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Gayle, Crystal

Crystal Gayle

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

The svelte and raven-tressed Crystal Gayle is a country music queen who has captured the pop audience with breakneck speed, to quote Country Music contributor Laura Eipper. Having long ago outgrown the image of Loretta Lynns younger sister, Gayle today enjoys enormous popularity with country and mainstream audiences alike, in venues as varied as Nashvilles Grand Ole Opry and Atlantic Citys Trump Plaza. Her repertoire spans an unusually wide range, from straight country tunes to seductive blues ballads to soft pop-rock aimed at Top 40 audiences. Unifying all these elements, however, is Gayles natural vocal ability, honed over the years without formal training. In High Fidelity, Sam Graham praises Gayles voice: An often surprisingly big sound for a woman of such diminutive proportions, her instrument is both sultry and ingenuous-sounding, warm and playful. This voice could charm the truth out of Richard Nixon or seduce a eunuch. It could sing the Congressional Record in Pig Latin and melt your heart.

Gayles career includes several notable achievements that even eclipse those of her elder sister. She has been the first female artist to see an album, We Must Believe in Magic, go platinum, and she was the first woman entertainer to visit the Peoples Republic of China after the re-establishment of cordial diplomatic relations. These firsts illustrate an essential element of Gayles success: she has experimented constantly, never contenting herself with a single recognizable sound or image. As Craig Waters notes in the Saturday Evening Post, Gayle has grown from girl to woman, from honky-tonk singer to international star, without sacrificing what she is.

Crystal Gayle was born Brenda Gail Webb in Paintsville, Kentucky, on January 9, 1951. She is the youngest daughter of Melvin Ted and Clara Marie Webb, who raised eight children on a meager coal miners salary. By the time Gayle was born, her sister Loretta, sixteen years older, had married and moved away. Gayle grew up in Wabash, Indiana, in a community of retired coal miners. The Webb family was somewhat more comfortable during Gayles childhood than it had been during Loretta Lynns. Crystal owned a guitar and listened to an eclectic variety of vocal music, including country stars such as Patsy Cline, folk artists Peter, Paul, and Mary, blues singer Billie Holiday, and Broadway show tunes of the period.

Like many other people, Gayle became a fan of her sisters when Lynn began to build her country music career in the 1960s. As early as 1967, while she was still in high school, Gayle began to tour part time with Lynn. Her stage name derives from a Krystal chain of hamburger stands in the Nashville area; Lynn coined

For the Record

Full name, Crystal Gayle Gatzimos; name originally Brenda Gail Webb; born January 9, 1951, in Paintsville, Ky.; daughter of Melvin Ted (a coal miner) and Clara Marie (Ramey) Webb; married Vassilios Gatzimos (an attorney and entertainment manager), June 3, 1971; children: Catherine Claire, Christos James. Education: Graduated from high school in Wabash, Ind. Politics: Republican.

Toured with her sister Loretta Lynn in the late 1960s; began recording 1970; has toured as a headliner throughout the United States; television appearances include The Grand Ole Opry, Country Place, and Hee Haw, as well as The Crystal Gayle Special, 1979, Crystal, 1980, and Crystal Gayle in Concert, 1982. Spokesperson for American Lung Association, 1982, and Tennessee Department of Health and Environment, 1983-84.

Awards: Named most promising female vocalist by Academy of Country Music, 1975; named outstanding female vocalist by Academy of Country Music, 1977, 1978, and 1980; named best female singer by Country Music Association, 1977 and 1978; Grammy Award for outstanding country female vocalist, 1978; AMOA Jukebox Award, 1978; AMOA Awards, 1979, 1980, and 1986; award for most played country female artist, 1979; named one of Americas ten most beautiful women by Harpers Bazaar, 1983.

Addresses: Home Nashville, TN. Agent Shefrin Co., 800 South Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035.

the name for her, and she liked it. In 1970 Gayle recorded her first single with Decca, her sisters label. The song, Ive Cried the Blue Right Out of My Eyes, climbed to number twenty-three on the Billboard country charts. The next year Gayle married her high school sweetheart, Vassilios Gatzimos, who has served as her manager.

Gayle was grateful for her sisters help at the outset of her career, but the young singer soon wanted to set her own direction. She left MCA Records (formerly Decca) in 1973 and signed with United Artists. There she was fortuitiously teamed with producer-songwriter Allen Reynolds, an astute artist who maximized her vocal potential. Reynolds explained his producing strategy in High Fidelity: Ive always tried to get a good feeling around [Crystal], whatever will help her perform the song. I like a cleanness and a presence. I dont like to use an excess of limiters and equalization, because Id rather get that real honest presence, that warmth. If you keep the performance as simple as possible, I think it will last longer.

With Reynoldss assistance, Gayle became recognized in 1975 as a promising country vocalist, based on the strength of her first two albums, Crystal Gayle and Somebody Loves You. Then she and Reynolds began to experiment with music outside the realm of pure country, using instrumentation from mainstream and pop sources. The resulting sound caused a surge in Gayles popularity; in 1978 she recorded her first platinum album, We Must Believe in Magic, with its crossover Grammy Award-winning single Dont It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. Thereafter, Gayles albums often contained a blend of country, blues, and pop music, sung in a rich, soothing voice that seemed like a cold milkshake made with lots of ice cream, according to Blanche McCrary Boyd in the Village Voice.

Throughout the 1980s Gayle has remained in demand for appearances on television and in person. Her singles and albums continue to be well-represented on the country charts, and she is admired for her exceptionally long hair and tastefully-presented beauty. Gayle is unusual in her devotion to home and familyshe gives only 80 to 100 performances per yearand in her outspoken espousal of good health, especially for expectant mothers. A mother of two young children herself, she served as spokesperson for Tennessees Healthy Children Initiative and is credited with expanding prenatal care in that state tenfold. In 1988, Gayle took an active role in politics, stumping on the campaign trail for George Bush throughout the South. Ordinarily, however, she is a quiet and unassuming performer who lives with her family in a modest home near Nashville. Graham writes of her: One finds no sensationalistic copy in Crystal Gayle, to be surenone of Patti Smiths pseudo-politic ramblings, Linda Ronstadts Cub Scout coyness, or Bette Midlers outrageous brazeness. No National Enquirer material here. Simply one of the loveliest voices and smoothest styles around. Here is one case where it is truly the music that does the talking.

Selected discography

Crystal Gayle, United Artists, 1975.

Somebody Loves You, United Artists, 1975.

Crystal, United Artists, 1976.

We Must Believe in Magic, United Artists, 1977.

When I Dream, United Artists, 1978.

Classic Crystal, United Artists, 1979.

Miss the Mississippi, Columbia, 1979.

We Should Be Together, Columbia, 1979.

A Womans Heart, United Artists, 1980.

These Days, Columbia, 1980.

Favorites, Columbia, 1980.

Hollywood, Tennessee, Columbia, 1981.

True Love, Elektra, 1982.

Cage the Songbird, Warner Brothers, 1983.

Nobody Wants to Be Alone, Warner Brothers, 1986.

Straight to the Heart, Warner Brothers, 1986.

Crystal Christmas, Warner Brothers, 1986.

Country Pure, Warner Brothers, 1986.

The Best of Crystal Gayle, Warner Brothers, 1987.

What If We Fall in Love? (with Gary Morris), Warner Brothers, 1987.

Also recorded Greatest Hits, Musical Jewels, and, with Tom Waits, One from the Heart, 1982.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, August 2, 1981; October 11-13, 1985.

Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 1978.

Country Music, March, 1980.

High Fidelity, November, 1978.

Newsweek, April 17, 1978.

People, June 5, 1978.

Redbook, May, 1980.

Rolling Stone, May 19, 1977.

Saturday Evening Post, May-June, 1985.

Seventeen, March, 1981.

Village Voice, July 24, 1978.

Washington Post, July 19, 1978.

Anne Janette Johnson

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