A long way from her birthplace of Butcher Holler, Ky., and a far cry from her first visit to Nashville, Loretta Lynn walked the red carpet outside Nashville's Ryman Auditorium Tuesday night, October 12, looking radiant in a flowing golden gown, and on the arm of a beaming Garth Brooks. The occasion was the 2010 Grammy Salute to Country Music, honoring the 'Coal Miner's Daughter' with the presentation of the Recording Academy President's Merit Award. The golden gown was also a nod to the celebration of Loretta's 50th anniversary as a recording artist and the golden anniversary of her first appearance on the Ryman's Grand Ole Opry stage in 1960.

Now 75, still writing, recording and performing, Loretta acknowledged that when she started out, she never looked ahead to the half-century mark.

"I never thought five years later," she said. "I woke up in the back seat of the car, and Doolittle (her husband, who passed away in 1996) had gone and got us a donut. I got out of the car in front of the Grand Ole Opry. I looked up and seen 'Grand Ole Opry.' I'll tell you what, I shouted all over the street!"

Much like the personal touch she applied in the early days of her career (out of necessity for the unknown singer at the time), Loretta is still taking the bull by the horns when it comes to soliciting radio airplay for the first single from the new album, 'Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn.' "Well, why not?," she replied. "Somebody needs to promote 'em!" "Can you imagine getting that call," Garth chimed in with a laugh.

Of Loretta's legacy, Garth reasoned, "She didn't try to reach the masses, and she reached the masses. She didn't try to crossover and she crossed over. She didn't try to set the bar and outlast everyone else. And she set the bar and outlasted everyone else. We all grew up with her and she was part of a group of wonderful names. Then, as the years go by, those names become fewer and more precious and then they come down to a handful. Those are the legends."

Garth also said that the Grammy tribute to Loretta would be a "night full of good surprises" and he was certainly proven right, especially because Loretta had been told very little about what would be happening inside the Ryman and was so overcome with emotion that when she accepted the Recording Academy's material tokens of esteem, a Grammy trophy and a plaque, all she could muster was a simple but heartfelt "thank you."

During the 45-minute program, invited guests were treated to a mere handful of Loretta's countless unforgettable songs, performed in quick succession by the show's host Reba McEntire ('If You're Not Gone Too Long' which she performs on the new album with swing outfit the Time Jumpers, who were the house band for the evening), along with Martina McBride ('You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man' and 'Love Is the Foundation'), Lee Ann Womack ('I'm a Honky Tonk Girl'), Gretchen Wilson ('Don't Come Home a-Drinkin' With Lovin' on Your Mind') and Kid Rock ('I Know How'). Gretchen and Kid also teamed up for a version of the comical Loretta/Conway Twitty duet, 'You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.'

The program closed with an emotional rendering of the Loretta-Conway classic, 'After the Fire Is Gone,' with Garth filling in for Loretta's late duet partner and Loretta proving that her own fire still shines just as brightly as the golden party dress she donned for the special evening.

'Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn' is set for release on November 9.