I’m Glad Tanya Tucker Shared Her Nickel Dreams

As a kid growing up in Kentucky, I was obsessed with county music icon Tanya Tucker, who was only six years older than me.

Although it came out in 1996, I just read Tanya’s autobiography, “Nickel Dreams:  My Life” and all of those childhood memories came flooding back.

Tanya+Tucker Nickel+Dreams

While this blog is about the book, I have to dwell on my childhood love of Tanya.

“Nickel Dreams” made me realize how much I loved the young Tanya Tucker in the 1970s and all that I missed in the 1980s when I was became obsessed with the English new wave music invasion, Madonna, and New Kids on the Block.  However, I found Tanya again in the early-1990s and it’s my goal to see her in concert for the first time when she heads back out on the road!

The Texas-born singer scored her first country hit, “Delta Dawn”, which reached #6 on the Billboard Country chart in 1972, when she only 13-years-old.

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I loved that song so much that when Australian singer Helen Reddy released her version a year later, it was the first 45 rpm record that I bought with my own money.

However, it was Tanya Tucker, that I couldn’t get enough of.  I couldn’t decide which of her early hits, “Delta Dawn”, “What’s Your Mama’s Name” or  “Blood Red and Goin’ Down” were my favorites?  I know my family probably tired quickly of their 8-year-old son running around and constantly belting out Tanya songs and wishing he were Tanya Tucker!

While the story behind “Blood Red” totally freaked me out, as a kid, I loved the song and Tanya’s vocal delivery!

However, it would be her eighth hit (and fourth #1 song), “Lizzie and the Rainman”, in 1975, that would become my all-time favorite Tanya song before I swayed over to pop in the 1980s.

In her career, so far, Tanya has racked up 53 Top 40 solo hits on the Billboard Country charts.  Of those, an incredible 40 of them reached the Top Ten and 32 made the Top Five.

She has topped the country chart ten times:  “What’s Your Mama’s Name” (1973), “Blood Red and Goin’ Down” (1973), “Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone” (1974), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (1975), “San Antonio Stroll” (1975), “Here’s Some Love” (1976), “Just Another Love” (1986), “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love” (1987), “If It Don’t Come Easy” (1988), and “Strong Enough To Bend” (1988).

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Tanya and her co-writer on the book, Patsi Bale Cox, did an excellent job covering Tanya’s childhood growing up in Texas, Arizona, and Utah.

While still a child, the family ultimately ended up in Las Vegas and Tanya began getting more work.  Her father, Beau, worked very hard at getting demo tapes recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles and knocking on doors at any record label that would listen to him and Tanya.

Tanya finally caught the attention of Billy Sherrill, a hot-shot producer that made Tammy Wynette a star.  He also had a big influence on the careers of George Jones and Charlie Rich.  After they recorded “Delta Dawn”, the rest is history and Sherrill had another superstar on his hand.

As a teenager, Tanya scored 12 Top Ten hits from 1972-1977 at country radio.  But, just as she turned 20-years-old, her new management team made a radical change with her image and her sound — from country to rock.

TNT2

I remember seeing this album and thinking, what is going on?  I had just witnessed Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy Olsson (“Sandra Dee”) in “Grease” go from an innocent girl to a leather-clad beauty at the end of the musical and now Tanya was shocking the country music world with her suggestive album cover and liner note pictures with “TNT”.

TNT

She looked incredible, “Texas (When I Die)” reached the Top 5 on the country charts in 1978, and the album went platinum, selling more than a million copies .

However, the big hits were scarce for Tanya in the early half of the 1980s.  Nashville and country music were uneasy with Tanya’s new image and now that she was no longer a little girl, she was more interested in hitting the party scene in Los Angeles and whatever city she was playing.

Tanya was very honest and open about her drinking, her drug use, and her outlaw image.  When you listen to Tanya’s voice, you felt what she was singing about whether it was heartache and sadness, or living life to the fullest.

Glen Tanya

In addition to her nightlife of drugs and alcohol, Tanya was also making headlines for her relationship with a much older man, country and pop superstar Glen Campbell, who was more than twice her age and married!

Tanya does not hold back when talking about their excessive drug use and the very violent fights.  One of them left her bloodied and needing dental work after an altercation with Campbell when he knocked out her two front teeth!

She takes her fair share of blame for some of their fights during their turbulent relationship that lasted about a year.

In the second half of the 1980s, Tanya got a new label and the hits starting coming again.  She scored 11 Top Ten hits during that time, but the partying didn’t let up and she ended up in rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic late in that decade.

1986 Tanya1

I started listening to country music again in late 1990 when I visited “Sidetrack”, a gay bar in Chicago on country night.  That night, I heard this voice that blew me away.  It was Reba McEntire.

That renewed my love in the music I grew up listening to.  I quickly fell in love with Patty Loveless and months later, in 1991, I re-discovered Tanya Tucker just as she was getting ready to release the most amazing album of her career, “What Do I Do With Me”.

The album kicked off with the first hit, “Down to My Last Teardrop”, which reached #2 in 1991 and that was followed by three more Top Five hits, including “If Your Heart Ain’t Busy Tonight”.

The more I read “Nickel Dreams”, the more I wanted to hang out with Tanya Tucker.

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She’s been a party animal, but you can know that she’s real.  What you see is what you get.  She’ll move heaven and earth for the people she loves and cares for.

Tanya talks extensively about her daughter Presley, who turned 25 this month, and her son, Beau “Grayson”, who turns 23 this fall.  You can tell how much she loves her parents, Beau and Jaunita, who sadly, since the book was published in the 1990s, have passed away.

And, I was very touched by Tanya’s honesty about how her feelings toward gay people evolved once she realized that, contrary to her upbringing and the general attitudes of the country music genre, gay people are just like everyone else.

Michael Tovar helped Tanya with that.  She met him in Beverly Hills, California, in 1979, when she walked into the Jon Peters’ salon to get a haircut.  There was no one available to cut her hair and Tovar was sweeping the floor and shampooing.  He wasn’t even a hairdresser then, but Tanya took a chance on him and the two formed a strong friendship that would last until he died of AIDS in 1993.

Tanya visited him many times before he died and she paid special tribute to him during the Academy of Country Music Awards broadcast on May 11, 1993, when she won the award for best video for ”Two Sparrows in a Hurricane.”

Michael died less than two weeks later.

Tanya+Tucker Nickel+Dreams

“Nickel Dreams” was an amazing read and Tanya Tucker is an incredible woman!

Tanya, thank you for forty years of fantastic music.  I can’t wait to hear new music from you and finally get to see you in concert.

If you ever feel you’re “Down to My Last Teardrop” and you need another (gay) best friend to listen and bitch to, give me a call!

Anthony

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks. Very illuminating review and memoir. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (drop a nickel).

    Reply

  2. […] I’m Glad Tanya Tucker Shared Her Nickel Dreams […]

    Reply

  3. Posted by Paul on March 25, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I remember when the video for Last Teardrop first came out. My parter’s and my good friend Michael Tovar came over to our apartment with a copy to show us. He was excited because he can be seen at 1:30 and again at 1:40 fixing her hair! I’ve loved the song ever since. Coinsidence you included it here?

    Reply

  4. […]  https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/im-glad-tanya-tucker-shared-her-nickel-dreams/ […]

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