Gary James' Interview With
Tanya Tucker

She's charted more than fifty singles in the Country Charts Top 40. Her debut song, "Delta Dawn" in 1972, was her first Top Ten hit. She won Female Vocalist Of The Year at the 1991 Country Music Awards Show. She performed at the World Cup Opening Ceremonies in 1994 to a world-wide television audience of two billion viewers, did the half-time show at the Super Bowl that same year and in 1996 CBS chose her to sing the theme song for their NASCAR racing broadcast. We almost forgot to mention, in 1976, at the age of 15, she had her first "Greatest Hits" collection, a Grammy nomination and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. We are speaking of course about the one, the only, Tanya Tucker! We talked to Tanya about her life.

Q - I see you're playing with Grand Funk Railroad in the Fall (2015), correct?

A - Well, you got me. I didn't know that myself.

Q - You didn't know that?

A - No. They just book me and I go.

Q - I just thought to myself, what's a Country girl at heart doing on the bill with a Rock group like Grand Funk?

A - It's awesome.

Q - You're playing a speedway I guess.

A - I don't know. You know more about it than me. It's cool though.

Q - I assume you're familiar with Grand Funk's material.

A - Well, yes. I used to know their manager, Andy Cavaliere. That was forty years ago. He's since passed. Mark Farner, right?

Q - Right.

A - Yeah, Grand Funk. That's a great band. I love playing with different genres of music. I love that. I love all kinds of music. It's like Merle Haggard opening for The Rolling Stones. That was wild.

Q - Did he do that?

A - Yeah. Isn't it cool?

Q - It is. You don't see too much of that going on today.

A - Yeah, right. Exactly.

Q - That's how you expose the public to different kinds of music.

A - Exactly. It gave me an opportunity to play in front of people that normally wouldn't come to see me, but they get the opportunity to see me and maybe they'll like me too.

Q - I remember when you were recording for MCA Records, you took on a Rock image with tight leather pants. I believe your father was managing you then.

A - At that point I had another manager. They were all in it for the money and we were just caught in the middle. I wanted to do an album that would appeal to people in the Rock 'n' Roll world as well as people in the Country music world. It kind of just backfired on me, but it was my first Gold album. There was a lot of hype behind it. So that was all management's idea.

Q - I'm not sure if there is such a thing as Country music anymore. It sounds more like Rock 'n' Roll.

A - Yeah, yeah. There's a lot of Pop going on in Country right now. But it's all kind of coming together. There's not a lot of difference sometimes. But there's nothing like the old Rock 'n' Roll, Bob Seger stuff, John Fogerty, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I love it all.

Q - You appeared on Larry King a while back and you told him that we've seen the end of record companies. But, didn't you start your own record label in 2002?

A - Yeah, but that was just a hype. They were trying to get me to record an album so they could keep it 'cause I had a lawsuit against them. They wanted me to drop that lawsuit. They gave me the money to make it, but they never did do anything with it. So, it was very counter productive. It set me back about ten years, I swear. But record labels are just not my cup of tea. The only people that need 'em now are new acts.

Q - You don't have your own record label today?

A - No. It was just a ploy by Capitol Records to get me to drop the lawsuit and they just made me think I had my own record label. But, we'll get that going again.

Q - If you didn't have such a recognizable name it probably would be harder to promote your products, wouldn't it?

A - Oh, absolutely. I'm real lucky that I have such a great fan base. With this new management company that I have we're going for the world now. We're not just going for the United States. We want the world. I want to go around the world and play my music.

Q - Is it harder to promote Country music overseas than it is in the United States?

A - No, not really. They have a great love for Country music, especially in England, Scotland and Ireland. We won't be promoting me as a Country singer there. We'll be promoting me as a singer. We'll start just as a singer. I will sing about anything except Opera. Can't do that. (laughs) But there's a lot of music that I can do that I haven't been able to do yet. So, I think that's the key over in Europe and around the world. Asia, Japan, Australia. They're really a good place to go and those are places I have never been, so I have a lot of firsts left to do. It's good to have a lot of firsts after so long in the business. I haven't done everything.

Q - You said you would go out on the road and do two gigs a night. I don't know how you did that.

A - Yeah. 250 dates.

Q - You were moving!

A - Yeah. They don't do that anymore.

Q - Because record companies aren't around to put the money behind the artists. That's why.

A - Oh, yeah. You can't count on the record companies for anything.

Q - And the promoters aren't around either.

A - They are around, but you got to get the right ones. There's so many bad ones.

Q - You said you would go back to an empty hotel room and that's what started you drinking. I would think after a gig your handlers would've had promotional work for you.

A - In the '80s there was always a good time to party after the show. There's a friend in every town that has something. That just kind of starts snowballing. But the '80s are over. It's like it's un-cool now. Some people are still stuck in the '80s, but not me. I've moved on. I have three great kids who I'm very proud of and a new career basically.

Q - I was told you were in Memphis on August 16th, 1977.

A - Yes, I was.

Q - You went to the wake of Elvis Presley.

A - Yes.

Q - You came out and told a national TV reporter or network, "tThat's not Elvis." What did you mean by that?

A - Well, it didn't look like him. Of course, I've never seen a lot of dead people. I think mostly I just didn't want it to be, but it didn't look like him. It looked sort of like him, but his hair, you could see his blonde roots. I thought they did an awful job on his hair. They dressed him in a white suit, a white polyester suit with a blue shirt and a big, fat white tie. It was just like, this is not Elvis. This is not what he would like to go out looking like. His hair was all combed back off his face. Of course, He had a dent in his nose 'cause when he fell he cracked his nose. He looked real pasty. It's like they added too much make-up on him. but it was the worst day of my life in that I couldn't believe people were sitting around, drinking coffee and talking and telling jokes. It was the saddest day in the world for me. I was so bad I couldn't go to the funeral next day. I just couldn't do it. It broke me down. That was the day the music died for me.

Q - You had to get a special invitation to get in there, didn't you?

A - No. I didn't. I didn't have to have an invitation. They just let me in. I knew everybody. I knew all the guys of all his Memphis Mafia. I just pulled up in a car and went in.

Q - People over the years have said to me, "Tanya Tucker said it wasn't Elvis. That proves it was a was dummy."

A - Well, it really didn't look like him to me. Now, there's all kinds of rumors that he's gone somewhere, that Lisa Marie goes every year to see him, but I met Lisa Marie a couple of years ago. We didn't get a chance to talk about it, but I'd sure like to sit down and talk with her.

Q - I wish you would and tell me what she said.

A - I've got a lot of questions for her. (laughs)

Q - I bet. And I'd have even more.

A - Yeah, I bet. (laughs) It's just sad, but I don't think he could handle growing old. I think the book they wrote about him before he died is really what put an end to him. Elvis' friends wrote that book.

Q - The three bodyguards.

A - Yeah. Elvis: What Happened?, which I have never read.

Q - I was reading it a couple of days before he passed away and this awful feeling came over me that Elvis was in serious trouble. What do you think of that?

A - Wow! That's scary. When your friends betray you it's just the worst thing in the world. These were his only friends. If they had taken that money and given it to charity I would've believed it a little more, but they put it in their pockets.

Q - Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up singing or show business?

A - I took four years off. I basically walked away then. I didn't think I wanted to do it anymore, but the consenses has been no matter if I got into a grocery store or a truck stop or a botique or whatever, people are just saying, "We miss you. We want you back out there. We miss your music." So, it's been okay. If it had been different, if it had been just a few people, but it was just constant. Constant. I didn't know what to believe, but seeing the crowds now that we're now back out there on the road, I can tell that it was true. They're just better than they've ever been and bigger.

Q - When you go out in public, do you still get recognized? Do you wear sunglasses?

A - I had no make-up on and I had been working, hauling furniture to my new house, me and my friend. We pulled into a Mexican place and my hair was all which way. I walked in and the first guy recognized me. I'm thinking, what the hell?! (laughs) How can they recognized me like this? So yeah, I get recognized a lot. Mostly if I talk. They recognize my voice.

Q - You're more famous than you realize!

A - Exactly. I never think about it too much until things like that happen.

Q - I guess it's fair to say you always wanted to be a singer, didn't you?

A - Oh, yeah. From the beginning. That was what I wanted to do. Without my dad I kind of lost my mojo. After leaving him it was kind of a big hole in my heart. So, I didn't really want to go on without him. Then I lost my mother and that was a double whammy. So, I had to find another reason and the reason is my fans and my family. And I have new management. That helps too. I didn't know if I would ever find new management because I didn't know if I could trust anybody.

Q - When you get right down to it, you probably know more about management than any manager around today.

A - (laughs) That's funny.

Q - No, but it's true. You've been in the business. You know the business. You know the ropes.

A - Exactly. Well, I know the ropes, but they know all this new stuff. New social media and they're really on top of it. We never were. My dad, he wouldn't even know how to get on a computer.

Q - Well, it wasn't around when your career was starting.

A - No.

Q - You made an album singing other people's material. Do you now write your own songs?

A - I haven't gotten into that yet. I have in the past. My friends are writers. Some of the greatest. They just beg me to come write with them, so I have to have time to do that. I'm too busy right now. I'm always writing down song ideas. I'm always doing that.

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Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker