Back on Track

If any country music singer exemplifies fortitude and tenacity, it is Tanya Tucker. While a lot of country artists have retired or packed it in, this talented women is making some of the best music of her long-time career.
In late November she received four Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year, Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance for “Bring My Flowers Now,” and Best Country Album, While I’m Livin’. The record is her first Top Ten debut and tenth Top 10 album.
The four nominations lead all 2020 Country Grammy nominees. Produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, While I’m Livin’ is Tucker’s first new album in 17 years, released in August. The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards will take place on Jan. 26, 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I wish I had a trampoline to jump on right now! This is just unbelievable,” Tucker stated. “I couldn’t have done this without the fans, Brandi and Shooter, and the whole Tanya Tucker Team. What’s different now more than ever is the fans on social media and streaming made this record an instant success. What just happened, I’d never, ever fathom.”
The four nominations mark a career high for one of the original country outlaws. Nominated for 10 Grammys over her five-decade career, Tucker landed her first nomination with “Delta Dawn” in 1972 for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female.
While I’m Livin’ is largely comprised of songs written by Carlile, the twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth and Tucker.
“It’s a musical biography of sorts, about Tanya’s real life and the places she’s seen, and it’s narrated by the greatest country and western singer this side of Johnny Cash,” Carlile said.
When Tucker returns to the Edgewater’s E Center on Saturday, Dec. 7, her guitar case will be loaded with both her new music and successful, timeless hit songs.
Even at 13, Tanya Tucker had enough attitude, audacious confidence and talent to not only take Nashville by storm but land one of the fattest record deals the town had ever seen. This was 1972, and Tucker’s rendition of the song “Delta Dawn” was the catalyst.
At the time, few child performers had achieved success in country music, but Tucker not only attained that success as a teenager, but managed to propel it into a career as an adult, piling up hits and fans all along the way.
Since that auspicious beginning Tucker has become one of the most admired and influential artists in country music history, amassing 23 Top 40 albums and a string of 56 Top 40 singles, 10 of which reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard country charts. Tucker’s indelible songs include some of country music’s biggest hits such as “Soon,” “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” “It’s a Little Too Late,” “Trouble,” “Texas (When I Die),” “If It Don’t Come Easy” and “Strong Enough To Bend.” Tucker is also the recipient of numerous awards, including two CMAs, two ACMs, and three CMT awards in addition to her many Grammy nominations.
While most think of Tanya Tucker as a product of Texas, she actually spent her formative years in Las Vegas. Her first break was a demo tape sent to producer Billy Sherrill who then signed her to Columbia Records with the plan to have her record “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.” The teenager knew something about what audiences would like and passed on that sugary tune and went with “Delta Dawn” — a song she heard Bette Midler sing on “The Tonight Show.” This was a decision beyond her years and a portent of how she was definitely one apart from the crowd.
Released in the spring of 1972, the song became an instant hit, followed by “Love’s the Answer,” and her first No. 1 hit, “What’s Your Mama’s Name.” Two other number ones — “Blood Red and Goin’ Down” and “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)” followed.
Two years into her singing career, Tucker appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, a rare national media spotlight for a country star in 1974. In October of that year, she signed a $1.4 million contract with MCA Records.
With the success, came controversy. In 1978, Tucker recorded the rock-influenced album T.N.T. in Los Angeles. The album cover illustrated her radical departure from her image as an innocent teen to sexy siren and her decision to crossover to rock. She continued to record hits and live somewhat of a “wild child” lifestyle.
As she aged, she mellowed somewhat and continued to tour, which included many a stop in Laughlin until several years ago. Yet fans kept asking for more, so she’s been back at it and once again she’s been out touring and singing.
“The project had been just getting back out on the road and startin’ the whole thing all over again,” she said. “So, it’s not like ridin’ a bike. There’s so much to it, so many pieces, you know — band, sound, lights — all that stuff…management…I’ve got new management now, since my dad passed. It’s hard to believe in someone else enough to trust them with my career so I’m taking a leap of faith on this one.
“But we had so many requests from so many people. I mean, I’m in the grocery store and I have a check-out guy telling me I need to get back on the road and I need a new record — it got to the point where, ‘Hey, okay! I’m going, I’m going!’
Sometimes a well deserved rest is needed for both breathing a bit and looking at life from a different perspective. Ever since Tucker arrived on the scene, she’s always been under the gun to produce more and more music, always striving to outdo herself with each record. Nashville was constantly at her back thinking of her as more of an Energizer bunny and less as a human with a breaking point. But she took pride in her work and didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
“The pressure would always come from them,” she said, “It was, ‘Oh, yeah, you had a big ol’ hit like that, now how are we gonna follow it?
“But I was 14, so really, what kind of pressure do you put on yourself when you’re 14? You just go through life. I just got on the bus. I didn’t even know sometimes where we were going.
“I’m sure my dad felt the pressure,” she added. “It’s when you grow up the pressure starts, responsibilities and all that.
“I tried to avoid that for a long time — a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do,” she laughs, “but it finally caught up with me.”
While Tucker was growing as a country music artist, she had the opportunity to spend time with the legendary George Jones.
“We hung out a lot together back in the ’80s,” she said. “We probably weren’t the best pair to be hanging out together but we hung out and we became really good friends. I was one of George Jones’ best friends ’til the day he died. I have those memories — and I miss him like hell, but I have a lot of wonderful memories of him. It was just like with Conway and Waylon. I was lucky. I got to be friends with all the classics — all my heroes. Loretta Lynn included.
“I was the bridge in between the old and the new,” she added. “I love being in the middle. It’s a good place to be. I have those memories of all those heroes of mine and then I’m getting to hang with a few of these newcomers.”
So where was Tucker the first time she heard “Delta Dawn” on the radio? Just a few miles up the road from Laughlin.
“I was sitting out in our ’67 Chrysler station wagon in Henderson, Nevada. Me and my parents heard WBAP come through from Ft. Worth, Texas,” she said. “It was Bill Mack and he played it and it was all static, barely audible. I don’t think we had a radio in the house. We had to go out to the car and listen to it. But it was great that I heard it the first time with Bill Mack playing it. Bill Mack and I became lifelong friends.”
Who are some female artists Tucker listens to these days?
“I really like Miranda (Lambert). Of, course, Carrie (Underwood), and I thought Gretchen Wilson did a great job with ‘Redneck Woman.’ But I’m the original ‘redneck woman.'”


TANYA TUCKER

E Center at the Edgewater

Saturday, Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info