Tanya Tucker: “I’d Do It All Again” (1996)
Originally published in the Sep. 24, 1996 issue of Country Weekly featuring Tanya Tucker on the cover. This story is presented here in its entirety.
As a new TV biography is about to chronicle her racy 25-year country music career, Tanya Tucker casts a brief glance back over her shoulder.
“You’re darn right I’d do it all over again!” she declares. “Like Sinatra says, ‘Regrets, I’ve got a few. But then again, too few to mention,”’ she tells Country Weekly. “That’s basically where I’d leave that.”
A fixture on the country music scene since she debuted in 1972 with “Delta Dawn,” Tanya is more concerned with the road ahead: She has an upcoming marriage, a new album, a host of products to sell, an autobiography to finish—all while clearing more time to spend with her children. The TV biography, on the Lifetime channel, debuts Sept. 22 and repeats Sept. 27. Another repeat airing is scheduled in November to coincide with the release of Tanya’s new album, Complicated.
The program doesn’t address her engagement to landscaper Jonathan Cummings, with whom she’s been involved for two years. Their wedding, originally scheduled for this month, has been put off until the spring, she says. “We made a commitment to each other and we’re engaged,” asserts Tanya, who turns 38 on Oct. 10. “That should be enough for everybody. We want to take our time. If we’re going to be together forever, we want to get everything worked out first. Not just with him; there are problems with my own self.”
“I want to be better at what I do, who I am and what I am. I think it’s time to do that now, because we are representing the best music in the world: country music.” Asked to quickly summarize her career, Tanya replies: “Uphill, downhill, straightaways. Goal-oriented. I always had goals in my mind. Fast and slow and good and bad. I guess, ultimately, it would be plain old complicated, which happens to be the title of my next album.”
Complicated, her 30th album, slated for release in November, is “totally different,” states country music’s resilient femme fatale, who quips that she’s had more comebacks than a boomerang. She compares her peaks and valleys to the careers of Elton John and Tina Turner, who “have really withstood the storm and are still successful today.” Like herself, “they may not always be No. 1 on the charts, but they’re working, making money and doing great. “In country music, we have so many ways to get our music out there now, whether it’s theme parks, fairs, VFW halls or big festivals, you know? There’s a lot of things to do, a lot of ways to go,” says Tanya.
Her other projects include Tanya Tucker’s Salsa, a doll line called the American Country Collection by Tanya Tucker and co-sponsorship of Winston Cup driver Geoff Bodine’s No. 7 QVC/Tanya Tucker’s Salsa Ford. QVC and Tanya are also associated with a Craftsman Ford truck driven by Dave Rezendes. “I have lots of stuff to sell [on QVC],” she notes of her joint racing sponsorship with the cable TV shopping channel. “It’s a great opportunity for us, being in the salsa business.”
But selling records and concert tickets are still her primary stock in trade. She sings “Someday My Prince Will Come” on Country Disney: The Best of Country Sings the Best of Disney, which was released Sept. 10. Others on the album include Diamond Rio, Faith Hill, George Jones and Kathy Mattea, Hal Ketchum and Shelby Lynne, Alison Krauss, Little Texas, Lee Roy Parnell, Collin Raye, Larry Stewart, Pam Tillis and Bryan White. As for her own album, Complicated, “I didn’t really realize the new album was so different until some people told me,” she says. “They all love it and we’re excited about it. I don’t know how to express the difference; it’s just a new sound for Tanya Tucker.”
She concedes that her previous album, Fire to Fire, didn’t live up to commercial expectations. “The last album was really good, but I don’t think enough effort was put into it. I think it was sort of a lost cause, but I enjoyed making it. “You’ve got to turn down the big bucks and spend a couple of months working on the album. For the past 20 years, it’s been hit the road, make the money, and that’s how I’ve been surviving. The road has been good to me, but I had to forfeit that for this new album, though, and come into the studio.”
She started Complicated in February, and the final mix was completed June 3. Also in the works is her long-awaited autobiography, Nickel Dreams, written with longtime friend Patsi Bale Cox. The book, to be published by Hyperion, is due in stores next spring. The autobiography and the Lifetime special were two projects Tanya was reluctant to do. Never-before-seen home movies and a surprisingly candid and thoughtful interview by the star herself make the Lifetime channel’s Intimate Portrait compelling. Little is held back in the 60-minute TV bio, which is narrated by Pam Tillis and includes interviews with Tammy Wynette, Travis Tritt and actor Ben Reed, the father of Tanya’s two children, Presley Tanita, 7, and Beau Grayson, 4.
The Lifetime special touches on such milestones as:
- Achieving stardom at 13 with “Delta Dawn.”
- Her well-publicized wild-woman romance at 22 with a 45-year-old Glen Campbell.
- Her six-week stay at the Betty Ford Center for treatment of drug and alcohol dependency.
- Her relationship with Reed, a handsome former college quarterback who still visits regularly with Tanya and their children.
“He’s up for movie roles every day,” she says. “When he gets that perfect role, it’s going to be great. We’re all rooting for him—we’re three of his biggest fans at home.”
“Interviews aren’t the greatest things in the world to do, emotionally,” she confides. “It could let you down if you let it. But people still want to know about me—it’s just amazing! When I start talking about my life, I realize it’s a very interesting one. Lots of excitement, lots of valleys and mountains. “I wasn’t really up for doing it. My dad, my publisher and my agents talked me into doing it. They just all really wanted me to do it. I think, bottom line, if people want it that bad, I needed to do it and make it interesting without hurting many people’s feelings.”
Her own multifaceted personality is what many find interesting. “There’s so many sides of me. There is a part that loves to go out and rock all night and a part that loves to stay home with my children—I love that the most. Now even more so, because they’re at the age, 7 and 4 that it’s important for them to have me and for me to be there for them.”
Tanya talked to Country Weekly the day before she and her fiancé took the children for a five-day trip in Wyoming. “I think it will be a great experience for both of them,” she said. “We found a great place there in Wyoming. It’s like God has his hand out showing you the way there. Eagle Creek, I think it’s called. There’s still snow up there, and nothing but the silence and the bells ringing on the horses at night. It gives you some time to think.”
Roughing it isn’t all that Tanya’s about. “There is a soft side to me,” says the star, who’s perceived by many as mainly a tough-as-nails cowgirl. “A lot of my fans do know this. We have fans from 2 to 92, so you’re going to get all kinds of thoughts on me. Everybody’s got their own opinion.”
Her Intimate Portrait on Lifetime may generate even more opinions. “Pain comes in all shapes and forms and everybody has his own,” she states on the show, “and I think there’s a continuous amount of pain that goes on with being a celebrity, being in the limelight, because you’re constantly under scrutiny and you have to know where you have to ignore that and when you need to pay attention to it.”
The biography underscores the role her father, Beau Tucker, played in launching Tanya’s career, said Sheila Slaughter, executive producer and Tanya’s longtime friend. “They were very poor, but there was a lot of love in that family. You could tell that was her happiest time.” The cable network’s Intimate Portrait series profiles celebrities who have triumphed over tragedy. Past profiles have included the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Britain’s Royal Family and Latin/pop singer Gloria Estefan. Tanya is the first country star to be featured.
“Tanya’s tragedy was overcoming starting out so young and being tabloid fodder because of her relationship with Glen Campbell and her battle with alcohol and drugs,” Slaughter explains. “Tanya talks about things people will be surprised about. There are never-before-seen home movies of Tanya as a child that are absolutely incredible. There’s a scene of her singing as a 5-year-old!”
Fewer complications are what Tanya’s charted for herself during the rest of 1996. She plans to continue working through the end of this month and then take the rest of the year off. “I want to spend the winter with my kids, working on my salsa, getting the book ready, riding my horses and staying at my beautiful home that I haven’t really gotten to enjoy yet.”
That 30,000-square-foot home in Franklin, Tenn., should be called the Chaos Ranch, she quips. “It’s just going 90 mph. It will slow down in the wintertime. I hope to take those months off to get ready for the next year of touring. Who knows? I may retire. “No, spending lots of quality time with my children—that’s my main goal for this year.”