Born Kippi Binkley in 1966 in Nashville, TN; later changed last name to Brannon at record company's suggestion; married and divorced twice; children: Kasey. Addresses: Fan club--1229 17th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212.
After more than a decade since she first hit the country charts, Kippi Brannon returns to the country music scene. As a teenager in the early 1980s, she had three songs that made it to Billboard's Hot Country Singles Chart. In an abrupt move, she then quit the music business to attend college. After many personal ups and downs, she is coming back strong with her debut album I'd Be with You, produced by Curb/Universal Records. The album's first song is the title hit "Daddy's Little Girl" that was released in March of 1997.
She was born Kippi Binkley in Nashville, but at her record company's prodding she changed her last name to Brannon. Her music career started when she played her Mom's piano at age five, and her Dad's guitar at age seven. Her early music idols were Linda Ronstadt, Barbara Mandrell, and Don Williams. Her father worked for a highway equipment company as a plant manager and her mother was a secretary.
Brannon was entered in her first beauty contest at age five. At the age of 12, she was discovered singing in a Nashville shopping mall by record producer Chuck Howard Jr. Brannon was Howard Jr's first production act, and he later went on to become Vice President of Curb Records. At the age of 14, she had her first record deal with MCA Records, and she was often considered a Brooke Shields look alike. "I don't think I look like her ... I hope someday they say, 'God, you look like Kippi Brannon,'" she told U.P.I. Brannon is determined to maintain a clean reputation, avoiding drugs and negative publicity. However, she did grow up fast, being introduced to the likes of country stars Barbara Mandrell and Loretta Lynn. She explained to Mark Schwed of U.P.I. that being a recording star has had a significant impact on her social life: "I'm not able to do as many things as I have been as far as functions at school. It's more business than pleasure."
Her first record, "Slowly," was recorded and released in August 1981 when she was 15 years old. At the time, she was a sophomore at Goodlettville (Tennessee) high school, and she was one of the youngest country singers ever to sign with a major record label. She was an A-minus student who balanced the demands of singing, household chores, and teen life. She said she had "no time to date, let alone have any deep relationships." Her prized teen possession was a silver Pontiac.
"Slowly" made it to number 33 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles Charts in 1981. Soon after, she had two more top singles, "If I Could See You Tonight" and "He Don't Make Me Cry." Billboard reported that she had an "astonishing mature, rich voice ... as emotionally involved as most country singers twice her age." In the fall of 1981, she made two performances at the Grand Ole Opry. She was nominated for the Academy of Country Music's 1981 Best New Female Vocalist award, but lost to Juice Newton. The young Brannon stated at the time, "~she deserved to win and I didn't."
After graduating from high school in 1983, she recorded In My Dreams. She often opened for other country singers such as Ronnie Milsap, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Conway Twitty, and spent a lot of time performing for television and live concerts. She seemed destined for stardom, but at the age of 17, quit the music business in 1983 and enrolled at Belmont University in Nashville to study pre-law. Brannon quit the business shortly before her first album was about to be released. As reported in Billboard, "I just kind of drifted away by choice. I think MCA, the label that I was on at the time, sensed my lack of interest, and it was a mutual decision ... to just kind of let me fade into the sunset. I really wanted to go to college, and when I got out of the business, it was a perfect time." Her parents were shocked at her move, for she made more money than her father and she seemed destined for a successful career as a recording artist.
She never finished college. The demands of her family and the birth of her daughter, Kasey, were very great, and she left Belmont a year before graduation. Later on, she told U.P.I. that she really wanted to re-enter the music business one year after she enrolled in college. For years, she struggled to get by on temporary jobs. She told the Toronto Sun, "I was 22 years old and here I was with a three year old and I didn't know how I was going to support her other than 9 to 5 jobs that were making minimum wage. It was very difficult to make ends meet. At that point, bottom of the barrel kind of thing, I said, 'Okay, I need to get back into it.' I had missed it, coupled with the fact that I needed a career."
Balance now became the most important part of her life, which she feels is a big step from her teen years when she considered her career as her whole life. In 1988 she signed a deal with Curb/Universal after aggressively pursuing her re-entry into the music business. On her new album is the song "I Ain't Never" which was recorded when she decided to re-enter the business in 1988. However, her recording comeback was stalled after she had to take care of her ailing father and cope with a second divorce. Curb executives were extremely excited when in 1994 Brannon decided to finish recording the album, and they made her one of the first acts on the new Curb/Universal label. Brannon stated in Billboard that the new album is "definitely country, but I would not classify it as traditional country. It's pretty much progressive country. It's an album that showcases a strong character. There are no doormat songs. And it's pretty much an up tempo album."
Her hit song in 1997, "Daddy's Little Girl," is about a father and daughter relationship that struck a sentimental chord on the country charts. Brannon said she recorded the song because as an only child she is a confirmed "daddy's little girl." As stated in Billboard, Curb/Universal Vice-President Carson Schreiber was quoted as saying, "Research shows it is a top-requested song for radio, and retail action on the cassette single has been spectacular ... she is one of those rare individuals that can hear a song like this and just really give that fabulous performance." Skip Young, a senior buyer for Hastings Books, Music & Video chain, states, "I am getting so much hot response from the field on that record. People are writing me e-mail all the time saying this single is selling ... she could be the new Deana Carter."
Brannon has also benefited from the Country Music Television (CMT) Channel, which shows videos of new artists about one week before songs hit the radio. As reported in Billboard, CMT is helping country radio stations in the '90s in much the same way that MTV helped top 40 in the '80s. Because of CMT's effect on matching a face to a name and song, Brannon's single "Daddy's Little Girl" debuted near the top in local singles sales before many country stations around the country started playing it heavily. Billboard reported that "the emotional song combines feisty Cajun fiddles with an insinuating groove that proves to be an intoxicating mix. This single shows off Brannon's impressive vocal abilities. Her voice is strong yet sultry as she slithers through this rhythmic jam."
Brannon's "Daddy's Little Girl" has even been incorporated into Christian Songwriter Bob Carlisle's Hit, "Butterfly Kisses," another 1997 father/daughter hit song that has hit the top of the mainstream song charts, selling at 100,000 a week. Carlisle's and Brannon's record label, MCG-Curb, joined their songs together. Carson stated, "I sing a verse and a chorus, and then they switch over to her song, which is her side of a grown-up girl looking at her daddy." Father's Day 1997 proved to be a big selling period for both artists.
As she embarks on her second singing career, Brannon feels her life experiences have made her stronger and wiser, claiming that personal experience combined with an education, helps her to deal with life a little better. Simon Renshaw of Nashville-based Senior Management is Brannon's manager. During the summer of 1997, she embarked on listener-appreciation shows for at least 125 radio stations, and should start a major tour by the end of the year.
by Bill Bennett
Kippi Brannon's Career
Had first record deal at age 14 with MCA Records; had three Billboard hot Country Singles Chart hits as a teenager; dropped out of music business to pursue pre-law degree just before debut of first album; floundered in temporary jobs before deciding to re- enter music business; hit song "Daddy's Little Girl" near top of charts for 1997 in same genre as Christian Songwriter Bob Carlisle's 1997 hit "Butterfly Kisses." As a teen, performed twice at the Grand Ole Opry; Opened for Ronnie Milsap, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Conway Twitty.
- Selective Works
- Slowly, 1981.
- If I Could See You Tonight, 1981.
- He Don't Make Me Cry, 1982.
- In My Dreams, 1983.
- Daddy's Little Girl, 1997.
- Billboard, May 4, 1991; April 19, 1997; May 3, 1997; June 7, 1997; June 28, 1997.
- Chattanooga Free Press, June 8, 1997.
- Ledger, June 20, 1997.
- Palm Beach Post June 8, 1997.
- People, January 25, 1982; May 17, 1982.
- Toronto Sun, June 28, 1997.
- United Press International, December 31, 1981; March 5, 1982; April 18, 1997.