LADIES' MAN

Story by Bob Paxman

From his mom to his wife to his new bundle of joy, it's the women in Vince Gill's life who've inspired him to write classic songs, live happily ever after - and even break out into teary public displays.

That was deliciously evident Aug. 18 as Vince bounced to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on a special night in his honor. He was celebrating a milestone moment, his 10th anniversary as an Opry member.

Fittingly, the singer was surrounded by the people he cherishes most. As Vince's fellow Opry cast members stood behind him, he was also surrounded by three females with claims to his heartstrings: wife Amy Grant, their baby girl, Corrina, and Vince's teenage daughter, Jenny.

Holding Corrina and nodding to Jenny, Vince quipped, "This is what I call the 'yin and yang' of life ... I've got a 19-year-old and a 5-month-old."

The crowd giggled, but Vince had serious thoughts on his mind.

"This has been a real sweet night for me and my family," he declared, his voice slightly wavering. "I've been blessed these past 10 years to be able to call all these people back here my family."

Vince also invoked another, not-present family member - his mom.

"I think my favorite thing about the Opry is that my mother was born exactly when the Opry started [on Nov. 28, 1925]," said Vince, to further applause. "Two of my favorite things - my mama and this place - are exactly the same age."

Mom Jerene was the first light in Vince's life, but other women have continued to flame his passion in profound, powerful ways.

When Vince married Amy in March of 2000, he could barely hide his giddiness.

"I married the sweetest woman in the world," he said after bursting into tears at the ceremony. As further evidence of his renewed spirit, Vince's 2000 album, Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye, is filled with emotional songs that reflect his love for his new wife.

And a year later, the joy continues. For the first time as husband and wife, Vince and Amy will headline their own tour, a holiday-themed show running from Nov. 30 -Dec. 16.

"Amy and I are still getting our feet wet, but people say that I look happier than ever. And they're right!" Vince exclaims. "There is just a peace and calmness inside me."

Now with his entertainment career in a comfortable spot, Vince can definitely play "stay-at-home dad" with new baby Corrina, born this past March. That's a far cry from his first experience with parenthood, where the struggling singer often called a tour bus home.

"When Jenny was born, I was still slugging it out on the road," he recalls. "I didn't really become popular until 1990, when Jenny was only about 8 years old, so prior to that I was gone almost all the time.

"But now," Vince continues, "I am really enjoying investing more time into my home life. Amy has three children of her own who live with us, and I'm trying to be a plus in their lives, too. Most of my hard work is behind me, so I don't have to spend all my time on the road anymore. I won't have to miss so much - I can watch Corrina grow up."

As young Vince was growing up, his mom had a huge effect on his future career choice. "I don't know if luck creates destiny," says Vince, "but Mom was born on the weekend of the first Opry performance. Maybe that means something, I'm not sure."

But Vince is certain about his earliest memories - when mother and music seemed truly intertwined.

"I can remember being 6," Vince begins, gazing upward, "and Mom playing the record 'Send Me The Pillow You Dream On' by Hank Locklin. I went up to Mom one day and said, 'I want to get me one of those pillows.' She looked at me like, 'What are you talking about, nut head?' and I said, 'You know, those pillows you can dream on.'

"I told Hank that story," Vince continues. "He was so touched by it that he had some pillows made with that title embroidered on it and gave them to Mom. She was thrilled to death!"

Vince's mother also introduced him to the music of Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and others. "She and my dad had such a love for that music and the artists of their generation," Vince remembers. "That was definitely passed on to me."

And now the Opry torch has been passed to him. Wielding a strong commitment to the Opry tradition, Vince has become the standard-bearer for the next generation of stars, including Brad Paisley, the most recent member.

"I look at how he has treated the Opry over the years and the respect he has for it," says Brad. "He appears on the show even when he's not scheduled, and I hope to be one of several who do the same. So, I definitely take an example from him."

During his early Opry years, Vince had a role model of his own. And true to form, the star who influenced him was female - the legendary Minnie Pearl.

"She befriended me right from the start," Vince recalls warmly. "She gave me the same advice she gave everyone else: Just love the audience and they'll love you right back. I always remembered it. Minnie had such respect for the Opry, she was just one of those treasures."

Minnie's impact remains today. "Little did I know," says Vince, "that I would marry a woman who had an even closer bond with her. Amy and Minnie were great friends for years, and Amy named one of her children after her. We still have Minnie's piano in our house now, so she is never far from our thoughts."

After a decade of success, Vince's thoughts are still focused on career. Though he vows to never return to the hard-charging days of his youth, when he toured extensively, Vince definitely plans to keep his hat in the ring.

"I've seen a whole lot of people who had great records and hit albums without touring," he observes. "I still want to do live shows, but I'm pretty confident that I'll never go out on the road like I used to. I want to keep writing, though I haven't been doing too much of that lately."

At 44, Vince is the most content he's ever been. Almost as proof, he leans back in his chair, stretches out his legs and breathes a relaxing sigh.

"I don't fear getting older," he declares. "I'm proud of being the age that I am. Ideally, you gain wisdom as you get older, and that wisdom allows you to say, 'Hey, let's take a look at this. What's really important now?' Every time, the answer keeps coming back to the same thing - take care of your family and your loved ones."

Once again, he's talking about the women in his life.

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