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Country music legend Tanya Tucker engraved her name in country music history books when she was just 13 years old with the single “Delta Dawn” in 1972. In the succeeding decade, Tucker became one of the few child performers to transition into adulthood and maintain her fan base. During the course of her career, she’s notched a remarkable streak of hits including the chart-topping “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” and “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone).” Along with Jessi Colter, Tucker was one of very few women adopted by the outlaw country movement during the ’70s and ’80s. As a recording artist she’s placed nine titles on the Top Country Albums charts, nine singles in the Hot 100, and more than a dozen at Top Country Songs. Ubiquitous during her first two decades, Tucker achieved high-profile professional successes that were balanced by some lows and personal scandals, but she never stayed down for long. Between 1988 and 1997, she charted a comeback that netted three gold albums. In the 21st century, she started her own label, was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame, and continued to tour. After an extended break from recording new material, in 2019 she released the full-length While I’m Livin’ on Fantasy Records, co-produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings.

In 1969, Tucker and her family moved to Las Vegas, where she regularly performed. Eventually, she recorded a demo tape that gained the attention of songwriter Dolores Fuller, who sent it to producer Billy Sherrill. At the time, Sherrill was the head of A&R at CBS Records, and he was so impressed with the demo tape that he signed the teenaged vocalist to Columbia. Sherrill initially planned to have Tucker record “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA,” but she passed on the tune, choosing “Delta Dawn” — a song she heard Bette Midler sing on The Tonight Show — instead. Released in the spring of 1972, the song became an instant hit, peaking at number six on the country charts and scraping the bottom of the pop charts.

At first, Columbia tried to downplay Tucker’s age, but soon word leaked out and she became a sensation: her second single, “Love’s the Answer,” also became a Top Ten hit later in 1972. Tucker’s third single, “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” became her first number one hit in the spring of 1973. Two other number ones — “Blood Red and Goin’ Down” and “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)” — followed, establishing Tucker as a major star. In 1975, she signed with MCA Records, where she had a string of hit singles that ran into the late ’70s. She decided to radically change her image in 1978 and cross over to rock with her T.N.T. album. Despite the controversy over the record and its sexy cover, it went gold the following year.

Here is “Delta Dawn” performed live by none other than Tanya Tucker:

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