Tracy Chapman Was Inspired To Play Guitar By Buck Owens And ‘Hee Haw’

Tracy Chapman
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Last year, Tracy Chapman officially became an award-winning country songwriter.

The legendary singer won the 2023 CMA Award for Song of the Year for her 1988 hit, “Fast Car,” after it was covered by Luke Combs on his 2023 album Gettin’ Old, bringing renewed attention not only to the 30+ year old song but also to Chapman herself.

The notoriously private singer remained largely out of the public eye as her hit found new life in country music, though she did release a statement after Luke’s version of “Fast Car” hit #1 on the country charts:

“I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there.

I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”

And while she may not have expected to find herself on the country charts, maybe it makes more sense than you think that she would end up there, considering her inspiration for picking up a guitar in the first place.

During a 2009 interview with NPR, Chapman was asked why she wanted to learn to play guitar, and she gave a surprising answer:

“Well, it’s hard to say but I think that I might’ve been influenced by a country variety show called Hee Haw.”

Hee Haw was, of course, the show that ran for nearly 30 years and featured country music and comedy from stars like Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, and many, many more over the years.

And while it may seem odd that Chapman, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, would be influenced by the Nashville-based country music show, she says that her mother watched the show and she grew to love the artists on her screen:

“I think my mother really liked the show, so she basically had control of television and, but I loved the music and it featured Buck Owens and Minnie Pearl, I think was her name.

And they just had these incredible very decorative guitars actually. And I’m not a fan of the decorative guitar but I think as an eight-year-old or seven-year-old I was really drawn to it in part for that reason and I just loved the sound of it and I asked for a guitar.

I had a ukulele when I was much younger. I have no idea what happened to it but I think that was part of it, just being inspired and wanting to try to play an instrument that to me sounded beautiful.”

Chapman would go on to release her self-titled debut album at just 24 years old, after getting her start busking in the Boston area during college. And over the course of her legendary career, Chapman scored four Grammy Awards and numerous other nominations, while becoming widely-regarded as one of the best singer/songwriters of the ’90s.

And who would have guessed that it was all because of Hee Haw?

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock