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Wednesday, March 13, 1996

Working Man's Singer Lets Other Songwriters Shoulder Part of Load

 MADISON, Tenn. (AP) -- Aaron Tippin holds up his hands. His fingernails are caked with grime.
 "We busted the bucket on a track hoe that's workin' up on my place, so I had to weld the bucket up last night," he said. The track hoe, basically a big bucket on a track, is needed to build a road down a mountain where Tippin lives in Liberty, 45 miles outside Nashville.
 Tippin's been a hands-on guy since before he got his pilot's license at the age of 15. And now, after five albums into the most successful career he's ever had, he finds himself in a surprising position. Sometimes, the other songwriters in Nashville have the hits he needs -- when he doesn't.
 "I've done every type of farm work. I've cut tobacco. I've done every kind of manual labor there is to do. And this (country music) is the toughest job I've ever had," said Tippin, a loose hockey sweater over jeans partly hiding his muscled physique.
 Most people know him from his song, "Working Man's Ph.D.," and the hit music video he made to support it. But Tippin's had bigger hits, including the personal manifesto "You've Got to Stand for Something." That hit the charts just in time to be a blue-collar favorite during the Gulf War.
 He's been playing in bands since about the same time he got the pilot's license. But when he married early and had a child to support, it looked like music would have to be just a hobby. His first career as a corporate pilot soon began to rub him the wrong way because he started to feel like a taxi driver.
 "I was 23, and I just decided I didn't want to fly anymore. I put together a country band and went to the honky-tonks and started playin' and one thing led to another."
 He worked days as a heavy equipment operator and did other manual jobs while he performed at night. And he was content.
 "Even when the weather was bad I could hunt and fish all day long, go to work at night and play for four or five hours," Tippin said in an interview at his management office.
 "I always said, 'Well, I can't go to Nashville 'cause I'm married.' So lo and behold, I ended up getting a divorce." After that, Tippin ran out of excuses to avoid Nashville, and decided to take the plunge.
 Looking like the South Carolina biker-mountain man he was in those days, Tippin performed on "You Can Be a Star," a daily talent contest then broadcast on The Nashville Network. He won the show that particular day, but was weeded out when the winner for the week was chosen.
 Country singer Jeannie C. Riley encouraged him, "so I just came up here and got a job as a welder."
 When he realized that writing hits could be a craft, too, he started working on it like he would any other skill.
 "I loved that life," Tippin said. "I was in body building back then. I'd go in the morning and train at the gym, and I'd take a shower and come on downtown and write a song."
 He was being paid $120 a week to write. "It was great. I had plenty to eat and had an old car. It was kind of beat up -- Old Daisy.
 "I think that's one thing I learned from my experience is that I was happy then and that old saying, 'You can never go back,' is hogwash.
 "If I got a call from RCA and they said, 'You're done, you're through,' I could go right back to living in a pup tent and writing a hit.
 "I could live for that."
 Nonetheless, the tepid response to his 1995 album "Lookin' Back at Myself" led him to seek more outside material for his next album. As a songwriter, he calls that "disappointing." On the other hand, he's having hits again.
 "Tool Box," his latest album, features the smash "That's as Close as I'll Get to Loving You" and "Without Your Love," currently rising on the charts.
 "I think this new album has opened my eyes some to realize that maybe everybody don't always want to hear a sermon," Tippin said. "I always considered myself in the past an evangelist. I had a message to give to the world."
 The odes to the common man and the simple life are still there on "Tool Box," but only three of 11 were co-written by the artist.
 Tippin is still working diligently at his songwriting craft, and playing some 130 concerts a year. He remains an avid gun enthusiast, hunter and fisherman.
 With a sprinkle of gray creeping into his jet black hair and mustache, the 37-year-old is even looking forward to a retirement with the opening of Aaron Tippin Firearms in 1995 in Smithville, near his home.
 "If I get a spare hour I can go sit around the gun shop and all the local guys come in and we swap lies and talk huntin', and so I get a big kick out of it. I think if we can make a go, then maybe it is somewhere I can hang out when I'm an old geezer and have some fun."

March 2, 1996

Singer doesn't tool around on the road

 WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) -- If the house is rockin', chances are Aaron Tippin is nowhere near it.
 The 37-year-old country singer, whose latest album is Tool Box, says life on the road, the subject of many country songs, is actually rather sedate for him.
 "The majority of ladies I dated in the past have thought my life was one big party. The truth of the matter is, when I'm out on the road, I work," Tippin said. "I don't play around. I don't even allow females on my tour bus."
 Tippin, once regarded as one of Nashville's most eligible bachelors, married Thea Corontzos last summer. It's his second marriage.

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Mar 13, 1996

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