh. Michael Bubble anyone?

  • Anonymous

    How dare you mention Linda and Britney in the same sentence, let alone the same headline. Linda is sweet, sexy, intelligent, and talented. None of those apply to Britney. You should be shot.

    • Ryan

      Couldn’t have said it better. You may fire when ready.

  • Rev. O.J. Flow

    Just so we’re clear, Linda Ronstadt was SCORCHING hot back in the day. Brit WISHES she has one-sixteenth of Ronstadt’s talent. Never had it, never will.

  • Cliff

    That’s like saying, “Britney wears wigs, just like Tina Turner! They’re the same!” No. No, they are not.

  • sharabee

    No way Jose, because Linda Ronstadt had talent and if she was cheeky and went braless and pantyless hell, she had the talent and cajones to back it up….

  • Josh Krueger

    I’m 22 (wow, the age Linda was in the pic!) and even I know that there is no comparison! Ronstadt could (can!) sing… Britney is a faded celebrity in her mid 20s who never had the chops. And, yes, Ronstadt was a babe! Check out youtube… she was hottttttttt!

  • ahcwn funryogtv

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  • Muay Thai

    ur article is very wonderful i think it’s very interesting

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