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Friday, February 9, 2001

With a new album and a hit single, Aaron Tippin scores a country comeback

Staff Writer
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 Street."

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 his arm.

"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 me."


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

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Feb 09, 2001

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