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January 30, 2003

Tippin soars as country crooner - The Clarion-Ledger

Tippin soars as country crooner

By Lynne Wilbanks Jeter
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Aaron Tippin
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Some people call him the pumped-up version of Hank Williams.

But whatever his shtick, the "blue-collar singer with a taste for big machinery, body building and belting out brash, hard-country hits," as Launch's Bill Hobbs describes him, country music lovers can't get enough of Aaron Tippin.

Tippin's music isn't canned country pop. His bold nasal-twang voice is instantly recognizable on the airwaves, and his cache of solid country hits spouting old-fashioned values have earned Tippin a solid fan base. They've spawned trivia questions, such as: what kind of car is in the Kiss This and People Like Us videos? (A 1970 Cuda.) What kind of dog is Buddy? (A weimeraner.)

To the delight of audiences, Tippin's highly physical shows accentuate his well-honed physique. He's been known to jump out of a toolbox. During one show, Tippin put together a bicycle, which he later donated to a local radio station for Toys for Tots, one of his favorite charities.

"Anybody who comes to the show gets a real taste of Aaron and how he feels and what he thinks and what he's like," Tippin said.

Born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains around Travelers Rest, S.C., Tippin, 44, fell in love with music at the age of 9 when his dad brought home a $30 piano. That year, inspired by Williams, Lefty Frizell, Hank Thompson and Jimmie Rodgers, he wrote his first song.

Tippin said he developed strong vocal cords by singing over the sounds of a diesel engine tractor while bailing hay, running combines and "plowing the back 40," he said. "That's where it all began."

The son of a professional pilot, Tippin seemed destined to follow in his father's footsteps. In between playing football and running track as a teen, he learned how to fly and work on airplanes. On weekends, he played country and bluegrass in area honky-tonks.

Tippin became a multi-engine instrument commercial pilot and flew as a corporate pilot while logging flight hours in anticipation of joining a major carrier. Around that time, the fuel shortage hit and major commercial airlines began furloughing pilots. So in 1986, Tippin headed to Nashville.

For a while Tippin worked in a factory, competed in bodybuilding contests and in his spare time wrote country music songs. In 1990, after working with The Kingsmen, David Ball, The Mid-South Boys and Charlie Pride, Tippin landed a recording contract with RCA Records. He later switched to Disney's Lyric Street Records. His first five albums attained gold or platinum status.

His highest-selling album was the 2000 release People Like Us. It debuted on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart at No. 5. It was the highest first-week sales for Lyric Street. Thea Tippin, his wife since 1995, co-wrote Kiss This and the duet The Best Love We Ever Made, which she also recorded with Tippin. They have performed together at the Grand Ole Opry and there's a chance she might perform with Tippin at Grand Casino in Biloxi.

"Maybe we'll get to (tour) some, but one of us has to keep a firm leg on the earth at home," Tippin said. "That's kind of her duty ... course, we do that big duet thing and if everybody likes her singing better than me, I'll be glad to stay home for the next 10 years and let her come out here. I'll be Mr. Mom."

His latest CD, Stars and Stripes, features the hit single Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly and Love Like There's No Tomorrow, a duet with Thea.

Far removed from his factory days, Tippin has made his home with his family — Thea and their sons, Teddy, 5, and Thomas, 2 — in a log home on a 300-acre farm east of Nashville. He also has a daughter, Charla, 25. He collects farm machinery like tractors, trucks and backhoes — and airplanes. At last count, he had seven: four Cessnas, two Piper Cubs and one Chipmunk. His hunting supply business, Aaron Tippin Firearms, has stores in Tennessee and North Carolina. Not surprisingly, in his spare time, he enjoys deer and turkey hunting.

Copyright 2001, The Clarion-Ledger.

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Jan 30, 2003

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