It all began with one of
those morning spats married couples are known to have.
When country singer Aaron Tippin asked his wife, Thea, to
kiss and make up, she said, "I'll tell you what you can kiss.
You can kiss this!"
Thus a country hit was born.
"I've got to give her a lot of credit," Tippin said. "She's
had a big year."
Thea's big year began when she co-wrote "Kiss This" with
her husband and Philip Douglas, then watched as the song gave
hubby Aaron's career a much-needed shot in the arm.
"We had quite a dry spell there for a while," Tippin said,
"so shoot, man, I'm just glad to have another record and still
be out there kickin'."
Nothing much was kicking four years ago when it looked like
Tippin's career as a country-music singer was coming to an
end. Hits were few and far between for the Travelers Rest
native, and his record label, RCA, wanted him to change his
honky-tonk style and conform to the modern country sound.
Tippin was having none of that.
"RCA and me didn't have the same thing in mind," he said by
phone last week. "When I left RCA, I didn't know if I wanted
to do this anymore. I thought about just going back to
songwriting, maybe do a little touring on the side, but get
out of the recording part of it. Then along came Lyric
Lyric Street Records was a new kid on Music Row, a
Disney-owned label that offered Tippin creative control of his
music and a bigger part of the production of his records.
"I was reluctant at first, but they wanted me to co-produce
my albums, write more songs and be a bigger part of things. So
that's why I decided to say yes."
Smart move. Tippin's first Lyric Street album, "What This
Country Needs," spawned a Top 10 hit in 1998 with "For You I
Will," but it was in June of last year when the fireworks
really starting popping. That's when "Kiss This" hit radio,
and it was just like old times. The phone lines lit up, the
song shot up the charts and the label hustled to get the
album, "People Like Us," in the stores.
"It was reminiscent of the past days when a label hired you
to do what you did best (--) write songs and sing 'em. They
believe in you, and in turn they do what they're supposed to
do by supporting the album. That's a great combination."
It's also reminiscent of a decade ago when an unknown
bodybuilder and former commercial pilot burst onto the
country-music scene with a stirring Top 10 single called
"You've Got to Stand for Something," which became an American
pop anthem during the Gulf War.
Hot on the heels of that success, Tippin scored hits such
as "She Made a Memory Out of Me," "I Wouldn't Have It Any
Other Way," "Working Man's Ph.D." and two No. 1 singles
(--)"There Ain't Nothing Wrong with the Radio" in 1992 and
"That's As Close As I'll Get to Loving You" in 1995.
Sang in the nasally twang of the South Carolina mountains,
Tippin's songs became instant favorites with fans and radio
programmers alike, and even country-music purists tipped their
hats to the buff good old boy with the palmetto-tree tattoo on
"People Like Us" was produced by Tippin, Biff Watson and
Mike Bradley, and the album's second single, the title track,
is starting its climb up the charts.
Tippin lives on a 300-acre farm outside Nashville with Thea
and their two children. (He has a 23-year-old daughter,
Charla, by an earlier marriage.) His mother and sister still
live back home in South Carolina. They keep him posted on
what's happening in his home state.
Tippin dedicated "People Like Us" to the late Pee Wee
Melton, a former Upstate musician and producer. "He was
everybody's grandpa who was in music up there," Tippin said.
"He was a super guy."
For now, Tippin is back on the road, playing "Kiss This"
and all his old hits for the fans who never went away.
"That's one thing I've been very lucky about," he said.
"Folks who started coming to my shows in the beginning kept on
coming every time they could. It's been an ongoing thing for
IF YOU'RE GOING
Who: Aaron Tippin, with special guest Clay Davidson
When: Tonight at 7:30
Where: The Township, 1703 Taylor St.
Tickets: $27.50; (803) 252-6530