The moment I first heard those twangy vocals I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old – this was back in the days when CMT was a staple of my television viewing (hey I was from Manitoba – this is what we did!). The song was ‘Streets of Bakersfield’ and the man was DWiGHT YOAKAM. Immediately I knew he was the epitome of HiLLBiLLY HOT – clad in a 10 gallon hat and skin-tight jeans that showed off his wiry frame.
An outspoken proponent of the hillbilly music he grew up on, DWiGHT YOAKAM fashioned a hard-hitting take on the classic BAKERSFiELD sound that united middle-aged BUCK OWENS admirers with young rock fans. “It’s extremely important that honky-tonk music have youth involved in it,” YOAKAM has said, reinforcing that statement with the musical edge of hits such as his 1986 hit “Guirars, Cadilacs.”
HELLO WALLS, originally a hit for FARON YOUNG – was the song that gave WiLLiE NELSON recognition as a songwriter. He went on to record it in 1962 on an album called AND THEN i WROTE.
Stylistically, there is no one like NELSON - and he’s an author, poet, actor, and activist to boot. He was one of the main figures of outlaw country, a subgenre of country music that developed at the end of the 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound.
Friday, September 23 was the 148th Carp Fair – with headliners being JOE DiFFiE and the one, the only TANYA TUCKER.
To begin – let me say that although it was a dream come true to finally see TUCKER in person, I was also sicker than a dog. I couldn’t let my state of exhaustion stop me from getting to see this phenomenal force in country music in person – after all I figured I may never get that chance again!
I’ve been thinking a lot about TUCKER and her performance Friday night, as it did certainly leave a lasting impression. I am a true fan of her vast catalog of music, which all began in 1972 when a 13 year old girl put out a hit song called DELTA DAWN. TANYA TUCKER stated as much in between songs last night that her career was the stuff dreams were made of. You also get the sense that she loves to look back on those times respectfully – and is someone who still lives and breathes her love of country music. It should also be noted that TUCKER became one of the few child performers to mature into adulthood without losing her audience, and during the course of her career, she notched a streak of Top 10 and Top 40 hits. You also have to appreciate that at the time this 13 year old was making records like WOULD YOU LAY WiTH ME (iN A FiELD OF STONE) – she was doing so alongside many legendary greats of country music, like CASH, MERLE HAGGARD, MEL TiLLiS and GEORGE JONES – all of whom were older and musicians she admired post her own fame.
Keep in mind that my thoughts come from the perspective of a particular TANYA TUCKER fan; I’m familiar with her entire career of music, enjoyed her 1997 tell-all auto biography NiCKEL DREAMS – and I think she was one of the hottest chicks from that NEW BREED of COUNTRY MUSiC that came from the early 1970’s. Today I also think she is incredibly underrated; something about seeing her at the Carp Fair solidified this. I’m not unfamiliar with the fact that the music business in general is challenging and fickle. I know TUCKER hasn’t necessarily had a hit song in years, nor is she present in today’s music market. This aside however I was still mildly disappointed to see the smallish crowd of fans clamor into the arena, most of which were seniors and drunken, middle-aged red necks. I’m sorry – but it’s true. What did I expect right? It saddened me ever so slightly – only because TANYA TUCKER iS A LiViNG LEGEND PEOPLE SHOULD APPRECiATE - and she deserves major props. So she’s not selling albums like CARRiE UNDERWOOD anymore but mark my word, when TANYA TUCKER goes, so does the end of what I think was a beautiful era of country music. I hope she can get adequate recognition at least once more before that time comes. She should be filling huge arenas.
Listen to me! Perhaps I sound slightly morbid – but I can explain. Part of this rising sentiment comes right from last night’s experience seeing her live.
I’m going to start with the positives. First of all – TUCKER performed familiar songs that most fans would expect. From TROUBLE, WALKiNG SHOES, and STRONG ENOUGH TO BEND, her voice remains amazing and this professional knows how to control her vocals impeccably. In fact, there was a moment where she sang OH WHAT iT DiD TO ME when I was so in the ‘moment’ with her, if you will (I was literally crouched down in front of the stage staring up at her) that I even teared up. Why? Quite frankly the wave of emotion was because she is extraordinary – but also because I recognized the moment as a dream come true. I’ll remember that moment forever.
TANYA also possesses a lot of that same old swag she had in the 1970’s and 80’s. Although not quite in the same physical shape (she is now pushing 53), her ability to move on stage and do so with appeal remind me of the days when tabloids referred to her as a TEXAS TORNADO; notoriously bouncing around Hollywood with the likes of GLEN CAMPBELL, causing a raucous as much for her private life as her professional. I’ll always love this aspect of her character.
Finally, what I appreciated between songs and swagger were her candid stories of the golden age of NASHViLLE and country music. Clearly you can tell that TUCKER is as devoted to country and her fans as she ever was. I was reminded of how in NiCKEL DREAMS she spoke very highly of her father BEAU TUCKER – a hard working man who basically broke down doors trying to pitch his young and talented daughter to music executives to get her a record deal. NiCKEL DREAMS informed me she was unique in many ways – but that she did and still does possess much respect for those before her, those who got her where she is – and those relics of country music that informed the singer she became in her own right. This is another aspect of what I love about her.
I was struck with this immediate sense mid-way through her set that TUCKER speaks of such glory days with a hint of sadness and loss. For one thing she was under the weather – even stating as much to the audience. It turns out she would have canceled the show due to a nasty bug but successfully pulled it together in time for Carp Fair. With a few messy starts it was apparent she had not fully recuperated and it only began to show more, at least to me. Then again, I see everything ….
Like I stated, her performances were always point-on. It was within her dialogue she revealed much more. For example, speaking briefly of legendary producer JERRY CRUCHFiELD (producer of her earlier hits) she lamented on how meaningful those earlier experiences were – but also with a strange tinge of sadness, almost mourning. Just having flown in from NASHViLLE, TUCKER also made mention of a visit she made to GLEN CAMPBELL, whom she’ll forever be infamously connected with because of their torrid affair in the early 1980’s. These stories will always be remembered but when TUCKER talks about CAMPBELL today (CAMPBELL is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease) she again does so with a real undercurrent of lonesomeness and difficulty. It’s almost as though she wears the pain of accepting the passing of time on her sleeve.
The biggest indication that something is just not right with TANYA TUCKER these days – comes straight from the horse’s mouth. TUCKER’S devoted father BEAU passed away not 2 years ago, and before giving a shortened and shaky version of TWO SPARROW iN A HURRiCANE she admitted that this loss hit hard and has ultimately changed her outlook on life, admitting “I’ve lost my mojo…”. It was both touching and … well for me, sad. I had always seen TUCKER as a tough-ass broad with booty and hardiness. Before me however, I was looking at a woman affected by these losses; perhaps watching those who she was ever so close to in her childhood career pass away has exposed her vulnerabilities? This could just be the social worker in me talking…. When I stop to think about it – I suppose I only see this aspect the way I do because not so long ago we lost both my Grandpa Stan and Grandma Mary. It devastated my mother, who said something very similar in regards to losing her mojo – and I know my mom would understand where TUCKER is coming from. I’ve never lost on that level – but I can’t imagine how it would impact me. TUCKER went from a icon – to human in my eyes. In the flesh to boot.
Closing the show with DELTA DAWN the song that started it all, TUCKER sang the infamous opening lines “She’s 41 and her Daddy still calls her Baby/ All the folks around Brownsville say she’s crazy/Cuz she walks around town with a suitcase in her hand/Looking for a mysterious, dark haired man”. At one time a 13 year old girl who sang songs telling mythic stories in a reedy voice that belied her age sang about this old crazy broad named Delta Dawn – fast-forward to today and its a 53 year old woman. Themes of loneliness, loss of youth, losing your mind – all run around in my congested mind – and to quote CARRiE BRADSHAW, I couldn’t help but wonder – is TANYA TUCKER losing it??? I sincerely hope not. I’m not ready to lose HER yet.
Ultimately I hope my girl can get it together. If you’re out there and reading this TANYA – know that these thoughts are merely the ratings of boy/man who is as devoted to you and your music as you were to country music. Keep it together and know that regardless of the passing of time and the losses that come with it you have left your mark on country music – let’s just hope you get your MOJO back in time to shove some more incredible music down our throats. I know I’ll be anxiously waiting!
I have always liked JUiCE NEWTON’s voice and image enough that she holds a place in my special make-believe land – where everyone (and I mean everyone) exists in one place. This land is somewhere on a make-believe ranch. Real life friends and family of mine exist with LiZ TAYLOR and BOB DYLAN. And of course OLiViA NEWTON-JOHN lives down the street and SONNY & CHER could be sitting in the same park as you. And their friendly. You know the place – its the same place we all create in make-believe land, right?
Anyways – back to JUiCE. I like her voice – she has a beautiful and distinct voice. She’s no real beauty though – I mean in context to this make-believe land and all who live there. And even in reality too – in her prime JUiCE was good and made a mark of sorts, but she was never DOLLY PARTON, or EMMYLOU HARRiS. Yet she still earned a spot in my land of make-believe. I guess I always sort of decided she was the girl on the ranch who’d be off somewhere brushing some horse in a barn, all decked out in her 80′s jeans and long dry hair (that always appeared to be screaming for a trim). Compared to say, OLiViA, who was off somewhere else, floating though a wheat field, or DOLLY, who was probably not far behind, chasing butterflies. JUiCE was… just – like the BAiLEY to the JENNiFER on WKRP in CiNCiNNATI. I think you get it.
But to be fair – JUiCE still has a life in this land. So she might be a bit plainer, or whatever – but despite this I would like to think she was living out the narrative of “ANGEL of the MORNiNG” with some equally ugly/edgy male ranch-hand. What does she sing?
There’ll be no strings to bind your hands
not if my love can’t bind your heart.
And there’s no need to take a stand
for it was I who chose to start.
I see no need to take me home,
I’m old enough to face the dawn.
Yes, JUiCE is singing this on the ranch – because naturally she’s involved with a ranch-hand. And she sings so lovely, I’ll always give her that. So as critical as I am – I love JUiCE enough to share my land with her.
PORTER WAGONER was an extremely popular American country music singer known for his flashy Nudie Suits and blond pompadour. Dubbed as MR. GRAND OLE OPRY he charted a total of 81 singles from 1954-1983; and is an honored member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Initially WAGONER began performing with his band THE BLUE RIDGE BOYS on radio stations in his Native West Plains, Missouri. Radio stints led him to become a featured regular on TV’s OZARK JUBILEE, and like many of his contemporaries in country music WAGONER traveled and performed outdoors for fans at American Legion Houses in rural towns. This was the way to do it then! WAGONER knew his devoted fans well, and was renowned for mingling with his audiences during performance breaks. This was a part of his whole charm.
WAGONER’S success as a solo artist proved formidable but it was once his syndicated television program THE PORTER WAGONER SHOW began that he really solidified his mark on country music. The show featured opening performances by WAGONER and his ‘Girl Singer’, NORMA JEAN. NORMA JEAN, a very popular aspect of his show, provided the feminine touch to WAGONER’S music, and together their voices were about as perfect as could be. The audiences that adored WAGONER also made extra room for NORMA JEAN. But eventually she would leave the show to raise a family of her own, leaving the door open for DOLLY PARTON to replace her.
DOLLY’S addition to THE PORTER WAGONER SHOW and his music proved even more successful than NORMA JEANS and together she and WAGONER would go on to record some of country music’s finest melodies, often set to maudlin stories about death and poverty. PARTON found big success in this time, and the audiences that adored NORMA JEAN would also accept her. Similarly however, PARTON would eventually leave WAGONER to find solo success but she has always maintained her gratitude to WAGONER for showing her how to perform. Through him she developed her own unique brand of stage presence; matching him in his Nudie suits and pompadour hair.
Grand Ole Opry honored WAGONER in 2007 for both his 50 years of membership and his 80th birthday. Also in 2007, WAGONER released his final album, WAGONMASTER and in the process received the best reviews of his career.
For more on PORTER WAGONER visit : www.porterwagoner.com
JOHNNY CASH is one of the most prolific recording music artists of all time, certainly in terms of COUNTRY MUSiC. His lengthy career, spanning 1954 to 2003, saw the release of 96 albums and 153 singles on several record labels. Over the years, THE MAN iN BLACK also collaborated with many of the industry’s most notable artists (BOB DYLAN, JONi MiTCHELL, WAYLON JENNINGS, WiLLiE NELSON etc), and received many awards and accolades from different organizations. Much of CASH’s music, especially that of his later career (Cash passed away in 2003), echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption, and no one can deny with that bass-baritone voice, JOHNNY CASH was a distinct and unforgettable contributor to music in general.
That said, today I chose to focus on TENNESSEE STUD, and the rest speaks for itself.
PRESS ON was released in 1999, 4 years before JUNE CARTER CASH passed away at the age of 74. Accompanying June on an album almost entirely written by June herself are several formidable musicians including MARTY STUART (mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals), RODNEY CROWELL (vocals, acoustic guitar) and June’s own legendary MAN iN BLACK, JOHNNY CASH. When she and her band aren’t laying down a foot-thumping tale of some kind, June will pick up her autoharp and turn the feeling around to one of SPiRiT and PAiN. And she particularly shines on the albums 3 ORiGiNAL CARTER FAMiLY songs (Diamonds In the Rust, Meeting In the Air, Will the Circle Be Unbroken), perhaps in part because the family songs hold much meaning and memory for her. In fact, PRESS ON has several family connections, as June looks to her family to sing and play with throughout the entire album, using her adult children and grandchildren on many songs. The results are effortless, touching and fun.
In short, PRESS ON gives us June’s story in snap shots that come in the form of some very beautiful music. At one moment June’s aged voice can sing of her childhood memories growing up in the mountains, to finding herself now a deeply religious and spiritual woman of life experience. She’s feisty and sounds interested in having us remember her gift for music. Above all you get a sense that June was and remained a vivacious woman surrounded by many who loved and respected her.
Speaking of being surrounded by those who loved her, a highlight of PRESS ON comes with June and Johnny Cash’s duet THE FAR SiDE BANKS OF JORDAN. This recording alone is a very special piece of history on record.
Once I had mountains in the palm of my hands
Rivers that ran through every day
But I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away…
NASHViLLE SKYLiNE is Bob Dylan’s ninth studio album, released by Columbia Records in April 1969.
The album marked a departure for Dylan, who had previously been known for his poetic folk music and rock n’ roll. NASHViLLE SKYLiNE, displayed his complete immersion into COUNTRY MUSiC – and out of it came a brilliant album. Along with the more basic themes, simple songwriting structures, and domestic feel, it introduced audiences to a softer and more affected country crooner in Dylan.
NASHViLLE SKYLiNE was definitely a departure for the folk and rock music Bob Dylan became famous for in the early 1960’s. When I discovered this 1969 album it quickly became one that I had playing for months. Every song was a favourite. Dylan was and remains a poetical genius, yes, but so many incredible songs of his earlier career get overshadowed in the face of his monster hits. I Threw It All Away is not a political anthem. It doesn’t provide any kind of social commentary. It is however, a song that I wish I could have written. Rather, I should say it feels like a song that could have been written for me. Yet don’t we all feel that way about certain songs? That’s the joy of music, after all. Ultimately, Dylan is being confessional when he croons “Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand, And rivers that ran through ev’ry day, I must have been mad, I never knew what I had, until I threw it all away”. A critic who once put it extremely well offers that that he gives “a glimmer of honesty from a person who has taken love for granted, squandered its rewards, and lived to sing about it.” And this is what most appeals to me; the universality that we have all experienced at one time or another. Or not, if we have been so fortunate. I have been in those shoes. I have made that human error of taking something or someone for granted. And I have lived to sing about it. And it is because of this I connected to it in a way that solidifies it as a standout. Period. To be sure, as difficult as it can be to look back on something and realize that you ‘threw it all away’, the song is not all gloom and doom. There is an implication that a lesson was learned and that there is hope. That hope can be all we need to get by sometimes.