Today is a real candle burner! It’s Shania Twain’s 54th, LeAnn Rimes’ 37th and Jake Owen’s 38th birthday.
In honor of this cosmic convergence, let us conjure up a “Twilight Zone” situation in which all three are celebrating together. Let’s imagine that tornadoes are rolling across the plains today, splintering houses and tossing 18-wheelers around like empty plastic milk jugs. Imagine further that Twain’s, Rimes’ and Owen’s tour buses have all pulled into the same truck stop in search of shelter. What stories might the three artists share as they relax together to wait out the storm?
There will be, of course, tale-swapping about promoters who didn’t pay, disc jockeys who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, record executives plagued by tin ears, and pranks played on and by fellow performers. Since all three artists have gone through divorces, there might even be allusions to those dark times — but probably not. Surely, though, they’ll be talking about the early days when success hung on the outcome of that first single or album.
Twain will probably recall the cross-country tour that launched her career. That was back in 1993, the year after her label, Mercury Records, had blown the doors off country music with Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” Brimming with confidence and seed money, Mercury announced to the media that it was going to introduce three new artists via a “Triple Play Tour.”
The artists were Twain, Toby Keith and Jon Brannen. All three were put on a “Triple Play” emblazoned bus laden with “Triple Play” freebies and sent out with a common backup band to visit radio and TV stations and play shows in which they performed both individually and as a trio. Keith scored first with “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” which went No. 1.
Although her “What Made You Say That” was released the same month as “Cowboy,” Twain didn’t match that height until her fourth single, “Any Man of Mine,” two years later. But she made up for her tardiness by eventually becoming the bestselling woman in country music history. Brannen, alas, never charted.
When it comes her turn, Rimes will relive being a child star in Texas and how another local singer — Janet McBride — enabled her to put that distinctive yodel break in her debut hit, “Blue.” But being celebrated at such a young age, she’ll note, brought with it immense emotional burdens, some of which she much later worked out in writing and performing the song “Destructive.”
In it, she yells, “I want to be destructive, trash everything in sight/beat the devil at his game, abuse myself all night/I want to bitch the world out, one long aching scream/Don’t want anybody wanting anything from me.” She unveiled the song, which never charted as a single, when she did Live From Abbey Road.
Naturally, Owen will relate how a sports injury sidelined him long enough for him to learn to play guitar, which, in turn, led him to a gig performing in a local bar. Then there was the venturing to Nashville and five years later the thrill of finally landing his first No. 1, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.”
And talk about pranks and screw-ups, he’s had plenty touring with the likes of Florida Georgia Line, Chris Janson, Dan + Shay and the Cadillac Three. He may also get around to telling how his people talked John Mellencamp’s people into letting him release “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” and giving him another No. 1.
Modesty prevents Twain from talking about her five Grammy awards or Rimes her two. But Owen feels free to inquire if the experience is as cool as it looks. Having racked up a lot of movie and TV roles, it’s not at all surprising or untoward that some of them seep into Rimes’ conversation.
Where else may their weather-enforced intimacy lead them? Twain has a Las Vegas residency coming up in December that will run into June 2020. Rimes will headline her You and Me and Christmas Tour that stretches from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15. And, apart from touring, Owen keeps busy with his Good Company With Jake podcast. Lots to chat about there.
The sky is clearing, the winds have died down and to wrap up this fantasy get-together, here comes the waitress with a decorated Honey Bun for each of the vagabond celebrants. Then it’s back to the buses and away.