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Tanya Tucker: Living In A Country Song

Tanya Tucker got her start singing in talent shows across Arizona.
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Tanya Tucker got her start singing in talent shows across Arizona.

The story of Tanya Tucker's nearly four decades in the music business is refreshingly old-fashioned. She was born in Texas and grew up in Arizona, where her father drove the family all over the state so Tanya could sing in talent shows. He relocated the family to Las Vegas to get her closer to deal makers in the entertainment business.

Tucker was 13 when her first single hit the country music top 10, and it wasn't some bubble-gum pop tune — "Delta Dawn" was about an older woman remembering the lover who left her. "My taste has always been for more of an adult song," says Tucker, "because that's what I grew up singing."

Several years, hit singles and a Grammy nomination later, Tucker was living inside a country song. She moved from Nashville to Los Angeles and back. She dated singer Glen Campbell. They broke up, and she sought comfort in alcohol and cocaine. "I had a blast. I drank more, I did more coke than anybody, I could last longer than anyone else."

After a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic, Tucker kept making albums, and now she has a new one out, called My Turn. The album features songs by many of country music's most influential artists, including Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride. Pride's song "Anybody Goin' To San Antone" has always been one of her favorites. "I wanted to pay tribute to some of the greats, and that's what this album's all about."

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.