We like to use this web site to expose the world to ladies who are singing the blues, keeping the music alive and have not yet had the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Columbus, Ohio's "Teeny" (a name given to her by her sister during her youth) Tucker can sing! I was sent Teeny's CD in the mail…opened it…placed it in my player…went to go wash the dishes…and the voice that came through singing "He May Be Your Man" stopped me in my tracks. Tucker is the real deal. Her voice is filled with soul and emotion. Her latest CD "Tommy's Girl" is a winner. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to talk with Teeny about her life, music and career. Hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
When and where were you born?
I was born in Dayton, Ohio, January 22, 1958.
Do you come from a musical family? If so what type of music did your family perform?
My Dad's family is musical. My Dad was the late Tommy Tucker. He played several instruments. He wrote the 1964 hit song "Hi Heel Sneakers." My Aunt and Uncle (twins), my Dad's younger brother and sister play guitar and piano. They both played on "Hi Heel Sneakers" on my new CD entitled "Tommy's Girl."
I didn't live with my Dad so he really never knew I was interested in music until I was 15 years old. I did take a few piano lesson when I was younger. Now, I'm taking guitar lessons and I hope to play like Bonnie Raitt one day (smile). I love the guitar!
I love the guitar too! I SO wish I could play it. I have played piano for a while (and I am mediocre at best), but there is something about that guitar… What is your earliest musical memory?
My earliest memory is when I was 10 years old and I heard Mahalia Jackson singing on the radio. I love everything Mahalia ever sang, but I especially love her version of "Precious Lord" "If I Could Help Somebody", and "Didn't Rain". "If I Could Help Somebody" because that's what life is all about giving back. I was in awe and remember thinking, how I wanted to sing like that. Her rich and gut felt voice gave me chills. She impressed me tremendously. Then I heard Etta James and WOW!
WOW for real!! Mahalia and Etta still give me chills. How long have you been singing and what inspires you to do so?
I would say I started singing very early, maybe around 6 years old. I remember singing my first solo at 10 in church. The song was "Gonna Lay Down My Burdens, Down By The Riverside." When I first "Gonna Lay" [sang that song] even as a little girl, I really felt what I was singing about. It's a deep feeling that moves your soul and sends joy and electricity through your body. I still feel that when I sing!
Did you have any life-changing events occur that have transformed your music?
Well, I was a religious kid and believed that gospel music should not be mixed with secular music. When my Dad passed away, I develop a strong appreciation for his music and all the folks that came along with him. I began listening to Blues and realized that Blues was not to far from the form of Gospel. Both are deeply felt and have an internal earning of one's expression of life, love, and worship. Blues is not devil music. I believe that no music is the devil's music. The devil owns lyrics not music. Music is words that uplift one's life through song and words... and all music do just that for me. If I like it and it does something for me and to me that makes me happy, sad, joyous and then happy again, then that can't be the devil.
Amen my sistah. Amen…
You know, this music is so part of our culture. It's such a part of American culture and its power has permeated the world. Do you think we as African Americans take this wonderful music for granted?
I don't know if we take the Blues for granted but I do believe we have lost a place in our hearts for the Blues. African Americans are in a new mind-set in that we are to comfortable anymore with our surroundings. Blues tell a story and I guess we don't have a story to share anymore...so we just let the Blues lie down and die, while others try to reserve the Blues not being able to express it the way it should really be expressed. But hey! Someone has to do it! I admire them for their expression and preservation of this thing called "Blues."
Not too long ago the New York Times had a feature article on white women blues singers. To what do you attribute their increased popularity?
I believe white female Blues singers are becoming popular because they have someone backing them. We need to take the Blues singer like myself and so many other good down-home blues singers and support their efforts and love for this music. More power to the white Blues sisters. Like Jesse Jackson say. "Keep Hope Alive". "Keep Blues Alive."
Amen again! Do you believe women in general are treated differently in this business?
Do I believe women are treated differently in this business? Yes, somewhat. I think because we don't have a lot of female Blues songwriter's like the male monopoly of Blues songwriters. We have to give it to them. Those guys write some good stuff. That's why my next CD is all the material that I've written talking about love, life, and even abuse. This will be my best I think by far. I have been inspired lately to write at least two songs a week. If a topic arises and I feel it's worth expressing I write about it.
Tell me about your singing in Europe. Do you find European audiences different from American audiences?
I have been overseas many times since 1996. A German promoter, manager, and lover of music (especially Blues) booked me in Germany in 1996. He suggested to me that I should do some of the old school Blues such as tunes by Ruth Brown, Etta James, Helen Humes, and Christine Kittrell. I find that the audiences in Europe have a greater appreciation for the arts than here in the US. I think because the style of American music and particularly blues, soul, and R&B is not in their culture. Many of the singers of this type of music that are overseas is from America, now living in Europe. They are wonderful to play before.
The production of a CD has always been a bit intimidating to me. I LOVE your latest CD. What was it like recording?
It took me 1 year to really think about how I wanted to go with the CD. I know several great musicians in Columbus, Ohio and I wanted every one of them to play on my CD. I really did the CD as a tribute to my father and others like him in his day. That is why I chose the songs on the CD. I had to take the time most of them could give me and hey, good things happen to those who wait.
That is sound advice! Tell us about your band members...
There are two people that I keep with me every time I play. Sean Carney, the greatest guitarist in all the world to me. He plays the Blues the way I like to sing and feel the Blues, with spirit of deep emotion and love. John Popovich, my keyboard player is an awesome arranger, lyricist, and lover of music. Gene Walker, is the saxophonist who has been compared to one-time King Curtis the great one. Wilbert Longmire who also plays on the CD, was once signed with Columbia Records in the early/mid 70's and completed the album "Sunny Side UP" We call him the jazz-man.
What are you thinking just before you go onstage?
Nervous! Before I go on stage I'm thinking I've got to give them all I got and then some. People love for you to tell their story in song.
What past and present singers have been/are musical influences?
The following singers have inspired me greatly: Mahalia Jackson, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Gladys Knight. "SOUL, SOUL, SOUL" that's all I can say. I deeply admire Etta James... because she can sing anything and still keep the Blues in it. I would love to sing with her (a dream of mine). I also would like to perform with Louisiana Red one day because my Dad and him did some things together and that would bring my Dad's spirit alive for me. Plus, I like the way Louisiana Red performs his stuff.
Where do you want your music to take you?
I want my music to take me to great songwriters, producers, people that want to make other folks happy with good music that touches and revives the soul. I'm working on my next CD. All the tunes on this CD were written by myself and I think this CD will show my ability to make melody in one's heart and be able to share some experiences in song.
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a woman who set her mark and that mark was to bless others in song and in deed.
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