Country music super-star, Tanya Tucker has had a long and storied career. She had her first top ten hit with “Delta Dawn” at the age of 13, was on the cover of Rolling Stone at the age of 15, has been nominated for 9 Grammy awards and has gone on to have 15 number one hits throughout her forty-four years in the music business. Miss Tucker will be playing The Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield Park on Thursday, February 18. She took some time out of her schedule to speak with us about her career and her upcoming appearance.
Greg Drugan: Hi Tanya! Its a pleasure to speak with you. Where are you calling me from today?
Tanya Tucker: I’m calling from Nashville.
GD: Its snowing up here in Ohio, but I don’t think you have to worry about that down there.
TT: Yeah, but its colder than hell! But it has been pretty mild so far, but it wont stay that way I recon.
GD: Right! Well, lets get into it. You have been in the business for a very long time and you first broke out on the scene at the age of 13. Did you choose to sing “Delta Dawn”, or was it chosen for you?
TT: No, no, no. I chose that song. Billy Sherrill played it for me and it was just a guitar and a vocal with Alex Harvey singing it and I said “That’s my song!” Then we recorded it the next day.
GD: After you recorded it, did you know it was going to be a hit?
TT: You know, I was just a kid and I figured everything was going to be a hit. I was just happy I had a record deal and I was standing there with the Jordanaires (Elvis background group) singing. I really couldn’t believe where I was at, so I didn’t think too much about it. I just stood there and sang my heart out.
GD: Was that the first time you were in a recording studio?
TT: It was the first time I was in a legitimate one, yeah! It was Studio B at Columbia (Records), what we used to call the Quonset Hut. That’s where everyone cut their songs. It’s one of the greatest studios and put out the most hits of any studio I believe.
GD: What was it like being a teenager and touring in the 70s?
TT: Well, I wouldn’t really call it touring. It was more like me and my dad in a station wagon running around the country playing with house bands. We played a lot of flat bed trucks and shopping malls and lots of bales of hay! It was a hard luck life, let me tell you. It wasn’t easy. Then I got a band when I was 15 and we started touring and we probably did 250 dates a year.
GD: Do you think you missed out on some high school activities with being on the road or the recording studio?
TT: Yeah I did, and I’m glad I did! I got as far as 9th grade in basic high school. I was working the Flamingo (hotel) in Nevada and I already had three number one records out, but I really wanted to finish my schooling and I didn’t want to quit. But I was doing three shows a night at the Flamingo, and then I was coming home and trying to go to school on two hours sleep. Finally I had to pick one or the other and I picked this life.
GD: Well, I believe you made the right choice for sure.
TT: (laughs) Well I hope so! But the jury is still out!
GD: Oh no, the verdict is in! You made the right choice.
TT: Ok, ok! (laughs)
GD: If you were just starting today as a 13 year old, do you think you would have had the same type of success with all of the social media and paparazzi that are out there today that wasn’t there 40 years ago?
TT: Gosh! That is one question that I have not asked myself. That is really something to think about. I’m not sure if it would have helped, or if it would have hindered it. It might have helped so much that I could have been retired by now! I’m just glad it wasn’t around when I was living out in California; I wouldn’t have been able to get away with anything! There were a lot of things that I got accused of doing that I didn’t do. I guess my reputation precedes me! So it was bad enough as it was back then without social media. Now its really bad. I feel sorry for the up and coming bands that are just hounded constantly. But if you’re in this business long enough, you know where to go, and where to stay away from. If you do go somewhere, you got to be ready for it.
GD: After a string of hits in the mid 70s, what made you change your image and go into more of a rock record with TNT?
TT: Well my vision, at the age of 18, was to take country music to a new level. I felt that people thought of us as still being in the horse and buggy down here. I felt that country music wasn’t getting the air time that it needed. I felt that there were millions of people that would love it if they just had the chance to hear it and see it in the right way. I wasn’t trying to go Rock and Roll. That was never, ever my goal. It was only to take country music to a wider audience. I failed at that, even though the album sold well because there was a lot of hype. Unfortunately I made this record with a producer who didn’t show up half the time. We spent a half a million dollars on the record which at that time was unheard of. I had the wrong people but the right idea, and they didn’t know how to handle it. Garth (Brooks) did exactly what I wanted to do. He did it the right way with the right people and he knew what he was doing. He finally did what I was trying to do on the TNT album. So, I was a failure at that but not because I wasn’t trying.
GD: Well, I wouldn’t call it a failure. It was one of your best selling albums at the time. (Certified gold, reached #2 on the country charts)
TT: Well, one DJ called all the other DJ’s and told them not to play me because I had gone rock and roll. I won’t name names, but you probably know who it is.
GD: After a few lean years in the early 80s you had a huge comeback in the late 80s with three number one country singles and several other top ten hits. To what do you attribute this success?
TT: Well, I moved back from L.A. to Nashville and I worked with Jerry Crutchfield who I had a thirteen album run with. We had some great albums and Jerry is one of my favorite producers and favorite people and hes still one of my best friends. There is a little rumor going around that we may be working together. I hope that happens!
GD: That would be fantastic! What was it like performing at the Super Bowl halftime show in 1993? That had to be the worlds largest line dance!
TT: Oh my gosh! They put all of that out there in five minutes! I was there and I still can’t believe it. It was like being inside a magic trick and still not knowing how the guy does it! It was exciting and a lot of fun.
GD: How does it feel to be considered the only female in the Outlaw Country movement?
TT: I don’t know how that happened. I was surprised I was in the lineup. Its cool being the only girl, but I don’t know how I got there.
GD: It seems that today’s trend in country music is considered “bro-country” with Florida Georgia Line and acts like that. What is your take on that kind of country music?
TT: Its party music. It’s music you play when everyone wants to drink or everyone wants to smoke. But I’m at the age where I’m kinda past that. So I consider that party music. Then you hear a song like “The House that Built Me” and that brings me to my knees. There is some great stuff out there.
GD: Are there any current artists out there that you like today?
TT: Well, you know, I’m not one to play much music. If I play music in the car, I’ll play Merle Haggard. I was just listening to him last night, and I just go to another place when he sings. I know he’s been sick so we need everyone to say a little prayer for him because we don’t need to lose Merle Haggard!
GD: It’s been a few years since you’ve gone out on tour since the start of your current tour. What can we expect from your upcoming appearance?
TT: You can expect pretty much the same thing, just better!
GD: You said you might be working with Jerry Crutchfield again, are you currently working on new music?
TT: I’ve got a new album in the can. We are going to revisit it in the studio and then we will make a decision as to what we are going to do.
GD: Well I’m sure your fans and myself included, would be excited to hear it.
TT: Yeah, I want it to be the best thing we’ve ever done. Its got to be!
GD: Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but we actually have a huge country fan base. Do you have any memories from playing in Ohio?
TT: I’ve always been able to go to Ohio. It’s always been a great state for me! Whenever we do shows there, we always have great experiences there. I’ve been playing there since I was fourteen and the people really seem to enjoy the music. We want to see them more than they want to see us!
GD: Thank you so much for your time, we look forward to seeing you next month at the Hard Rock Rocksino and hopefully we will pack it for you!
TT: We look forward to it! Here I come! Thanks Darlin’.
Tanya Tucker will be playing the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield Park on February 18th. Tickets are available at the Hard Rock Box Office, and ticketmaster.com.