Tag Archives: Aaron Tippin

Country Music Firsts

pamtillisOur readers have clearly responded well to our Back to the Nineties features this month. (Fret not, there are more on the way.) Part of the reason is that so many of you, like myself and Leeann, first discovered country music in that decade.

This isn’t too surprising, as the nineties helped establish country music as a genre with widespread appeal. The suburbanization of once-rural America reached its apex, and at the same time, CMT deeply penetrated the cable market. For you newbies, the channel was 24-hour videos back then, with remarkably democratic video rotation.

A clip in heavy rotation would only be seen two more times a day than one in light rotation.  This is the reason both Mutt Lange and Sean Penn discovered Shania Twain through her “What Made You Say That” clip, which was played extensively on the channel despite the song stalling at #55 at radio.

The New York country radio station back then would do a “Country Convert” feature every morning. A radio listener would call in and say what song converted them to country music. Newbies to country music back then had a religious zeal to them, and would work very hard trying to convince others to fall in love with the music.

In the spirit of that “Country Convert” feature, I’d like to ask all of you about your country music firsts. I imagine many of us will have answers concentrated in the nineties, but if yours are from another decade, share them anyway!

Here are the questions:

  • What was the first country song that you remember loving?
  • What was the first country album that you bought with your own money?
  • What was your first country concert?

My Answers:

What was the first country song that you remember loving?

I liked a lot of the older stuff that my parents listened to, like Johnny Horton and Conway Twitty, but it was always my parents’ music.  One night, we were watching a TV variety show called Hot Country Nights. I think we had it on because my mom’s favorite, Ricky Van Shelton, was performing that night. Out came Pam Tillis, singing “Maybe It Was Memphis.” I just had never heard anything like it before, and I was instantly smitten.  

What was the first country album that you bought with your own money?

I remember buying Pam Tillis’ Put Yourself in My Place and Lorrie Morgan’s Something in Red on the same day.  I bought both on cassette. If I recall correctly, I listened only to Side 1 of each tape for a very long time.

What was your first country concert?

Somewhere in New Jersey in 1992: Clint Black, Billy Dean and Aaron Tippin. It was Black’s tour to support The Hard Way. I remember that there was a complicated set for Black’s performance, something with falling rocks.

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Aaron Tippin Starter Kit

aaron-tippinStarter Kits are Country Universe’s way of introducing country music fans to an artist that they might not be fully aware of. This Starter Kit features Aaron Tippin, who will soon enter his third decade as a country recording artist.

Tippin was a hit from the beginning, launching his career with a gold-selling debut album. Over the course of the nineties and early 2000s, he would reach that sales level multiple times, racking up several top ten hits along the way. He recently released In Overdrive, a solid collection of truck driving anthems.

The Starter Kit includes one track from this recent release, along with nine others from throughout Tippin’s career that are required listening. As always, let me know what was missed in the comments.

“You’ve Got to Stand For Something” from the 1991 album You’ve Got to Stand For Something

Tippin established his artistic identity immediately with his debut single. Pride in family, pride in country, and pride in your beliefs are themes that Tippin would revisit frequently over the years, making much of his best music in the process.

“There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With the Radio” from the 1992 album Read Between the Lines

Tippin scored a huge hit with this ode to his car radio, the only part of his vehicle that isn’t falling apart.

“I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” from the 1992 album Read Between the Lines

One of his many hits to champion the underdog, the accompanying video clip has him playing a factory worker who rallies for better working conditions.

“My Blue Angel” from the 1992 album Read Between the Lines

Tippin’s only platinum album is also among his best, with his plaintive wail being used to stunning effect on this lonesome ballad.

“Working Man’s Ph. D.” from the 1993 album Call of the Wild

As the title suggests, it’s a working class anthem that explores the necessary requirements for high achievement in manual labor.

“Whole Lotta Love on the Line” from the 1993 album Call of the Wild

The musical hook of this song is so deliriously infectious that it’s easy to overlook that it also includes one of Tippin’s finest vocal performances.

“I Got it Honest” from the 1995 album Tool Box

Tippin’s finest expression of working class values.

“Kiss This” from the 2000 album People Like Us

Thanks to this snappy kiss off anthem, Tippin earned his first gold album in five years.

“He Believed” from the 2006 album Now & Then

Tippin pays tribute to his father once again. He celebrates his dad’s belief in God and country, but poignantly notes that he believed in his son more than anyone or anything else.

“Prisoner of the Highway” from the 2009 album In Overdrive

The centerpiece of his truck driving odyssey.

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Aaron Tippin, In Overdrive

Aaron Tippin
In Overdrive

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Amongst the glut of faux traditionalists that populated the country airwaves during the nineties, there was one voice that cut right through the clutter, such was its raw verve and unabashed authenticity. Aaron Tippin sings with pure country conviction about the invisible Americans, giving voice to the working men and women who seem to have vanished from the collective national consciousness.

In truth, Tippin was their last great champion, scoring radio hits with such anthems as “I Got it Honest”, “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” and “Working Man’s Ph.D.” So it seems fitting that he has returned with a concept album that celebrates the American trucker, collecting most of the high-profile road songs in country music history, but also including some low-profile gems that give In Overdrive greater depth and resonance.

One of the reasons the album works so well is that Tippin sounds like he could conceivably be a truck driver. He restores the “little white pills” to “Six Days on the Road” that Sawyer Brown censored on their hit cover,  the distance between the narrator and the character is completely eliminated on his version of Alabama’s “Roll On”, and all the Urban Cowboy sheen is completely decimated when he tears into “Drivin’ My Life Away.”

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