Born Vincent Grant Gill on April 12, 1957, in Norman, OK; son of Stan (a judge) and Jerene Gill; married Janis Oliver (a singer-songwriter), April 12, 1979; divorced, 1999; married Amy Grant (a singer), 2000; children: Jenny (with Oliver), Corrina (with Grant). Addresses: Record company--MCA Nashville, 1514 South St., Nashville, TN 37212. Website--Vince Gill Official Website: http://www.vincegill.com.
Vince Gill worked at the very edges of success for more than a decade before breaking through to country music superstardom in 1990. For many years Gill's vocal and instrumental talents were put to use in the studio by a wide spectrum of country artists. Finally, after struggling to launch his solo career for years, he found his way to fame with a haunting neo-traditional country single, "When I Call Your Name." Chicago Tribune music critic Jack Hurst wrote of Gill: "After six years in Nashville, a man who has sung backup on the records of more than 100 other artists finally has a megahit of his own to his credit."
Many country music enthusiasts had long felt that the talented Gill was a candidate for top success in the industry from his earliest professional efforts. In Who's Who in New Country Music, for instance, Andrew Vaughan noted that Gill "has for years been touted as the man most likely to become a star." With many friends in Nashville and a long string of credits for session work, songwriting, and vocals, Gill needed only to find the style that would best showcase his assets. He succeeded after years of lackluster work for RCA Records with his first MCA Nashville release, a project he called "the right record at the right time."
Vince Gill was born on April 12, 1957, in Norman, Oklahoma, where he was also raised. Fascinated by country, western, and bluegrass music from childhood, he was playing guitar and singing with a local bluegrass band while still in his teens. Gill's high, expressive tenor was ideally suited for bluegrass and in his early years he worked with such groups as the Bluegrass Alliance and a West Coast band, Sundance. Like many of the other musicians he knew, Gill was strongly influenced by rock as well as country and bluegrass. Playing with such avant-garde artists as the Bluegrass Alliances's Sam Bush and Sundance's Byron Berline, he developed a rock-flavored picking style that proved quite popular in California. He also learned to play banjo, dobro, and mandolin--ideal preparation for the studio work that would sustain him down the road.
In the mid-1970s Gill joined Pure Prairie League, a soft-rock band based in California; he was featured on three late-seventies Pure Prairie League albums, though the group's heyday preceded Gill's arrival. In 1979, during his stay in California, Gill married Janis Oliver, herself a would-be singer-songwriter. For several years Gill and his wife were content to live and work on the West Coast. Then Gill made a controversial career decision, one that absolutely confounded his California friends.
Gill had known singer Rodney Crowell since the days when the latter sang backup for country star Emmylou Harris. When Crowell decided to go solo and form his own band, he asked Gill to back him up. It was a demotion, in effect, since Gill had been singing lead with Pure Prairie League. "People were telling me, 'Man, how could you make that step backward?,'" Gill recalled in the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Musically, that was a giant step [forward] for me." As the 1980s began Gill moved with more focus into purely country music, forging lasting relationships with Crowell, Harris, and the man who would become his producer, Tony Brown.
Nashville proved a congenial environment for both Gill and his wife, Janis. The up-and-coming singer found as much work as he could handle as a session vocalist and musician; he worked with Crowell, Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, and Patty Loveless, to name a few. About that time Janis persuaded her sister to move east as well and the two began recording as Sweethearts of the Rodeo. In 1984 Gill signed a contract for solo work with RCA Records. His first RCA release, a mini-album called Turn Me Loose, yielded a top 20 hit and earned Gill the Academy of Country Music's top New Male Vocalist Award.
The sailing was not smooth thereafter, however; Gill had grand ambitions for his music, ambitions that ran counter to the prevailing winds in Nashville. "I felt I was going to be the one who could really bridge the gap between pop and country and get rock fans interested in country music," he told the Chicago Tribune. Through three RCA releases Gill explored his personal vision, bringing all his acoustic and vocal talents to bear. He achieved modest success and even cracked the country top ten with a duet--"If It Weren't for Him"--recorded with Rosanne Cash. Still, as Vaughan pointed out in Who's Who in New Country Music, Gill "wasn't the star the pundits had predicted."
In 1990 Gill severed his relationship with RCA and moved down the street to MCA Nashville, where his friend Tony Brown was working as a producer. Gill's first MCA recording, When I Call Your Name, was far more traditional than his previous work; it featured an Oklahoma swing number and several compelling country ballads. The album became Gill's biggest, selling four or five times more units than any of his previous releases. "It's the first real country record I've ever made, and I'm extremely proud of it," he told the Chicago Tribune.
Gill's pride was justifiable in light of the awards he garnered for the album's title song. "When I Call Your Name" was judged the Best Single of the Year by the Country Music Association and was awarded a Grammy as Best Country song of 1990. The album yielded other hits as well, including the Reba McEntire duet "Oklahoma Swing" and the bluegrass-styled "Never Knew Lonely." At long last Gill had stepped out of the shadows of the Nashville recording studios and into the spotlight many felt he richly deserved. His tenor vocals and chilling harmonies may not have closed the gap between country and pop, but they had enriched and enlarged the scope of bluegrass in a country format.
Gill followed up When I Call Your Name with Pocket Full of Gold, an effort replete with no-nonsense shuffles, love ballads, and a rocking version of an old traditional song. Country Music reviewer Rich Kienzle opened his critique of Pocket by stating unequivocally that the record deserved the acclaim it had garnered and allowing that it "nearly" equaled the "special" nature of When I Call Your Name. Citing what he felt were a few clunkers, but mostly praising the album's stand-outs, the writer applauded: "Gill's talent for uncanny twists in his songs," and in one instance, his "anguished delivery." Kienzle finished his appraisal by declaring: "Gill deserves credit for maintaining his original direction. With tight production ... combined with his clear, beautifully focused voice, he's moving in a direction that is right for him. Others should be so lucky."
Gill's star shone brighter still in 1992 when Pocket Full of Gold went platinum as did his 1992 release, I Still Believe in You. Also that year he received the honor of membership in the Grand Ole Opry. Gill went on to release three major hits in 1993, including "One More Chance." He released a true crossover album, When Love Finds You, in 1994. He rounded out the decade with High Lonesome Sound in 1996 and The Keyand Christmas Collection in 1998. Gill released Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye as well as a children's album, The Emperor's New Clothes in 2000.
Although Gill's marriage to Oliver ended in divorce in 1999, the couple has one daughter, Jenny, born in the early 1980s. Her voice can be heard on supporting vocals with her father on Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye. Gill married singer Amy Grant on March 10, 2000, and one year later on March 12, 2001, the couple's daughter, Corrina Grant Gill, was born.
Considering his wide instrumental experience and proficiency in many styles, it is no surprise that Gill offers a variety of work on each album. He told the Chicago Tribune that he consciously tries to put "different things" on his releases so that he does not become associated with one particular sound. His biggest challenge, he said, is to find "something to home in on, something folks [are] going to react to."
by Anne Janette Johnson
Vince Gill's Career
Singer and guitar player with Pure Prairie League, c. 1975-80; backup singer and guitar player with Rodney Crowell, c. 1980-84; signed as solo artist with RCA Records, released first hit, "Turn Me Loose," 1984; moved to MCA Records, released first number one hit, "When I Call Your Name," 1990; released Pocket Full of Gold, 1991; released Grammy-winning I Still Believe in You, 1992; When Love Finds You finds crossover success, 1994; released High Lonesome Sound, 1996; released The Key, 1998; released Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye, 2000.
Vince Gill's Awards
Academy of Country Music (ACM) Award, New Male Vocalist of the Year, 1984; Country Music Association (CMA) Award, Single of the Year, 1990; Grammy Award, Best Male Country Vocal, 1990; CMA Awards, Vocal Event of the Year, Song of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, 1991; Grammy Award, Best Country Vocal Collaboration (with Steve Wariner and Ricky Skaggs), 1991; ACM Awards, Top Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year, 1992; CMA Awards, Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year, 1992; Grammy Awards, Best Country Song, Best Male Country Performance, 1992; CMA Awards, Vocal Event of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, 1993; Grammy Award, Best Country Instrumental Performance (with Asleep at the Wheel), 1993; CMA Awards, Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, 1994; Grammy Award, Best Male Country Vocal Performance, 1994; Grammy Awards, Best Male Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Instrumental Performance (with Randy Scruggs), 1999; Grammy Award, Best Country Instrumental Performance (with Asleep at the Wheel), 2000.
- Selected discography
- Turn Me Loose , RCA, 1984.
- The Things That Matter , RCA, 1985.
- The Way Back Home , RCA, 1987.
- The Best of Vince Gill , RCA, 1989.
- When I Call Your Name , MCA Nashville, 1989.
- Pocket Full of Gold , MCA Nashville, 1991.
- I Never Knew Lonely (compilation), RCA, 1992.
- I Still Believe in You , MCA, 1992.
- Let There Be Peace on Earth , MCA, 1993.
- When Love Finds You , MCA, 1994.
- Souvenirs , MCA, 1995.
- High Lonesome Sound , MCA, 1996.
- The Key , MCA, 1998.
- Breath of Heaven: A Christmas Collection , MCA, 1998.
- Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye , MCA, 2000.
May 23, 2006: Gill won the Academy of Country Music/Home Depot Humanitarian Award at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Source: Academy of Country Music, www.acmcountry.com/content/index.php, May 28, 2006.
- Vaughan, Andrew, Who's Who in New Country Music, St. Martin's, 1989.
- Chicago Tribune, September 13, 1990.
- Country Music, March/April 1991; November/December 1991.
- Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), July 29, 1990.
- People, June 10, 1991.
- Stereo Review, April 1991.
- Variety, December 23, 1991.
- "Vince Gill," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 26, 2001).
- Vince Gill Official Website, http://www.vincegill.com (September 26, 2001).