After 15 years of playing backup to famous stars like Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, and George Strait, Linda Davis has finally carved out a country music singing career of her own. It wasn’t an easy road for her. Before her 1996 hit album, Some Things Are Meant to Be, Davis had been on five different record labels and had 10 previous singles that never made it to the top-40. Davis told Mike Redmond of the Indianapolis Star, “I think ’97 is going to be the year I pretty much stand on my own.”
Born Linda Kaye Davis on November 26, 1962 in Carthage, Texas, she grew up in a small rural town of 7,500. Her parents Milford Davis and Oneita Davis raised a family of five. Davis grew up in a musically oriented family. “Music was my pastime, my passion, and my hobby. My sister had a piano. I would pick out songs on the keys—gospel songs like ‘Dear Lord’ and ‘Jesus Loves Me.”
As a teenager, Davis performed on a weekly radio show called the Louisiana Hayride. The show was made famous after stars Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, and Webb Pierce appeared on the same show early in their youth. Davis said, “It was called the ‘cradle of stars’ and the next step up was the Grand Ole Opry.” At the age of 20, she left her small Texas hometown for Nashville. She thought about moving to Dallas instead, since it was bigger and closer to home. However, country music was being made in Nashville, and a few friends of hers who resided there helped give her the courage and support she needed to move there.
In Nashville, Davis started out singing in nightclubs and hotels, seemingly practicing and rehearsing for the bigger times she knew would someday come her way. She sang demo songs for $45, along with commercial spots for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dr. Pepper. In 1984, she started a duet called Skip and Linda. Skip was Skip Eaton, and the two of them were brought together by Larry McBride, who founded MDJ Records. McBride needed a new singing success after the country group Alabama left the MDJ label. Davis and Eaton didn’t even know each other very well, but it was Davis’ first record deal and she jumped at the chance to sign it. Slowly, Davis started to attract the attention of Nashville’s record producers and songwriters. Deals with Epic and Capitol Nashville soon followed. She made a few songs, but didn’t have a big hit. In 1988, she opened for George Strait. Soon after from 1990-91, she opened for Kenny Rogers. All along, she was a patient touring singer. She said, “It’s about an hour and 20 minutes before I come on. I’m sitting backstage waiting. Finally it’s time for me to go on stage. I sing my songs and for 15 minutes, I’m in heaven.”
Born Linda Kaye Davis on November 26, 1962 in Carthage, TX; daughter of Milford and Oneita Davis; married, husband’s name Lang Scott; children: Hillary.
Awards: Grammy Award (with Reba McEntire), 1993; Country Music Association Award (with McEntire), 1994.
Addresses: Fan Club —Linda Davis Fan Club, P.O. Box 121027, Nashville, TN 37212.
The country music star Reba McEntire heard Davis was a regular singer and pianist at the Sheraton in Nashville, and she was interested in her work. When Davis sang two demo songs, “Falling out of Love,” and “Rumor Has It,” McEntire liked the songs so much that she also chose to sing them in her live performances. Both songs soon became hits for McEntire. Davis and McEntire quickly formed a professional and personal friendship. Since they both were considered to have similar sounding voices, Davis would often demo new songs that McEntire would later sing and turn into hits. Davis thought this was the start of an invaluable learning experience. In an article for The Advocate, Davis shared her feelings on Reba McEntire with contributor, John Wirt: “To learn from the best, like I think Reba is, is something not everybody gets to do. “I feel so privileged. I tell her thank you all the time.”
The big opportunity for Davis came when she joined McEntire’s band to tour the U.S. Davis became a backup singer for about four years with the band. Her big break came when she was asked to sing in a live duet with McEntire called “Does He Love You.” The story goes that McEntire was looking for a new song for her second greatest hits album. It was thought that country star Wynonna would sing it with McEntire. Davis told Wirt, “Then when it came time to go in and cut it I got a call from the band leader. He said, ‘Reba wants you to come in the studio and sing it with her.’” Davis thought that after the recording they would erase her voice and include some other singer’s voice with McEntire’s. However, it turned out that McEntire wanted her on the song from the start and she thought that her voice with Davis’ would easily prove to the record company executives that the two of them together would make for a great duet. This was the break that Davis needed, for before this time, she wasn’t that well known in the country music industry. Almost overnight, the two singers shared a Grammy for the recording of “Does He Love You.”
Davis quickly capitalized on her new found fame. In 1993 she came out with her first album, called Shoot the Moon, yet it did not shoot her to the charts. “That one did not have the radio hits,” Davis confessed to Wirt. She later admitted that she and the record producers didn’t take the time to find good songs for the album. However, the song “In Pictures” was later made into a hit when Randy Owen of Alabama discovered it and sang it to the top of the charts. In an interview with Tulsa World contributor, John Wooley, Davis stated: “From this point on, everything is a gift—because finally I can’t say, ‘Well, it’s not getting out there.’ That’s all I’ve ever wanted with my music: to be heard. So for everything from here on, I just say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’”
In 1993, Davis signed with Arista Nashville records. It proved to be another smart singing career move. She sang the hit single “Some Things Are Meant to Be,” which was also the title track on her second album. She broke the Top 20 on the Radio & Records and Gavin Charts, and the video for “Some Things Are Meant to Be” was in the “Hotshot” rotation on Country Music Television. With this big new success, record promoters didn’t stop at just promoting her vocal gifts. Davis also found herself packaged as a monthly calendar pinup that was sent to many country radio stations across the U.S. Album photos of Davis featured her in short shorts and exposed midriffs. When the subject came up in an interview with Robert K. Oermann of The Tennessean, Davis dismissed the hoopla, “I know this is part of my business, but I don’t take that very seriously at all. I’ve never seen myself as ‘cheesecake.’”
Davis and McEntire later went on to sing other duets together, such as “On My Own,” and a song featured on Davis’ album, “If I Could Live Your Life.” McEntire even gave Davis a song that she was going to sing for one of her albums. With the song “There Isn’t One,” Davis was given the opportunity to turn it into a hit, which Davis quickly did. This was just one of many examples of Reba McEntire’s support for Davis’ new solo singing career. The money and fame is not what motivates Davis. She wants her listeners to know her through the songs she sings. As Davis told Wirt, “When you’re through listening… you have an idea of the kind of person I am. Hopefully, you think Linda Davis is a regular, fun-loving… tenderhearted woman.”
In a Different Light, Liberty, 1991.
Linda Davis, Capitol, 1992
Shoot for the Moon, Arista, 1994.
Some Things Are Meant to Be, Arista, 1996.
Advocate, March 22, 1996, p. 10.
Indianapolis Star, July 21, 1996, p. 19.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 29, 1995, p. B2.
Tennessean. September 8, 1995, p. 1H; February 10, 1996, p.1D; April 30, 1997, p. 2G.
Tulsa World, March 10, 1996, p. H3.
USA Today, October 8, 1993, p. 5D.