LG: Hi Teeny, it is indeed an honour, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to me as part of Bluesdoodles Team! You are the first in what we hope will be a series of interviews and album release combination under the banner of One To One Blueswoman Interviews. Let’s get right to it shall we?
LG: What age were you when that first song tickled your ear and you knew you wanted to be a singer?
TT: 8-10 years old in my church gospel choir. I recorded my first song on a gospel album at age 14
LG: You were 12 years old, in your bedroom, singing into your hairbrush, who were you?
TT: Singing was in my soul even before 12 years old. I never sing in the hairbrush because my mother would pay me a quarter or fifty cents to sing for family and friends. They were my audience
LG: What is your songwriting process?
TT: most times I come up with a topic first. For example when I think of a woman whose been taken for granted or not heard. I wrote a song called “The Muddier Things Get The Clearer I See” I also write about personal experiences and experiences of others. Once I have a topic, I usually come up with a chorus, then write my versus around the chorus. it works for me most times but not always in that order.
LG: What inspires you?
TT: On a life level I was mostly inspired by my mother and my father. I started singing in the gospel choir as a young girl. Some of my earlier influences were the earlier gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Aretha Franklin, Rance Allen, and the Caravans. Fast forward to when I got the Blues bug and I became influenced by the earlier classic blues ladies like Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ruth Brown, Nina Simone, Sis Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, KoKo Taylor, and Etta James. My most recent influences are Mavis Staple. Her love her vocal style and presence. I’m now most inspired by my 95-year-old grandfather who possesses extraordinary wisdom and knowledge about life and relationships
LG: What’s new in your life?
TT: On the Board of Directors at the Blues Foundation in Memphis Tennessee. I also conduct a Women in Blues Workshop. Women In Blues Workshop was developed to bring awareness to the role women has contributed to Blues history, utilizing vocal demonstrations, film footage, and audience interaction.
LG: Who are some of the most interesting people you have played with?
TT: This is a loaded question because I have been on the same festival or performance with some of the greatest artists in the blues such as BB King, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Keb Mo, Mavis Staple, Big Jay McNeely, Joe Louis Walker, Robert Lockwood, JR, Holmes Brother and so many others. I’ve been blessed with so many wonderful and memorable blues musical experiences.
LG: Was there ever a moment that you thought of calling it quits?
TT: Yes I Have. I learned that is a normal process for many artists. But as for me, I must feel that I am blessing someone through my singing and performance. I’m like the preacher that preaches the sermon and touches lives doing so. if I’m not serving my purpose for the reason I’ve been gifted then my talent would be in vain. Also being an artist is not made for the weak. It can be tough, unfair, and even lonely, so those moments you feel you can’t do it anymore does not outweigh your passion and love for your gift.
LG: What was the most moving moment on stage?
TT: In Indiana playing at the slippery noodle. I looked out in the audience and I notice a young man holding onto the table dancing. I thought is he intoxicated and afraid he’ll fall. He was not intoxicated at all. His mother and wife spoke to me after the show to let me know that he had bone cancer and was so moved by the band and I that he couldn’t sit still. He recently had a surgery and had become depressed, but his spirit was lifted that night through music. I’ve had several other musical/ magical moments like that, but that one was one of the most moving for me.
LG: What are a couple of your favourite gigs?
TT: opening for BB King in Germany, 1998. My sun studio appearance that aired on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) in 49 major markets. Also, I opened for Koko Taylor once in Dayton, Ohio where I was born. She called me on stage to sing a song with her.
LG: Teeny, you have released this year your 6th Studio album which is being reviewed by Bluesdoodles team. What was the inspiration for the title of the album?
TT: The title of the CD “Put On Your Red Dress Baby” was inspired by my father’s 1964 hit song, “Hi Heel Sneakers” also inducted into the 2017 Blues Hall of Fame. Recorded from the mighty Chess Records (Checker subsidiary) and became number 1 in the Cash Box R&B charts, number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. I found it only fitting and timely to continue the celebration and honour for a song that has been recorded by countless other artists including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, and Stevie Wonder. So I thought ok, why not Teeny Tucker.
LG: What would people be most surprised to know about you as a person?
TT: I love blues and its history but I also write and love poetry, I’ve done some acting, and I love being a grandmother. I’ve have the same 4 best friends since 3rd grade; that’s over 50 years. I worked 30 plus years as a contracting officer for the federal government while building a music career so at one time for a period of 8 years I worked 7 days a week.
Thank you, Teeny Tucker, for your time the first of many interviews that will be part of One to One Blueswoman series of conversation.
Check out Bluesdoodles review of Teeny Tucker’s “put on your red dress baby”