By Mick Holien
Delta Dawn sprung a 13-year-old Tanya Tucker on the country more than four decades ago and it was those sweet tones the so described outlaw country sweetheart chose to close her Missoula concert this week.
Recorded initially by Tucker instead of the Happiest Girl in the Whole Wide World, the country stalwart reached No. six on the country charts in 1972, the first of many top 10 hits most of which she offered to a sold-out crowd at the Wilma.
And while the tiny Tucker has been fighting a bit of illness, even forcing the cancellation of some shows including Northern Quest in Airway Heights near Spokane, she forced on Tuesday through a 16-song set that brought loud applause and a horde of well wishers to the stage where she graciously spent a few minutes posing for pictures and shaking hands.
Tucker came to Missoula a couple of days earlier from Kelowna, British Columbia to rehab with friends who were in the audience then left immediately to head for her next date in Sheridan, Wyo.
What a life on the road as she travels then to South Dakota before heading back south to Bristol, Tenn.
Several times during the show Tucker paused for water and in what didn’t look orchestrated paused to share a shot on the stage with a cohort.
To hold a following over such a period seems to be inbred in country music and the courteous crowd gleefully joined her in singing most of her favorites like the somewhat controversial at the time “Would you lay me down in a sea of stone,” which rose to the top in ’73 and cemented the now 14-year-olds status.
After such tunes like “San Antonio Stroll, a Top 10 Country charter in the late ‘70s “Texas when I die” signaled her move more toward a rock-n-roll genre but what she has described as the loneliness of the road and a few love interests pushed her to alcohol, then after being with Glen Campbell to Cocaine, according to Wikipedia.
But in the mid-eighties she rallied again returning to the top of the charts and eventually a bevy of awards including Female Vocalist of the Year.
Compliments are due to Wilma Theatre, not just for the constant level of talent they bring to the beautiful downtown venue but to how they manage a show – A lot could be learned by the way they handle things and especially how they make handicap arrangements.
Just short of 60-years-old, Tucker remains spry on the stage with dance moves and doesn’t hesitate to show an audience she’s still got some provocative pizzazz.
And her snappy, yet appreciative, attitude just an outward indication of her outlaw image, shared with such country stars as Willie, Merle, Waylon and David Allen.