Better Late: Tanya Tucker Bows New Album

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Tanya Tucker arrives for her 5 p.m. album-release party promptly at 5:30, casually alighting from a black, square-back limousine that seems to stretch into the next time zone. Minions hoisting brightly colored umbrellas rush in to shield the singer from the wind-whipped rain and escort her to a side entrance some distance away from the main room where hundreds of guests have gathered. A slow 10 minutes or so later, the celebrants break into cheers as a smiling Tucker, dressed all in black, strides regally through their ranks, carrying her daughter, Layla, on her hip. With the possible exception of a SWAT team, nobody makes an entrance like Tanya.

The party to celebrate the release of Tanya, Tucker’s first studio album in five years, was held recently at the BMI building in Nashville. Issued on her own label, Tuckertime Records, the album is being distributed by Capitol. Barry Beckett and songwriter Jerry Laseter produced the album, and Tucker and songwriter Roger Murrah served as its executive producers. Laseter is also Tucker’s fiance and Layla’s father.

Placed on a stand at the back of the platform from which the album principals spoke to the crowd was a large reproduction of Tucker’s picture on the Sept. 26, 1974 cover of Rolling Stone. The teaser line read: “Hi, I’m Tanya Tucker, I’m 15, You’re Gonna Hear From Me.” Indeed.

Murrah took to the stage to welcome “one of the best singers who ever hit Nashville,” a sentiment the crowd echoed. Explaining how the album came about, Murrah said that about 18 months ago, Tucker called him and asked, “Have you got any more of those ’A Little Too Late’ things lying around?” She was referring to the Murrah composition that netted her a No. 2 Billboard hit in 1993. A few days later she came to his office to listen to songs. Ultimately, she asked him to help her put an album together.

“You know all those wild and crazy things you hear about Tanya?” Murrah inquired. “They’re true.” In addition to his production chores, Murrah co-wrote four of the songs that appear on the album. He thanked “all those writers and publishers who had songs strong enough to knock mine off.”

C. Paul Corbin, BMI’s vice president of writer/publisher relations, called Tucker to the stage to praise her musical contributions and then to present her with a leather jacket emblazoned with the BMI logo. With her daughter still in tow, Tucker sat the three-year-old on the podium as she spoke to the crowd. She traced the inspiration for the album to an early visit to Laseter’s home, where she noticed his setup for recording demos. The first of his songs that he sang for her, she recalled, was “1010 Whippoorwill Lane.” It’s now a cut on her album.

“The more we listened to this music,” Tucker continued, “the more I thought we should share it. But the real test to me was playing it for my dad — because he doesn’t much like anything. The first call I made [about doing an album] was to Roger Murrah. And he was the last call.” She thanked Beckett for keeping her on task in the studio. “Being anywhere on time is not something we’re known for,” she observed. “I think it was the best time I ever had making a record.”

Turning to Layla, Tucker remarked, “She knows all the words to ’Delta Dawn’ [Tucker’s 1972 debut hit], so it looks like we’ve got another one.” Layla shyly declined her mom’s offer to perform. “My little girl, Presley, she’s 13,” Tucker went on, “and I think it’s about time we got her a bus and put her on the road.” (Tucker, who will turn 44 on Oct. 10, was a road veteran by 13.) Presley could not attend the party, Tucker explained, but she proudly introduced her son, Beau, who stood nearby.

As Tucker started to leave the stage, someone shouted, “Sing us a song, Tanya.” She complied with “A Memory Like I’m Gonna Be,” a Murrah/Laseter cut from the new album.

“I’ve been in the [music] business for 30 years,” Tucker mused. “It’s nice to be excited again.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to