Tanya Tucker - Wild Child of the Lone Star State
Tanya Tucker was born October 10th, 1958 in Seminole, Texas. Her family enjoyed the country music of the era, and by the age of three Tanya was dancing around the living room and singing along while her mom's phonograph spun LPs of Elvis, Loretta Lynn, and other more popular singers. When she began singing, her family was astonished to hear the big voice that the small child had.
Tanya's father Beau was working as a construction worker day in and day out, but found time to convince local promoters to allow Tucker to sing with visiting country stars at local fairs. At the age of 13 she could be seen on any given weekend in a honky tonk singing Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough". Some in the audience felt a girl so young shouldn't be singing such mature songs, but those were the songs Tucker herself enjoyed.
Her parents began to believe that their daughter had a God-given talent and took her to the producers of Jeremiah Johnson (a Robert Redford Movie) to see if they would include Tucker in the film. The producers loved Tucker and created a scene with her riding a horse to music.
After her part in the movie was over her father moved the family to Las Vegas. In Vegas, Beau managed to scrape enough cash together to finance a demo 45 recording. When top executives at Columbia heard the demo they sent producer Billy Sherrill from Nashville to sign the 13 year old Tucker to a contract.
A dispute occurred when Sherrill tried to have the young Tucker record "The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A." Instead of losing Tucker he allowed her to record "Delta Dawn", "Jamestown Ferry", "Love's the Answer", and "What's Your Mamma's Name". Donna Fargo later had a #1 hit with "Happiest Girl".
It was "Delta Dawn" and "What's Your Mamma's Name" that became Top 10 hits. The instant success seemed to be too much for the family, but they managed to carry on. Since Tucker had selected the last two hits the label allowed the girl to choose "Blood Red and Goin Down", a song about a daughter watching a father kill her cheating mother, and "Would You Lay With Me", written by David Allen Coe, as a more adult oriented love song.
Columbia, who had initially downplayed the age of Tucker now had a full fledged country star on their hands and could not deny her age. It turned out that her fan base widened when it was revealed that she was only 15 years old.
Rolling Stone featured her on their cover, a first for country music. Tucker would cross the country many times performing concerts and recording during that whirlwind year. However, consternation was brewing at Columbia over the child star. After a dispute over artistic control, Tucker moved to MCA on her 16th birthday, declaring she would she was determined to continue to record "sophisticated country rock".
The next release brought the goods with "Lizzie and the Rainman", "San Antonio Stroll", "Here's Some Love", and "Save Me" an ecologically inspired song about the massacre of baby seals in Canada's Magdalen Islands.
Tucker's second release for the label raised many eyebrows. "TNT" had a picture of 18 year-old Tucker dressed a little too adult for comfort. The music also represented a different approach for Tucker, showing a more rock 'n' roll approach. In those days, a lot of country "shitkickers" hated rock & roll music. During the backlash, Tanya was booed from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for playing her style of country rock. Tucker continued with "Tear Me Apart", which was less successful than "TNT" and even included, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". Gossip columnists began speculating about her relationship with Glen Campbell and accusing him of physical abuse. Campbell, who is now calling himself a born-again Christian, denies any abuse ever took place. He was recently arrested for DUI in Arizona.
After ditching Campbell, Tanya signed to Capitol Records. Tucker's career was be revitalized with "Girls Like Me", "I Won't Take Less Than Your Love", "If It Don't Come Easy", "Strong Enough To Bend" all of which reached number one. In 1987, Tanya went into the Betty Ford clinic for a cocaine and alcohol addiction. Like many of the embarrassing incidents in her life, Tanya was "up front" about her drug problems, especially with her fans.
In 1991 Tanya was honored by the Country Music Association as Female Vocalist of the Year. Throughout the rest of the decade she would have no less than eight consecutive Top 10 songs. In 1996 she wrote her autobiography, "Nickel Dreams", which was acclaimed by Rolling Stone as "the most honest biography of all time".
In 2002 Tucker started her own label and released "Tanya". She now lives in rural Tennessee with her 5 year old daughter, where she is embroiled in a custody battle with her latest alleged abuser, former fiancée Jerry Laseter. (J. Charles Miller)