Carlene Carter, Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis are Queens of the Road (1996)
Originally published in our June 18, 1996 issue featuring Carlene Carter, Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis on the cover.
Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis and Carlene Carter, who headline the first-ever all-female country supertour, couldn’t have more love for the road in their genes than if their daddies were truck drivers.
Daddy’s girls they ain’t, and neither are their daddies truck drivers. All three of these country heroines, however, credit much of their own country stardom to their famous singing fathers. Lorrie’s father is the late Opry great George Morgan, who launched several hits, including “Candy Kisses” throughout the yesteryears of country music.
Pam’s dad is singer/comedian Mel Tillis, who performs regularly at his theater in Branson, Mo.
Carlene’s pedigree is equally prestigious: She’s the daughter of ’50s hitmaker Carl Smith and June Carter Cash of the famed Carter Family. Since childhood, she performed with the Carters, as well as stepfather Johnny Cash.
The Kraft Country Tour ’96, which features all three of these second- and third-generation stars in a 33-city venture, not only marks an opportunity for the trio to carry on their family traditions, but to also prove that today’s women onstage no longer have to sing the opening-act blues.
“Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an easy life now, but compared to when our parents were in the business 30 years ago, it was really hard,” Pam Tillis said. “They didn’t have the luxury buses we have.
“They didn’t even have freeways,” added Carlene Carter.
“It was just tough,” Pam continued. “They toured a lot more than we do now, and this was even before video and all of the television exposure we have. I actually remember my dad doing between 250 to 300 dates a year. They toured a lot of times in a station wagon.”
“Oh, yeah,” added Lorrie, “and there was a bass fiddle on top of the car. I also remember Dad doing two or three shows a day.”
“When I was a little kid going out with the Carters,” remembered Carlene, “it was nothing for them to drive 40 hours between shows, and they didn’t even bat an eye at it.”
Country Weekly recently tracked down the entertaining trio in New York City and found that the ladies were thrilled about the tour – some proceeds of which go to Second Harvest Food Bank.
“We’re gonna make a heckuva tour,” said Lorrie. “We’re gonna sell lots of tickets and have lots of fun. We’re women, but by God, we can do it. I think it’s all just fate.
“It was unthought of before, because women didn’t really come into their own in country music until just a few years ago. No one really believed that we could sell tickets and no one believed we could sell albums. We’ve since then proven that differently. So I think this is all just perfect timing.”
“This tour is different than any I’ve ever done,” Carlene added. What makes it unique is the set list, which features a 30-minute performance by all three women, in addition to solo portions as well.
“It’s really something that I thought would never ever come to pass,” explained Pam. “It just seemed like a nice dream.
“But then last year was called the year of the woman in country music. So Kraft, who’s been a longtime country music supporter, thought it would be nice to do the first all-female country tour. They also liked the shared heritage that all three of us have.”
Besides having similar upbringings or often being called “Opry brats,” each knows what a challenge it’s been over the years to gain the respect as women within a business that has typically been dominated by male entertainers and headlining hat acts.
Although their accomplishments as women are finally getting respect within the entertainment world, all three of these talented ladies realize that much of their current success is not only due to their own hard work, but to the hard-learned ropes of their fathers’ careers. “Back then, it was almost like everyone took women for granted,” Carlene explained. “You just didn’t get the respect you deserved. You really had to earn it, and that took a long time.”
Following in their dads’ footsteps not only meant having God-given talent, but having to work even harder to reach what seemed like an unclimbable platform. To say the least, their unique training started at home when they actually sang along with their fathers.
“Oh, yeah, I remember,” Lorrie told Country Weekly. “Of course, it was first just around the house. But professionally, I remember first singing with Dad on the Grand Ole Opry, when he introduced me and I was only 13 years old. It’s kind of like asking me when I started breathing.”
“I don’t ever remember not singing with Dad,” said Pam. “He’s still working today. He says that when he’s too old to sing, he’ll dance. And when he’s too old to dance, he’ll just tell stories.”
“I never even sang with my daddy, Carl, until my last record,” Carlene added with a hint of regret. “I invited him to be on my album [Hindsight 20/20]. I’d never been so scared in my life than when I sang with him then. That terrified me.”
Carlene said she didn’t grow up singing with Carl because “he didn’t really want us kids to be in the music business. I didn’t grow up living with my father, although I spent a lot of time with him. He actually retired from the road when I was still quite young.”
“My dad always told me that if it was something that I really wanted to do, then he’d support me,” said Lorrie, whose latest BNA album is called Greater Need. “If it was something that I didn’t want to do, he didn’t care. He really cared most about what made me happy.”
“Dad had mixed emotions about it all because it was just so hard for him back then,” explained Pam. “I guess it’s a hard thing for any father to picture his daughter in. He thought I’d be playing honky-tonks forever. That could have been rough. I guess he just had a hard time picturing that for his little girl.”
Although today’s female entertainers still battle a truckload of struggles, not to mention enormous competition with one another on both country radio and in the retail market, happiness is the key ingredient for each of these seasoned performers. Like any group of young women on a road trip, this trio plans to do plenty of shopping.
“We are doing a little shopping today,” proclaimed Lorrie.
“Oh, yeah, we’re just now getting geared up and greasing the wheels,” added Pam, who described the tour as the “Heaven and High Heels Tour.”
“Carlene has already been lending me her clothes. She lent me an outfit today. I brought all these clothes and ended up wearing something of hers. I could never borrow clothes when I was on tour with Brooks & Dunn,” she said, laughing.
“But you could borrow their hairspray,” Lorrie joked.
According to these talented road queens, the results of the tour could be priceless.
“You’ve got three individual women who do things their own way,” explained Lorrie, “and you’re bringing them all together. That could be scary.”
“There are some girls who can just be so mean to each other,” concluded Pam, “but we’re all nice.”