Tanya Tucker was kind of like the Britney Spears of country music in the 1970s, a teenage chart-topper who underwent a “sexy” image make-over as she got older (and who did her share of hard partying). Her massive hits like “Delta Dawn” and “What’s Your Mama’s Name” were fairly ubiquitous on jukeboxes, AM radio and TV at the time. Tucker’s voice was instantly recognizable from the first note and her formula followed nicely in the Tammy Wynette-trod footsteps of the narrative country tear-jerker, often with the something ominous lurking in the story-line. And the twist was that they were being sung by a kid.
“Innocent” young Tanya, aged 14.
Tucker’s 1973 hit record, “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” tells the tale of a young girl who watches her distraught father gun down her cheating mother and her lover in a bar. “Southern Gothic” at its finest. It’s also something you might hear the likes of Nick Cave sing, but Tucker would have been all of fourteen years old when the song was recorded and about seventeen in the video clip below. Imagine watching a kid perform this song in 2017 on America’s Got Talent or something… Jeezus K. Reist. These days the social justice warrior types would be having conniption fits, but in the 1970s this was a #1 hit!
In the late 80s, I was visiting my parents in Wheeling, WV with my then girlfriend who, for whatever reasons, was really into Tanya Tucker. As fate would have it, Tucker was playing a concert at the famed Capitol Music Hall while we were in town and so we went. It was a fucking blast and a really good show (and honestly not the kind of thing I’d have gone to see on my own in a million years).
Tanya after her ‘sexy’ make-over, still not old enough to drink…
I can recall three things about it vividly. One, it was Tucker’s 30th birthday that night and a conga line of about a dozen goofy guys dropped red roses at her feet as she sang “Delta Dawn.”
Two, the concert was stopped twice while a commercial for “Country Time Lemonade” ran (the show was being broadcast live on the legendary country music station, WWVA’s “Jamboree USA” radio show, and Country Time Lemonade was the sponsor). Tucker and her band just walked offstage and a slide was shown as the ad was pumped over the PA system. When the commercial was over they came back onstage and started up again.
Third, nearly everyone in the audience save for us had cowbells. I swear.
Just a few hours ago it was announced that Tucker, now 58, is postponing tour dates after fracturing a vertebrae and injuring a rib during a fall while on tour.
“Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” 1975.
More vintage Tanya Tucker after the jump…