Tanya Tucker took fans on a hit-filled trip down memory lane in addition to serving up her Grammy nominated new music during a sold out show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium that showcased each era of her stellar career. There was a celebratory air to the evening and she was joined in the revelry by such friends as Billy Ray Cyrus, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price, Johnny Rodriquez, Billy Joe Shaver, Lee Ann Womack and Dennis Quaid.
For Tucker, the celebration started before she even hit the Ryman stage as CMT hosted a private reception before the show at the Johnny Cash Kitchen & Saloon to kick off the CMT Next Women of Country: Bring My Flowers Now Tour. The trek launches February 5 and will include 40 shows stopping in Boston, Dallas, Houston, New York, Ontario, Vancouver and other cities.
“Back when I was first starting out, I would have given anything— my dad would’ve too—if someone would have done what we’re doing here, and given me a shot at being heard and being seen in front of people,” Tucker said, thanking CMT for their support.
Tucker will be joined on the tour by several of CMT’s Next Women of Country members, including Aubrie Sellers, Brandy Clark, Erin Enderlin, Hailey Whitters, Madison Kozak and Walker County, as well as her longtime friend and producer Shooter Jennings, who will appear at select shows.
“I am so excited. My knees are shaking already,” Tucker said of performing at the Ryman. “I remember the first time I came to Nashville. My dad brought me from Wilcox, AZ all the way in, trying to get me started. And I remember saying, ‘I wanna go to the Grand Ole Opry,’ and he said, ‘I’ll take you alright.’ On the way there, he stopped by the Hall of Fame because it was just around the corner at 16th Avenue. All the stars were there, and he’d tell me, ‘You are never gonna be there.’ [He was] daring me that I would never be there, and trying to get me motivated, which it did.”
She recalled standing in line to get in the Opry in July 1967. “[It was] hot. There was no air conditioning,” she recalled. “We went in, got seated, and we were watching the show, and my dad looked down at me and said, ‘Now don’t you wish you were up there doing it instead of sitting down here watching it?’ And I said, ‘Yes sir.’ So tonight is a glory day for me, and to be able to perform at the Ryman, I know my daddy’s gonna be right there onstage, and I am just very excited about it.”
Before the Ryman show commenced, Enderlin gave those at the CMT reception a taste of what fans can expect on the upcoming tour as she performed for the VIP crowd at the Johnny Cash Kitchen & Saloon. “I bought tickets for this show when it first went on sale,” Enderlin told Sounds Like Nashville of Tucker’s Ryman date. “Now to be here tonight celebrating this tour with her and getting to play shows with her is awesome!”
Enderlin also thanked CMT. “Leslie Fram has been such an amazing supporter,” Enderlin said of the Senior Vice President of Music Strategy for CMT. “Everybody at CMT has been so awesome and welcoming to me. They’ve made such a huge impact on my life the last several years. They put their brand behind me. That’s pretty awesome.”
As show time neared, Enderlin and the rest of the reception attendees migrated over to the Ryman for Tucker’s concert. For two hours, the 61-year-old icon held the audience in the palm of her hand with her clever quips, sassy dance moves and timeless hits.
She kicked off the evening with “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone,” a David Allan Coe penned tune that Tucker took to the top of the chart in 1974.
“It’s so great to be here at the Ryman, the Mother Church of Country Music,” she told the crowd. “There’s not a place in this world that I’d rather perform than right here at the Ryman. What a beautiful, beautiful view I have. Y’all are pretty. The greatest award in the world is right here. Thanks y’all so much for being here tonight.”
Tucker continued to revisit her early hit parade with “Jamestown Ferry,” “What’s your Mama’s Name” and “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” which drew a standing ovation. Next she welcomed Johnson, who joined her for “Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You.”
“I’m gonna take you back to 1975,” she told the crowd as she launched into “Lizzie and the Rainman,” a song written by Kenny O’Dell and Larry Henley, that topped the country chart and also gave Tucker a top 40 pop hit as it peaked at No. 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100. “You remember it,” she smiled at the crowd and then quipped. “I’m surprised I do.” She continued to deliver such hits as “San Antonio Stroll,” “Strong Enough to Bend” and “Love Me Like You Used To,” and in speaking of the latter, she shared how much she missed the late Paul Davis, who co-wrote the song with Bobby Emmons. Margo Price came out on stage and joined Tucker to perform the song.
It was just one of many amazing collaborations during the night. Texas legend Shaver joined her and the two delivered a raucous version of “I’m Just an Old Chuck of Coal.” Womack dueted with Tucker on “High Ridin’ Heroes” from her latest album While I’m Livin’, which is up for four Grammy Awards. Tucker told the audience that she had spent the night at the home of Womack and her husband Frank Liddell and had ran into her in the kitchen at 3 a.m. making a BLT.
In a testament to their enduring friendship, Tucker welcomed country veteran Johnny Rodriguez to the stage to perform “Game I Can’t Win,” written by Quaid. “We must have done every joint in Texas,” Tucker said reminiscing about the early days of her career, touring with Rodriguez. “He had ‘Pass Me By’ and I had ‘Delta Dawn’ and we worked Texas over really good. So I started my career out with Johnny Rodriguez and here we are again tonight.”
Cyrus joined Tucker on stage for a crowd-pleasing duet on his hit “Achy Breaky Heart,” which gave her a chance to show off the dance moved that earned her a reputation as the “female Elvis” and then the two friends launched into “Old Town Road,” with Tucker gamely attempting the Lil Nas X part.
Earlier in the show she had reminisced about making a move with Quaid 40 years ago and reconnecting with him last year when the Country Music Hall of Fame launched the Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s exhibit. The two have since become close friends and Tucker welcomed the singer/actor to the stage to perform his song “On My Way to Heaven,” which she has recorded with Kris Kristofferson and Quaid for her next album.
In addition to sharing her classic hits, Tucker also shared songs from her While I’m Livin’, among them the sassy “I Don’t Owe You Anything,” “Mustang Ridge,” “Wheels of Laredo,” “Hard Luck” and “Bring My Flowers Now,” which she co-wrote with Brandi Carlile and Phil and Tim Hanseroth. “Daddy said one of the greatest songs you’ll have is the one you write yourself,” she told the crowd before sitting on a stool and delivering the poignant ballad. The performance brought one of the most enthusiastic standing ovations of the night.
One of the most memorable things about the show was Tucker’s rapport with her audience. At one point, someone in the crowd handed her a baby so she held the baby in one arm and continued to sing. Another fan asked her to do a shot of tequila with them and she obliged, pouring her own Cosa Salvaje Tequila brand.
“This is a song I recorded for my mother and my daddy a few years ago,” Tucker told the crowd before performing “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane.” “This is a song I gave them as a gift for their 50th wedding anniversary.”
She looked bemused and commented, “50 years with the same dude?” The audience laughed and she joked that was a race she wasn’t going to win.
Before closing out the night, Tucker introduced the two women who had been singing back up during the show—Reverie Lane, a duo comprised of her oldest daughter Presley and Spencer Bartoletti, who served up a spicy snippet of their song “Good At It.” Feeling obviously sentimental and appreciative, she took time to thank pretty much everyone involved in her life and career including managers, publicist, close friends, her fans and God for gifting her with her voice. She sang a couple lines of “Amazing Grace” before launching in to “Delta Dawn,” the hit that launched her career at 13. It was an all-star finale as the evening’s special guests joined her on stage.
Tucker’s show was a master class in performing as she delivered hit after hit with her always impressive voice and held the audience in the palm of her hand. She may be 61, but after seeing her last night, it feels like she’s just getting started and the best may be yet to come.