One day earlier this spring, Lorrie Morgan banished her husband-to-be Sammy Kershaw from their 7,000-square-foot Hendersonville lake house while she tried on the first of 20 wedding dresses in her bedroom. Kershaw was outside mowing the lawn, but it didn’t end up taking Morgan very long to make her decision. When she slipped on dress number foura traditional off-white gownshe knew she’d found the one.
“I knew it as soon as I put it on,” says Morgan, 41. “It was like, this is the one that I’ve been dreaming about. The veil and everything. It was just perfect. It really [feels] like a first-time wedding for me.”
But this will be Morgan’s fifth walk down the aisle and Kershaw’s fourth. On April 12the day Kershaw, 43, received word that his divorce from wife Kim was finalhe and Morgan announced they’d marry on Sept. 29. However, it was the news of where they’d marryat an unnamed Catholic church in Nashvillethat raised the most eyebrows and sparked a few letters to the editor. “You have to get your previous marriage annulled through the church,” Morgan says, noting that it was Kershaw who most wants the church wedding. “I wasn’t married in the church last time.”
Cynics are already taking bets as to how long this relationship will last, but the couple say they’re just listening to their hearts and tuning everything else out. “We know this is the right thing,” Morgan says. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. I will admit in the beginning that I was scared...and I’m sure he was a little scared. When you are in your 40s, it’s not like when you are 17 or 18 and just meet somebody who doesn’t have skeletons in their closets. Lord knows, we both have our pasts. [But] there is a real element of sincerity on both of our parts that we can make a difference in the other one’s life, where our future is better than our past.”
The comparisons of Kershaw and Morgan to country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette are easy and inevitable. Both couples shared colorful pasts, rocky marriages, and musical styles. Not only that, but Morgan was Jones’ opening act in the early ’80sand it was at a Jones show, in Lafayette, La., in 1981, that Morgan and Kershaw first met.
“That would be the ultimate compliment to me,” Morgan says of the comparison. “I idolized Tammy so much, and at the same time, I have always wanted to try to be as great of a country lady as she was. There are some things about our lives that I hope don’t turn out the way theirs [did].”
The news of the impending nuptials has all but overshadowed the recent release of the couple’s first joint album, I Finally Found Someone (BMG/RCA), a solid collection of three solo songs each and six duets. “When I’m singing with Sammy, I don’t know where my voice ends and his begins,” Morgan says. The album includes the title song, a cover of the Barbra Streisand pop hit, as well as a remake of the Louis Armstrong standard, “What a Wonderful World.” The duo co-wrote “That’s Where I’ll Be,” while Morgan contributed “I Must Be Gettin’ Older” and Kershaw penned “Sugar.” They performed a few of these songs in a 30-city tour that began in February.
But no matter what Morgan’s and Kershaw’s musical achievements, virtually every discussion of these singers quickly leads back to their romance, which has remained one of the most talked-about topics in town for months. Though they’d known each other for a long time, the two became involved about two years ago, when both were still married to other people. Talk heated up when Kershaw’s divorce went to trial, a move that offered up their personal lives for public consumption. The Tennessean kept readers apprised of the latest court happenings, whether it was the revelation of a “showdown” between Kim Kershaw and Morgan, in which Sammy was forced to pick one or the other, or Kershaw’s monthly earnings and expenses.
Prior to Kershaw’s divorce, the couple were legally prohibited from discussing the matter publicly because of gag orders and attorneys’ wishes. But now that it’s final, they’re talking about the soap-opera-like saga, in hopes of correcting some misperceptions.
“Some of them are ugly and try to hurt you on purpose,” Kershaw says of the media. “Some disc jockeys, like Carl P. Mayfield, if it weren’t for making fun of people on the radio every morning, they wouldn’t have a job.”
Adds Morgan, “The thing that bothered us the most is hurting our kids. I’ve always been very up front with my children. They know what is printed is not always the truth. But people who write and say thingsyou can dog me all you want because I can fight back, but my kids and his kids, they are the innocent ones. There are some things they can’t understand. They go to school and get picked on and they get upset. The people always want to make something distasteful when they don’t know the whole truth about anything.”
Kim Kershaw has not commented publicly until now, even turning down money for her side of the story, because she and Kershaw had agreed not to discuss matters in the press to protect their childrenan agreement she believes he broke. “They should have thought about the kids when they were doing what they did,” she says. “He went out in public long before he was even divorced. My children went through hell.
“He publicly stated that he’s been in love with her for 20 years,” she continues. “You know, he had two children with me during those 20 years. There are a lot of things they should have left unsaid. I don’t wish either one of them bad; we are trying to be friends.”
One of the most notorious incidents in this domestic drama involved an apparent confrontation among Kershaw, his wife, and Morgan. Each woman is now eager to give her side of the storyalthough, not surprisingly, their stories don’t entirely match up. Here’s how things happened, according to Morgan: In May 2000, she discovered that Kershaw was still romantically involved with his wife. She contacted Kim, and the two women decided to confront Kershaw together, but Morgan says it was not the ambush that the media have made it out to be. They considered hopping in Morgan’s bus and driving to Kershaw’s show in Louisiana, but then decided to wait until he returned to Nashville.
When Sammy arrived at Morgan’s house a few days later, she called up Kim. “We were both mad at Sammy,” she says. “Kim and I were both very hurt. Kim felt like Sammy should be confronted by both of us, and that’s what we did. I didn’t know Sammy’s decision before we got here. I had no idea Sammy would say, ‘I’m in love with Lorrie.’
“The truth of the matter is, I called Kim when we found out about each other. I said, ‘If you want, all you need to do is say for me to leave your and Sammy’s life alone, and I will walk away. If you want your marriage to work, I’ll walk away.’ And she said, ‘You can have him.’ ”
As might be expected, Kim Kershaw has a different perspective. She feels that Morgan “did ambush me. She called me and asked me what was going on, as if I was the one who was the bad guy, and here he is my husband. She wanted me to go with her to Louisiana on her bus, and she wanted me to hide in the bus so I could see her get out of the bus and see Sammy run and hug her. I agreed to go to her house, and we both confronted him.
“Here I have been with this person for 20 years, and I find out all of this stuff, what he has been doing, having affairs and affairs. We have kids, and I believed everything he told me. He told me that they were friends and all he was doing was helping her with her finances.
“It’s not Lorrie’s fault; I don’t blame it on Lorrie. It’s Sammy’s fault. He should have been honest with both of us. You’d think if you were with somebody for 20 years, you would know him.”
After Kershaw decided to stay with Morgan, she forced him to discuss the matter with her mother, best friend, daughter, and priest. “Father Steiner said, ‘This is not a question of forgive and forget. The term should be what someone can forgive and accept,’ ” Morgan recalls. “That was a turning point in my decision, because you don’t forgetyou never forget. But if your love is strong enough that you can accept what has happened and you feel like there is a strong enough love for a future, then that is what you build on, and that’s what we have built on.”
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