Monday, May 25, 2009

Class of 89 - Vince Gill

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Here is the second of today’s posts. It will be on Vince Gill.

1989 Vince Gill seemed to be a new artist like Garth, Alan, Clint, Travis, and Mary Chapin. In fact 1989 was not the year of Vince Gill’s first single on the country charts. Vince debuted in 1984, and occasionally charted songs and sold very few albums until he was dropped by RCA Nashville. Vince signed with MCA Nashville, and MCA Nashville head Tony Brown became Vince’s new producer. Together Tony Brown and Vince Gill created Vince’s break through album “When I Call Your Name”. It was the title track of that album that became Vince’s signature hit. From there Gill achieve the following:

  • In 1990 he won CMA Single and Song of Year for “When I Call Your Name”. Ironically his co-writer on the song was Tim DuBuios who was then President of the fledgling Arista Nashville which was in the process of launching the careers of Vince’s soon to be fellow superstars Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn.
  • In 1991 Vince won the first of his five straight (1991-1995) CMA Male Vocalist of the Year awards.
  • His 1989 “When I Call Your Name” sold 2 million copies as did its 1991 follow up “Pocket Full of Gold”.
  • In 1993 Vince won a record tying five CMA awards in one night. He also won the first of first CMA Entertainer of the Year award. He won Entertainer of the Year again in 1994.
  • Spurred on by his CMA wins and numerous top ten single, Vince’s “I Still Believe in You” sold 5 million copies and won CMA and ACM awards for Album of Year.
With his 1994 album “When Love Finds You” in the midst of selling 4 million copies Vince Gill finally made an appearance in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was 1995 and Vince had been a successful commercial artist since 1989; yet it took six years for him to come to market which had embraced Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, and Brooks & Dunn with major crowds over 18,000 plus for each of their concerts.

Vince arrived in concert with Patty Loveless opening for him. Vince was amazing. He played all this hits. He sang brilliantly. He did several excellent guitar solos. His band was first rate, and he played for longer than other artist (country or non country) I had ever seen in concert. It was a great show and the 12,000 fans there loved every minute of it.

I left convinced Vince Gill was going to be a superstar for years to come. I was wrong.
In 1996 Vince’s “High Lonesome Sound” barely sold over a million copies. His 1998 album “The Key” debut at #1 then sank, barely getting over one million in sales. In 2000 he charted his last top ten hit. Artistically Vince was still alive as his 2006 box set of all new material “These Days” proved, but commercially 2000 was the final nail in his coffin.

Why did Vince Gill fall? Gill was legendary for his kindness to fans and fellow artists. He was loved by the country music industry. In reality his kindness and industry popularity might have destroyed him. He could never say no when another artist asked for him to sing with them. Vince’s voice showed up on all kinds of songs thereby creating an overexposure of him on country radio.

His continue hosting of the CMA Awards (he hosted 10 straight years) also made him seem more like a host and comedian than a singer.

Then there were all the CMA awards he won. Vince won 18 CMA Awards, but only 4 ACM Awards. That is the biggest gap of CMA Awards to ACM Awards won of any country artist in country music history. Vince won those 18 awards in just a few years time, so it seemed like he was always winning.

Fans may have become tired of Vince being all over the radio and tired of him always winning. They made have decided Vince had his run, and it was someone else’s turn to have success.

Then there was Vince’s divorce from his wife Janis and his subsequent marriage to Christian music singer Amy Grant. Country music fans are mostly women; women who hold the male artist favorite to high standards perhaps too high of standards. They don’t like to see male artists divorce, and they especially don’t like rumors of affairs. Rightly or wrongly Vince was accused of wanting to marry Amy Grant before he had divorced his wife Janis. Fans may have turned on Vince thinking he was not the man he thought he was.

I lean to towards a combination of all the above. He was over exposed. He did seem to win awards a little too much for my liking. Women I had talked with about Vince did not like the way his marriage came undone. Plus I think Vince’s music was not good after “High Lonesome Sound”. Critics may not agree, but for me “The Key”, “Feels Like Love” and “Let’s Be Sure We Kiss Goodbye” just were not has good as “When I Call Your Name”, “Pocket Full of Gold” and such.

Whatever the reason for his downfall, from 1990 to 1995 Vince Gill only trailed Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, George Strait, and Brooks & Dunn in commercial popularity, and he joined Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, and Patty Loveless in producing the most artistically respected albums.

Vince Gill is also a very nice man. I have read and heard countless stories of his kindness toward others. He is also a major supporter of country music’s past and its traditions.

I think Vince Gill is great artist. I especially love his albums “Pocket Full of Gold” and “When I Call Your Name”. He may not get as much play on the radio as he used too, but he got to become the first member of the Class of 89 to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I don’t know where this video is from, but it is definitely Vince Gill around the year 1990 or 1991. Patty Loveless sang background vocals on the recorded version of the song, and she makes an appearance her to accompany Vince on the live version.