GIRL OF HIS DREAMS

Corrina Grant Gill was only 7 pounds, 9¼ ounces when she was born. But she was still big enough to make a grown man cry.

Story by Wendy Newcomer

"I was right there with the doctor," recounts new dad Vince Gill of his March 12 delivery-room experience. That's the day he and his singer/songwriter wife Amy Grant welcomed their first child together into the world.

"It was the most spiritual thing I have ever been a part of," recalls Vince softly. "My oldest daughter, Jenny, was a C-section baby, so I didn't really get to see that whole natural process. She was equally amazing, but it was just different.

"I just sat there and wept and wept, seeing the actual birth. It looked and felt to me like God was lifting this baby out of Amy. It was totally different than I expected it to be."

The proud papa reports that - so far - Corrina's been a model child. "This baby's been amazing," he says. "Sometimes she'll sleep through the night. We are lucky. And even if she doesn't, she's not real restless. But I'm a good daddy. I'll rock her if she fusses."

And he's changing diapers. "I've never met a diaper I didn't like!" he jokes. "I'm good at that - and good at burping her, too.

"Everybody says she looks like me," continues Vince. "We're kind of hoping that changes. There's a newborn picture of Amy that's strikingly similar to Corrina - the hair and everything. The hospital said they'd never seen a baby with this much hair."

Corrina's birth tied a wonderful ribbon on Vince and Amy's love. The pair married in March 2000 and immediately began to discuss having kids.

"Our age had as much to do with it as anything," admits Vince. "We said, 'If we're going to have kids, let's go ahead and have them now.' "

Being a new parent in his 40s is quite different, Vince notes, than it was 19 years ago when Jenny - Vince's daughter with ex-wife Janis Gill - was born.

"I have a little bit more wisdom," he allows. "Obviously, times have changed. The place I'm at in my career and personal life is way different. As an older parent, you have more patience. I think it's going to be interesting, because when you're 25, you've got the mentality of 'I've got to achieve! I've got to go and make my mark!' You've got so much hard work ahead of you.

"Now at 44, I think I've got all of my hard work behind me. It's real peaceful to realize that I've got an unlimited amount of time I can devote to this little one. Because I have done the majority of my hard work."

 

Corrina and Jenny join Amy's children with ex-husband Gary Chapman - Matt, 13; Millie, 12; and Sarah, 9. Amy and Gary share custody of their children.

"I basically went from being alone to it being five kids and me and Amy," Vince declares. "I'm helping coach the softball and basketball teams the girls play on, and I try to be a part of their lives in a positive way. It's loads of fun. I'm doing things I never really got to do.

"I think Jenny might be the happiest one of all. She was an only child. Jenny would never come and visit me very often, and then this baby came along. " He pauses and smiles. "Now we can't get rid of her!"

Vince turns serious about Corrina. "I've always felt having this child would do a great thing for all of us," he says. "It has connected us all in a sweet way."

Since the wedding last year, Vince's recording career has taken a back seat to his private life. Critics claimed last year's album, Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye, was too sappy, and radio didn't rush to play it.

"I've been joking with people, saying, 'I'm the only artist who's had a record die at every number on the charts now.' But I've done this long enough to have some wisdom about it. I'm not chasing radio real hard because it's not chasing me real hard. And that's okay.

"I've been a country artist for 18 years and I've loved every minute of it," he says. "There were difficult times; you'd make a record you thought was good and nobody wanted to play it. But now I'm just taking things as they come."

With a talented and successful wife, should fans expect a duet album in the future?

"I don't think there's any big rush to say, 'Okay, now let's be Steve and Eydie or Sonny and Cher,' " says Vince. "We're just enjoying being friends and husband and wife, and sharing in all these kids. The careers will do what they're going to do."

Vince's career has done better than he ever imagined. Not only is he an award-winning, platinum-selling singer/songwriter, he's also highly sought-after by others - he's played on the albums of more than 500 artists!

"Collaborating means more to me than making my own records and singing my own songs," reflects Vince. "To have gotten to sing on Patty Loveless' and Trisha Yearwood's first records was amazing. Playing in somebody's band, writing songs, being a session musician - that's neat because I've gotten to do the things I really wanted to do. If I'd just been an artist, I don't think that would have been complete enough."

Even before making strides in country music, Vince made a name for himself in bluegrass and pop music. In 1974, his bluegrass group, Mountain Smoke, opened for pop band Pure Prairie League, which Vince joined six years later. With Vince singing lead, Pure Prairie League hit the Top 10 with "Let Me Love You Tonight."

In 1983, Vince signed with RCA and began his country career. Six years later when he moved to MCA, he delivered a string of hits, including "When I Call Your Name,"

"I Still Believe In You" and "Tryin' To Get Over You." His string of radio hits continued throughout the '90s.

In recognition of impressive achievements throughout his more than 25-year career, Vince was chosen as this year's recipient of the Country Weekly Career Achievement Award, which will be presented during the televised TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards on June 13 in Nashville. Vince admits that when he receives the honor, with a national television audience watching, he could be emotional.

"I won't know if I'll be able to keep my composure until that moment," confesses Vince. "And I'll probably try to deal with it with a sense of humor, because that's what seems to me to work best to diffuse being emotional.

"And, of course, I feel like I'm way too young to get this award," he adds with a chuckle. "Kenny Rogers won this award last year, and he's had a long, brilliant career."

The years have provided Vince with many fond memories and musical mentors. "Chet Atkins has been an influence on me since I was a little kid," he says. "And obviously, my folks. Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell - those were the folks that played the music and made the records that inspired me the most.

"I've got a pretty neat circle of people and I've enjoyed their company, including the people in the golf world," adds Vince, who could easily have yet another career as a pro golfer should he so desire.

He's already made a career out of helping scores of charities, from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Special Olympics to his annual fund-raiser, The Vinny Pro-Celebrity Golf Invitational, which supports Junior Golf in Tennessee.

And then there's the Grand Ole Opry, which welcomed Vince as a member in 1991. "It's been more important to me than it has been to my career," he reveals. "I don't go out there to play the Opry to benefit my career. I do it to benefit me, because I love knowing those people. I love the fact that they know they matter to me. People like Little Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagoner - those guys slugged it out on the road. They didn't get to play to the crowds and have the money that we do today. But we wouldn't get to do it if they hadn't led the way."

With his new Career Achievement award leading the way toward the next phase of his career, Vince says he's focusing on what's truly important to him.

"A human life is the greatest blessing you could ever hope to have," confides Vince. "The other things are just 'stuff.' I'm not trying to diminish what I've accomplished. I'm proud of every single one of those times they called my name. But I'm more proud of the things I did as a person than I am of the things I did as a performer.

"And," he stresses with a smile, "nothing holds a candle to kids."

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