By Tom Roland – GAC

Two major icons are celebrating their 50th anniversaries in 2010: Loretta Lynn and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.

You certainly know Loretta, the woman whose feisty songs about contemporary womanhood made her an easy selection for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

If you don’t know about Tootsie’s, you should. The purple bar sits on Lower Broadway in Nashville, across the alley from the Ryman Auditorium, where the the Grand Ole Opry was held when Loretta made her debut in 1960. Tootsie’s is a small watering hole that still exists. During its early years, it was the gathering place for many of country’s songwriters and biggest stars, including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Mel Tillis, Faron Young, Marty Robbins, Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran.

Tootsie’s officially opened in March 1960. Loretta made her Opry debut in October that year, and her husband, Mooney, found the bar right away.

“He stayed at Tootsie’s while I sang at the Grand Ole Opry,” Loretta recalls. “And I when we’d get a break, I’d go over there with him. Of course, I’d have a Coke while he was drinkin’ whatever he was drinkin’ — God only knows what all it was — but Tootsie’s was a good place to hang out.”

Tootsie was the nickname of Hattie Louise Bess, who owned the bar. She died in February 1978, but she was responsible for giving the place some of its character.

“She used to have one of these big ol’ hat pins,” Loretta remembers. “If anybody got cross with her, she’d just take that hat pin and stick ‘em. It was fun to be at Tootsie’s.”

Tootsie’s and Loretta have a big couple of days ahead. Tootsie’s is honored with a 50th anniversary concert at the Ryman Sunday. Terri Clark, Mel Tillis and Kris Kristofferson are hosting that show, which will include appearances by Randy Houser, Mark Chesnutt and Ronnie McDowell.

Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute To Loretta Lynn will be released Tuesday. Loretta sings the title track with Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow. And the project also includes remakes of her songs by the likes of Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire.