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Tucker was born in Seminole, Texas, and much of her childhood was spent moving throughout the Southwest as her father pursued construction jobs. At the age of six, she began taking saxophone lessons; two years later, she decided she wanted to sing and made an auspicious debut with Mel Tillis, who was so impressed by her talents that he invited her on-stage to perform. In 1969, Tucker and her family moved to Las Vegas, where she regularly performed. Eventually, she recorded a demo tape that caught the attention of songwriter Dolores Fuller, who sent it to producer Billy Sherrill. At the time, Sherrill was the head of A&R at CBS Records, and he was so impressed with the demo that he signed the teenaged vocalist to Columbia. Sherrill initially planned to have Tucker record "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.," but she passed on the tune, choosing "Delta Dawn" -- a song she heard Bette Midler sing on The Tonight Show -- instead. Released in the spring of 1972, the song became an instant hit, peaking at number six on the country charts and scraping the bottom of the pop charts.
At first, Columbia tried to downplay Tucker's age, but soon word leaked out and she became a sensation. Her second single, "Love's the Answer," also became a Top Ten hit later in 1972. Tucker's third single, "What's Your Mama's Name," became her first number one hit in the spring of 1973. Two other number ones -- "Blood Red and Goin' Down" and "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)" -- followed, establishing Tucker as a major star. In 1975, she signed with MCA Records, where she had a string of hit singles that ran into the late '70s. She decided to radically change her image in 1978 and cross over to rock with her T.N.T. album. Despite the controversy over the record and its sexy cover, it went gold the following year.
By the end of the '70s, her sales were declining; in 1980 she only had two hits. She recorded a few singles with Glen Campbell, with whom she was romantically linked. She also made her feature film debut in Hard Country. Tucker switched to Arista in 1982, where she had several hits, highlighted by the Top Ten "Feel Right." She didn't chart in 1984 or 1985, and signed with Capitol Records. In early 1986, she hit with "One Love at a Time," which rocketed to number three. For the rest of the decade, she scored a constant stream of Top Ten singles, including four number ones. Her success continued in the early '90s, even though her sales began slumping as the decade wore on. By the new millennium, Tucker was still in the game, and several retrospectives and hits collections were released. In 2002, she issued her 31st (and her most personal) album, Tanya. More compilations followed, culminating in the live recording/DVD Live at Billy Bob's Texas in 2005. What could be termed a comeback album, the Pete Anderson-produced and arranged My Turn, a collection of classic country covers, appeared in 2009 from Saguaro Road. While Tucker continued to perform, she didn't record for a decade.
In January 2019, she spent three weeks working in a Nashville studio with producers Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. Carlile wrote a handful of tunes specifically for the album, and co-wrote "Bring My Flowers Now." In April of that year, Tucker and Carlile performed the song at Loretta Lynn's All-Star Birthday Celebration Concert in Nashville. The duo performed "Delta Dawn" at the CMT Music Awards, joined by Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter, and others. The album's first official single, "Hard Luck," and an accompanying music video appeared in June. A second pre-release single, a cover of Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me," along with the LP, While I'm Livin', appeared in August. The set proved to be a big comeback for Tucker, earning the artist her first Billboard Country Top Ten album since 1991 and her first two Grammy Awards (Best Country Album and Best Country Song for "Bring My Flowers Now"). She kept up her momentum the following year, releasing Live from the Troubadour, a concert album recorded during an L.A. appearance on the While I'm Livin' tour.
In April 2023, Tucker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in a class that also included singer Patty Loveless and songwriter Bob McDill. That June, she released Sweet Western Sound. Reunited with the Carlile/Jennings production team, the set's songs were penned especially for her. "Breakfast in Birmingham" was co-written by Carlile and Bernie Taupin, while "Tanya" was a song built around a voicemail from late outlaw star Billy Joe Shaver. The set also included the previously issued "Ready as I'll Never Be"; co-written by Tucker and Carlile, it served as the closing theme for their 2022 Sony Classics documentary The Return of Tanya Tucker, Featuring Brandi Carlile. ~ Sandra Brennan & Steve Leggett