Born on October 10, 1958, in Seminole, TX; daughter of Jesse "Bo" (a heavy equipment operator and music manager) and Juanita Tucker. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, Inc., 1750 North Vine, Hollywood, CA 90028-5274, website: http://www.hollywoodandvine.com. Website--Tanya Tucker Official Website: http://www.tanyatucker.com.
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 13 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. She has produced 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 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 12 years old, the family decided to move to Las Vegas, figuring that it was a good city for an entertainer to get a start. 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. Sherrill 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 14, she had become a major country sensation. "Delta Dawn," her first single off her album of the same name, was about a middle-aged woman who cannot forget the lover who abandoned her in her youth, and critics raved 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 the Delta Dawn album 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?, in which the title song describes the sad life of a man trying to find his illegitimate daughter. 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, including the title of her third hot-selling album, 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 were positive, including Novak, who praised the album as "resonant." "All I wanted was to make good music," Tucker told Hutchings.
Tucker followed with another strong effort in 1990, Tennessee Woman. "Tucker is in great voice here," wrote Thom Jurek in All Music Guide, "turning in a deck of fine songs with a couple of real standouts." Throughout the 1990s she also continued to be a force on both the country music album and singles chart. In 1992-93, three songs---"Two Sparrows in a Hurricane," "It's a Little Too Late," and "Soon"---reached number two on the Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart. In 1993, Greatest Hits 1990-1992 rose to number 15 and Soon rose to number 18 on the Top Country Albums chart. Tucker signed with Capitol in 1994 and released Girls Like Me, an album Jurek described as "a winner from end to end." She continued to receive critical praise with the release of Fire to Fire in 1995 and Complicated in 1997.
Tucker gave birth to her third child, Layla LaCosta Laseter, in the summer of 1999, and returned to touring in the fall. In 2002 she founded Tuckertime Records, allowing her to retain creative control of the recording process and release the singles she wished to release. The same year she issued Tanya, her first album in five years, and received distribution through Capitol. The album was produced by her fiancé, Jerry Laseter, and included a guest vocal by Vince Gill. "The bottom line," noted Jolene Downs at About.com, "is that Tanya is still very much a contender in the field." After 30 years in the music business, Tanya showed Tucker still capable of making memorable country songs. "We started making some music we thought was real," Tucker told Mike Osgueda in the Fresno Bee. "Nowadays, I just want to prove to myself that I can move that next mountain and climb that next hill."
by Elizabeth Thomas and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr
Tanya Tucker's Career
Solo recording artist and concert performer, 1972--; released debut album Delta Dawn, 1972; released numerous albums, 1970s; moved to Los Angeles, CA, 1978; returned to Nashville, TN, 1982; released hit album Strong Enough to Bend, 1988; released Tennessee Woman on Liberty Records, 1990; released Girls Like Me on Capitol, 1994; charted on Billboard and Top Country Album charts with Soon (1993), Fire to Fire (1995), and Complicated (1997); formed Tuckertime Records and released Tanya, 2002; performed benefit concert for Happy Trails Riding Academy, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Delta Dawn Columbia, 1972.
- What's Your Mama's Name? Columbia, 1973.
- Would You Lay with Me (in a Field of Stone?) Columbia, 1974.
- Tanya Tucker MCA, 1974.
- Lizzie and the Rainman MCA, 1975.
- Lovin' and Learnin' MCA, 1976.
- Ridin' Rainbows MCA, 1977.
- TNT MCA, 1978.
- Tear Me Apart MCA, 1979.
- Dreamlovers MCA, 1980.
- Girls Like Me Capitol, 1986.
- Love Me Like You Used To Capitol, 1987.
- Strong Enough to Bend Capitol, 1988.
- Tennessee Woman Liberty, 1990.
- What Do I Do With Me Liberty, 1991.
- Can't Run From Yourself Liberty, 1992.
- Soon Liberty, 1993.
- Girls Like Me Capitol, 1994.
- Fire to Fire Liberty, 1995.
- Complicated Capitol, 1997.
- Tanya Capitol, 2002.
- Country Music, November/December 1986.
- Fresno Bee, December 6, 2002, p. E1.
- People, October 31, 1988; November 14, 1988.
- "Girls Like Me," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (4/22/05).
- "Tanya Tucker---Tanya," About.com, http://www.countrymusic.about.com (4/22/05).