Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, her father, a musician, died when she was eight. At 17, she married and became a hairdresser. Three years and three children later, they were divorced. She would marry four more times, all marriages being stormy. Her third child had spinal meningitis, and Tammy tried to make some additional money by performing at night. In 1965 she landed a spot on a television show and in 1966 she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she managed to get a record contract.
During 1968 and 1969, Tammy had five number one hits—"Take Me to Your World," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," "Stand By Your Man" (all 1968), "Singing My Song," and "The Ways to Love a Man" (both 1969).
In 1968, she started a relationship with George Jones, one of the great drinkers in the country music scene. They married in 1969 and starting in 1971 they recorded several popular duets—the first was the Top Ten "Take Me". However, it was a difficult marriage to say the least and they were divorced in 1975; they continued to record together sporadically over the next two decades.
Tammy continued to land hits in the 1970s and, more sporadically, in the 1980s. In 1978, she was abducted and attacked by a masked man who was never identified, although it appears as if Tammy knew his identity. She filed for bankruptcy in 1988.
She made a track with the KLF in 1992, called 'Justified And Ancient', which became her biggest success. Following long illness, she died in 1998 in Nashville, Tennessee.