Born October 10, 1958, in Seminole, Texas; daughter of Jesse "Bo" (a heavy equipment operator and music manager) and Juanita Tucker. Addresses: Home --Nashville, Tenn. Record company --Capitol Records, Inc., 1750 Vine, Hollywood, Calif. 90028.
Tanya Tucker, described as "the wildest filly in country and western music" by David Hutchings in People, began making an impact in her singing career when she was only thirteen years old. Her first single, "Delta Dawn," reached the top ten of the country charts soon after its release in 1972. Tucker has since proved that she was in no way a fluke or a short-lived child star with a long string of successful albums, several nominations for awards from the Country Music Association, and a list of hit songs that includes 1973's "What's Your Mama's Name?" and "Blood Red and Going Down," 1975's "Lizzie and the Rainman," and 1988's "Strong Enough to Bend." As Ralph Novak put it in his People review of the latter, "Somebody make some room on that list of good ole gals."
Tucker was born on October 10, 1958, in Seminole, Texas, the youngest of three children. Her father, Jesse "Bo" Tucker, was a heavy-equipment operator, and the family moved often as he sought better work. Tanya's early childhood was spent primarily in Wilcox, Arizona, where the only radio station in town played nothing but country music. The Tuckers also went to the concerts of country stars such as Ernest Tubb and Mel Tillis, and Tanya's older sister LaCosta was praised in the family for her vocal abilities. At the age of eight, Tanya told her father that she, too, wanted to be a country singer when she grew up.
Bo Tucker took his youngest daughter's ambition very seriously after she began to sing songs for him and, by the time she was ten, Tanya had begun to sing in talent shows in Phoenix, Arizona, where the family had recently moved. Though she didn't win anything, the experience helped her learn how to perform before live audiences. Even as early as this, Tucker cut demo tapes which her father took to Nashville, Tennessee, in hopes of impressing record producers, but when they learned that the singer Bo was trying to promote was his own daughter, most wrote Tanya off as just another child whose naturally biased parents thought she had talent.
Meanwhile, the Tuckers moved again, this time to Saint George, Utah, and there Tanya's mother, Juanita, took her daughter to audition for the film, Jeremiah Johnson. Tanya did not win the bigger role she tried out for, but she was hired as a bit player. At about this time she also got one of her first big musical breaks, due to the dedication of her father. He drove Tanya and the rest of the family all the way back to Phoenix for the Arizona State Fair, on the chance that the featured performer, country singer Judy Lynn, could use Tanya in her show. Tanya sang for the fair's entertainment people, and she went on to sing at the fair itself.
After the Arizona State Fair, the Tuckers were unsure of the next step in the pursuit of Tanya's career. When Tanya was about twelve years old, the family decided to move to Las Vegas, Nevada, figuring that it was a good city for an entertainer to get started. There the young girl made more demo tapes, and Bo took them to music agent Dolores Fuller, who had been influential in the career of pop singer/songwriter Johnny Rivers. Fuller liked what she heard, and brought the tapes to the attention of Billy Sherrill, executive producer of Columbia Records in Nashville, who flew out to talk to the Tuckers in Las Vegas. After Tanya sang for Sherrill in person, he signed her to a contract.
Before Tanya Tucker had turned fourteen, she had become a major country sensation. "Delta Dawn," her first single--about a middle-aged woman who cannot forget the lover who abandoned her in her youth and wanders around Brownsville, Texas, looking for him--made critics rave over her surprisingly mature "throaty style," as Novak described it. Though Australian singer Helen Reddy's version of "Delta Dawn" dominated the pop charts, Tucker's version beat out others by country artists Kitty Wells, Waylon Jennings, and Bobby Bare to become by far the most popular with country audiences. Two other songs on Delta Dawn scored hits for the fledgling country crooner; "Jamestown Ferry" and "Love Is the Answer" also did well on the country charts. Tucker quickly followed these successes with her second album, What's Your Mama's Name? The title song describes the sad life of a man trying to find his illegitimate daughter, and another hit, "Blood Red and Going Down," portrays a husband hunting down his unfaithful wife and her lover and killing them. Reviewers noted the adult nature of the young singer's records; the title of her third hot-selling album speaks for itself: Would You Lay with Me (in a Field of Stone).
Though she continued to release hits, such as "San Antonio Stroll," "You've Got Me to Hold Onto," "Texas (When I Die)," and "Pecos Promenade," Tucker began to acquire a wild reputation as she grew up. She had begun drinking in her late teens, and she told Hutchings how it started: "You send your ass out on the road doing two gigs a night and after all that adoration go back to empty hotel rooms. Loneliness got me into it." In 1978, Tucker moved to Los Angeles, California, to try, unsuccessfully, to broaden her appeal to pop audiences, and was quickly captivated by the city's nightlife. She confessed to Hutchings that she "was the wildest thing out there. I could stay up longer, drink more and kick the biggest ass in town. I was on the ragged edge." The young woman also made gossip columns buzz with a series of romantic involvements. Her famous amours included country singer Merle Haggard, actor Don Johnson, the late pop-singer Andy Gibb, and--most notably--country and western star Glen Campbell, with whom she had a very stormy relationship and a hit duet, "Dream Lover."
Though she moved to Nashville after her breakup with Campbell in 1982 and began to lead a more secluded life, Tucker continued to drink and use cocaine. Finally, in 1988, her family confronted her and persuaded her to enter former First Lady Betty Ford's alcohol and drug addiction clinic. At first, Tucker admitted to Hutchings, she rebelled against her treatments, but after private counseling sessions she began to improve: "Yeah, I got help ... I learned about the addictions. But mainly I saw a lot of people were worse off than I am, which made me feel lucky." Another lucky thing for Tucker in 1988 was her hit album, Strong Enough to Bend. The title track rose high on the country charts and earned her a nomination for Best Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association. Critics raved, including Novak, who praised the album as "resonant." "All I wanted was to make good music," Tucker summed for Hutchings.
by Elizabeth Thomas
Tanya Tucker's Career
Solo recording artist and concert performer, 1972--; bit player in film Jeremiah Johnson , c. 1970.
Tanya Tucker's Awards
Several nominations for awards from the Country Music Association; several gold and platinum albums.
- Delta Dawn (includes "Delta Dawn," "Jamestown Ferry," and "Love Is the Answer"), Columbia, 1972.
- What's Your Mama's Name? (includes "What's Your Mama's Name" and "Blood Red and Going Down"), Columbia, 1973.
- Would You Lay with Me (in a Field of Stone?) (includes "Would You Lay with Me" and "The Man Who Turned My Mama On"), Columbia, 1974.
- Tanya Tucker MCA, 1974.
- Lizzie and the Rainman (includes "Lizzie and the Rainman" and "San Antonio Stroll"), MCA, 1975.
- Lovin' and Learnin' (includes "You've Got Me to Hold Onto"), MCA, 1976.
- Ridin' Rainbows (includes "It's a Cowboy Lovin' Night"), 1977.
- TNT (includes "Texas"), MCA, 1978.
- Tear Me Apart MCA, 1979.
- Dreamlovers (includes "Dream Lover" and "Pecos Promenade"), MCA, 1980.
- Girls Like Me (includes "I'll Come Back"), Capitol, 1986.
- Love Me Like You Used to (includes "Love Me Like You Used to"), Capitol, 1987.
- Strong Enough to Bend (includes "Strong Enough to Bend," "Back on My Feet," and "Daddy and Home"), Capitol, 1988.
September 13, 2005: Tucker's album, Live at Billy Bob's Texas, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_7/index.jsp, September 14, 2005.
- Country Music, November/December 1986.
- People, October 31, 1988; November 14, 1988.