Modesto Bee, The (CA)



Published December 11, 1992

Section: Entertainment
Edition(s): All
Page: G-1


Bee entertainment editor

Aaron Tippin was up against a tough question. What does he like better, singing songs or writing them?

"Ooooh, that is a tough one," he said in a recent telephone interview. "Well, nothing is better than writing a great song that some of your peers are willing to stake their reputation on.

"The second greatest is stepping on stage and singing any song and hearing the crowd roar."

Two-beat pause.

"But the greatest of all is singing your song and hearing them scream."

So right now Tippin is having a lot of fun because for the last two years songs he's co-written and sung have been appearing regularly at the top of the country charts.

Starting with his debut single, "You've Got to Stand for Something (Or You'll Fall For Anything)," which became the unofficial anthem for servicemen during the Gulf War.

Bob Hope's daughter, Linda, heard the song and got her father to include Tippin in his troupe to entertain U.S. troops during the war.

"I didn't start a war to get a hit song, but going to entertain the troops is best thing that ever happened to me," Tippin, 34, said. "(Linda) heard the song and said this is the message we ought to be taking to the troops.

"When I got to the airport to leave, there were a whole lot of reporters there who didn't know I was and didn't care. I was just standing in the corner having some coffee when Bob Hope came in. The reporters just flocked around him, but when he saw me, he broke through the crowd, walked straight toward me and said, "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.'

"I thought that here was someone so important and yet he took the time to find out about me and my music. No wonder he's so successful."

And Tippin, like his music, is honest and to the point.

His roots run deep into the South Carolina hills where he was born. The son of an Air Force flight instructor, Tippin earned his pilot's license at 15 and went on to become a corporate pilot.

His sights were set on becoming a commercial jet pilot until airlines began laying off personnel in the energy crunch of the early 1980s, so Tippin turned to music.

He'd discovered that music in the early '70s. One of Tippin's friends got a portable eight-track tape player, but the only tape he had was his dad's copy of Hank Williams' greatest hits.

"At first we were makin' sport of it," Tippin recalled later in an interview. "But later, I took that tape home and couldn't stop playin' it.

"I got to listening to it, and I said, "Man, what he can do with words.' I think very early I locked into what country music meant -- why you like it."

It wasn't long before Tippin was performing himself -- "shoestringin' it, starvin' to death" -- playing in local bluegrass and country groups. It was a sideline, though, until his flying career was grounded.

At about the same time, he went through a divorce. And he began writing his own songs. One of his gospel tunes, formed one day while on the job driving a front-end loader, eventually found its way to Nashville publisher Charlie Monk, who encouraged Tippin to move to Music City and try his luck.

"He's not a pretty singer, he attacks it," Monk told USA Today in an interview. "I think he's a bright, sensitive man, but he's also a hard man, very physical, and he carries that through in his songs."

All of that is reflected in his voice when he talks about his early days in Nashville four years ago. Days he spent working for songwriting companies, in small cubicles with a guitar, sometimes with a partner, sometimes alone; nights, he worked in a rolling mill.

What little time was left went to his hobby of bodybuilding.

"I remember the times that I'd be ready to pack up and go home," he said, "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 was hard-headed, but still there were times when I thought nobody wants me to succeed. I'd say, "Why in the world did you leave that little paradise where you were king of the honky tonks?' Then I'd think there are a lot of people who believe in me so I have to believe in myself."

Tippin would go back to South Carolina often, to see his daughter Charla, now 14, and his friends, and get reinvigorated. Then he'd return to Nashville and try again for the big break.

"Everyone, whether they'll admit it or not, goes there with stars in their eyes," he said. "You want to be rich and famous. Then you wake up one day and realize it's not important what country music can do for you, but what you can do for country.

"And the funny thing is, as soon as I bought into that, things started happened. God must've looked down and said, "OK, his heart's in the right place. It's time.' "

His songs were recorded by Josh Logan and the Kingsmen gospel quartet. He and Mark Collie co-wrote Collie's debut single, "Something With a Ring to It." And then Tippin's own debut album and single -- both titled "You've Got to Stand for Something" -- were released.

He followed with the single hits "She Made a Memory Out of Me," "I Wonder Just How Far It Is Over You," "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way" and the rollicking "There Ain't Nothing' Wrong With the Radio" -- an ode to his beloved, battered, '74 Toyota station wagon, Daisy.

"Daisy's on R&R right now," Tippin said, with real love in his voice. "She's laid back in a garage waiting to be turned into the brand new Daisy."

Meanwhile, Tippin's busy performing and polishing his act. For that, he credits a 1991 stint touring with Reba McEntire.

"I've got to credit Reba for for contributing to my stage show," he said. "If there's anyone I look up to at controlling a crowd, she's the best. When Reba hits the stage, she knows very well that people have paid good money and she won't leave till she's given it."

He's taken the lesson to heart, producing an energetic, up-tempo good time for the audience.

"I always thought this music was fun," he said. "The audience has already heard it on the radio, now I want them see it and feel it."

Like he does.

"My lyrics are extra-traditional, yet the bottom end of it is real 1990ish," he said. "There's a little kickin' drive in those songs."


Copyright © 1992- Modesto Bee, The (CA).

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Dec 11, 1992

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