Singer, songwriter, guitarist
“I’ve been in love with country music since I was a I young teenager,” exclaimed country singer and songwriter Aaron Tippin. “And I saw it have to live in the ditch for so many years. Now I see today how popular it is ... some of the greatest country songs I’ve ever heard being written and sung.” Tippin’s personal enthusiasm for country music is reflected by the many loyal fans who hear in his twangy voice and raw, hardhitting lyrics a return to country’s hillbilly roots.
Tippin was born in Pensacola, Florida, but grew up in the farmland outside Greenville, South Carolina. While he began playing guitar when he was ten, young Tippin was satisfied to confine his singing to performing with his Baptist church choir. Intent upon following his father’s lead and becoming a commercial jet pilot, he worked on nearby farms and in his father’s air-taxi business to earn money for the flying lessons that would earn Tippin his pilot’s license by the time he was 15.
In the midst of building a career as a corporate pilot, Tippin renewed his interest in country music. Wooed by the heartrending lyrics of Hank Williams, Sr., and the songs of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Thompson, and Lefty Frizzell, Tippin began playing rhythm guitar in local bluegrass and country groups. Music remained a hobby until his dreams of becoming a jet pilot were grounded by the energy crisis of the early 1970s. Tippin began to think seriously about trading in his pilot’s license for a one-way ticket to Nashville.
Once his mind was made up, Tippin refocused the enormous energy he had once devoted to flying on his music. For several years, he worked strenuous day jobs, interspersing them with nights spent playing the Southern honky-tonk circuit. Encouragement came when a gospel tune he wrote came to the attention of a publisher who advised Tippin to move to Nashville, home to the Gospel music publishing industry. In 1985, he finally made it to Music City by way of a television talent show. Once Tippin had arrived, he was determined to stay on.
Opportunities for an unknown vocalist proved scarce, so Tippin decided to pursue a job where he could learn about the music business. “Figured I’ll do something easy, I’ll be a songwriter,” he told the Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Hart. He quickly discovered that there was more to writing hit songs than a short session with the typewriter. “The only thing in my favor was, I was smart enough to see that I didn’t know nothing,” he confessed. “I remember the times I’d be ready to pack up and go home,” Tippin told the Modesto Bee’s Linda
For the Record…
Born July 3, 1958, in Pensacola, FL; son of Willis Emory (a pilot) and Mary Tippin; divorced; children: Charla.
Country-western singer and songwriter. Worked variously as a farm hand, welder, corporate pilot, truck driver, and heavy equipment operator; staff songwriter, Acuff-Rose, Nashville, TN, c. 1985; signed with RCA, 1990.
Addresses: Record company —RCA Records, One Music Circle North, Nashville, TN 37203. Agent-Jessie Schmidt, Starstruck Entertainment, P.O. Box 121996, Nashville, TN 37212-1996. Fan club— Aaron Tippin International Fan Club, P.O. Box 121709, Nashville, TN 37212.
Cearley, “but I’d think about the people in my hometown who said ‘You ought to go to Nashville’ and I ‘d stay for another day.... I’d think there are a lot of people who believe in me so I have to believe in myself.”
Tippin’s determination paid off. The many hours alone with his guitar in a songwriter’s cubicle eventually earned him recognition as a songwriter. His gospel tune, “Tell Everyone You Know,” was picked up by the Kingsmen. Several of Tippin’s songs went on to be recorded by popular country artists: “Something With a Ring to It” was recorded by coauthor Mark Collie, and “Whole Lot of Love on the Line” by veteran country performer Charley Pride. “We’ve quit writing songs like ‘Okie from Muskogee’ and The Fightin’ Side of Me’—songs of just being proud,” said Tippin. “I guess that’s why I try to bring it back.” His personal beliefs inspire many of his lyrics. “I think that standing there in the middle of the storm—knowing that it’s going to be over and that you stayed until it was—has a lot of value to it,” he flatly stated. “Being a feather in the wind is not much of a way for a person to live.”
After several years as a songsmith, Tippin decided to save some production costs by doing his own vocals on a demo-tape he was preparing for RCA. He recalled the record company’s response for Hart: “They came back and said, ‘We really like these songs, and, hey, who’s that hillbilly singin’ ‘em?’” RCA found in Tippin a sound that linked the old and new in country music: they signed the songwriter on in 1990. With a blue yodel reminiscent of the late great Jimmie Rodgers, Tippin’s music runs the gamut between red-neck battle-cries and soul-searching ballads, carrying a moral resoluteness echoing country music’s not-too-distant past. “Ironically, Tippin’s sound probably would have stood no chance in modern Nashville before Randy Travis led the roots movement [in the mid-1980s],” noted Jack Hurst in the Chicago Tribune. Tippin agreed. “They would have laughed me out of here five years ago,” Hurst quoted him as saying.
In addition to his emotionally engaging lyrics, much of Tippin’s appeal comes from his energetic stage performance. His body-builder physique has screaming female fans leaping to their feet. “You might call him a ‘warm-up,’” recalled Union City Daily Messenger’s Glenda H. Caudle. “But then you’d be severely understating what Tippin managed to do. Because he left the audience not just warm. By the time he finished, they were hot enough to temper steel.” “There’s sure nothing subtle about Aaron Tippin’s music,” Bob Allen commented in his review of Tippin’s 1993 Call of the Wild\n Country Music.”It’s unadulterated twang and good-natured, iron-pumping musical aggression in extremis. Most people tend to either love it a lot or hate it, because ‘The Tipper’ doesn’t pull punches or hedge his bets.”
Tippin’s 1990 single “You’ve Got to Stand for Something (Or You’ll Fall for Anything)” coincided with the U.S. intervention in Iraq, and many listeners found in the singer’s personal anthem a national battle cry. The song’s popularity gained Tippin an invitation from comedian Bob Hope to entertain American troops in Saudi Arabia. “I got to take the message to them about how we felt,” he told Caudle. “That was an honor.”
Many of Tippin’s lyrics celebrate the dignity of the American worker. “Working Man’s Ph.D.” has become a rallying cry for the blue-collar worker since its release on Call of the Wild, and the song speaks to its author’s pride in his years performing hard, physical labor. “It’s not that I put down education,” Tippin explained. But, he told Country Song Roundup’s Jennifer Fusco-Giacobbe, “For some reason or another, in our society, we’ve decided if you weren’t a brain surgeon or an astronaut, that you didn’t have much worth. That’s sad, because no matter what you do in this world, no matter how small it may seem, as long as you do it the absolute best you can, then I think folks should be proud of what they do.”
“I used to think that being a singer/songwriter was a whole lot tougher than just being a singer,” Tippin noted of his craft. “But I’ve found out that even though writing is more work, it’s a whole lot easier when you’re getting ready to put an album together.” He sees each completed album as a stage in his musical development. 1991 ’s You’ve Got to Stand for Something showcased his unique vocal style and songwriting abilities.
A year later, Read Between the Lines generated a string of hit singles on its way to going platinum, proving that his musical instincts were on target. His next album, Call of the Wild, takes its lead from the humorous single “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With the Radio” in showcasing Tippin’s lighter side. “I think Call of the Wild is my dawning,” said Tippin. “It shows I’ve passed the storm.” Although his music continues to attract attention, Tippin remains pragmatic about his career. “You’ve got to get it out of your head that this is all for you and get it in [your head] that this is for the betterment of country music,” he told Caudle, “and if you can carry it a few miles and a few years down the road to a higher plateau, then you’re doing your job.”
You’ve Got to Stand for Something, RCA, 1991.
Read Between the Lines (includes “There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With the Radio,” “I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way,” and “My Blue Angel”), RCA, 1992.
Call of the Wild (includes “Working Man’s Ph.D.”), RCA, 1993.
Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1991; June 17, 1992.
Country Music, September 1991; November 1993.
Country Song Roundup, September 1993; January 1994.
Modesto Bee, December 11, 1992.
Union City Daily Messenger (Tennessee), April 27, 1992.
USA Today, January 22, 1991; September 9, 1991.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from RCA press materials, 1994.
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