I just finished watching the Oscar winning Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart". If you don't know, he and the movie both won Academy Awards for this story of a down and out, but formally, great, country singer that fought his demons to get back on a real stage instead of playing bowling alleys and honkytonks.
It got me wondering about the musical icons of our past. What happens when the records don't sell. When trends change and they were left behind. When the record deal they made was not made in their favor and the only the label made money.
In 1992 my husband's work took us, from Michigan to South Carolina. We were eager to adopt our new location as home. We saw an ad for a concert in a cornfield with Tanya Tucker, Don Williams and either one or two other performers. I don't have the brain cells left to remember who they were so I do apologize. What I do remember is, it really was a cornfield. Have you ever seen a harvested cornfield. The remaining stalks are about 3 - 6 inches tall. We had taken a blanket and our 2 younger daughters, ages 7 and 9. It was a blazing hot, blue skied afternoon.
When Jeff Foxworthy talked about Rednecks, he must have been at that concert. Shirtless men in cut off jeans wearing cowboy boots, women in fringed halter tops and nearly naked children surrounded us. We were enjoying the music, looking for Tanya to show. Well into the concert, she still had not arrived. Finally her bus (at least she still had a bus) bounced over the hills and valleys to the stage. She climbed down the steps and onto the stage to a roar of cheers and clapping. After a couple of songs, where she repeated the same footwork over and over again, left, right, dip, dip..... left , right, dip, dip.... her mic picked up the shout over her shoulder. "How much time is left?" Left... right... dip, dip.....Delta Dawn... left, right... dip, dip. Again, " How much time is left?" This went on through the entire set. Finally, "goodbye, Thank you very much" and she rocketed to that bus and it left before we knew what was happening. Maybe she had a plane to catch... who knows? The other performers were awesome. I especially enjoyed Don Williams "I Believe In You". The audience was very receptive until they felt under appreciated.
It didn't occur to me then maybe that cornfield was not where she thought she would be performing either. "Delta Dawn" made her a star at 13. She had been on major television programs and played real venues. So had Don Williams but he remained a professional. Tanya has had a long and gifted career but road has been a bumpy one.
It brings to mind other performers that did not fare nearly as well. Berry Gordy's Motown label has fought the allegation that those contracts did more to benefit the label than pay the performer. Some were extremely young when they signed lifetime contracts, having no idea what that meant. They just wanted to sing. Martha and the Vandellas went to court numerous times to get the royalties owed them.
Unfortunately, there have been many other sad stories. I'll save those for another day. These had memories for me. Whose story touched your life?
Tanya Tucker had "Delta Dawn" and for me, Terry Knight had "I Who Have Nothing".