Tanya Tucker has been in the music business longer than just about anybody.
She took country music by storm back in 1972, when she released her classic hit “Delta Dawn” as the title track to her album of the same name. Written by Larry Collins and Alex Harvey, the song peaked at #6 on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart.
And while it was also recorded by Bette Midler and Helen Reddy around the same time, Tanya’s version remains the most iconic. The song was later recorded by Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, The Statler Brothers, Dottie West, Kitty Wells, and many more.
The most incredible part of the whole story though, is that Tanya was only 13 at the time the song was recorded and released.
She first heard the song at her producer, Billy Sherrill’s, office in Nashville on an old 45 record. The first time she heard it, she knew it was her song.
In the studio, they started out with the chorus a capella, except a young Tanya didn’t even know what that meant at first, and it was also her first time an official recording studio.
They did the song live, with a band in-studio, and it’s part of what makes the production sound so good. You’d be hard pressed to find a musician who does that these days at all, really, because it’s so much harder to auto-tune and fix up a song that is recorded live that way.
She said they put it out only days later, too:
“It was like three of four days later they released it. They rush released it, and I didn’t even have a deal. I didn’t even have a record, an album deal, with Columbia. I only had a deal for three songs.”
Of course, after being catapulted into the spotlight with a hit song, her life definitely changed some compared to what it was before, but not necessarily the way she thought it would:
“My life did change, I mean, of course it changed, but it didn’t change like I thought it would.
I saw a lot of back rooms, a lot of greasy kitchens, a lot of bales of hay and shopping centers with bad sound and flatbed trucks. So it changed, but necessarily for the better.”
Thankfully, even to this day, she still loves the song and never gets tired of singing it… which is saying a lot, because she’s been singin’ it for 50 years now:
“My relationship with ‘Delta Dawn’ is ongoing. I never get tired of singing it. And I think that’s a real blessing, because I’ve had to sing it a lot.
But there were so many things that came together, I think all the stars were lining up, and they lined up perfectly on that day.”
Check out a baby-faced Tanya singing it live on Hee Haw in 1973. She might’ve been young, but those vocals were absolutely incredible and well beyond her years… no surprise as to why she became a star:
More from Tanya Tucker on her country music smash hit, “Delta Dawn.”