Your Take: Family Tradition
On Wednesday, Paul posted another edition of his Forgotten Artists series, focusing on country songbird Pam Tillis. Tillis, the daughter of country star Mel Tillis, drew references to other family performers in the country genre:
Being related to a famous country entertainer can be a mixed blessing. Although the family ties can open doors for the aspiring singer, they can also serve to set unrealistic expectations. Just ask Roy Acuff Jr., Ronnie Robbins (billed as Marty Robbins, Jr.), The Lynns (daughters of Loretta Lynn), Riley Coyle (daughter of Jeannie C. Riley), Pake McEntire (Reba’s brother), Jay Lee Webb (Loretta Lynn’s brother), Peggy Sue (Loretta Lynn’s sister), and Hillman Hall (Tom T. Hall’s brother), each of whom issued an album or two and then disappeared. John Carter Cash has avoided the problem entirely by working behind the scenes.
Then there are those who achieve modest success and carve out respectable careers but never achieve top-drawer status, such as Shelley West (daughter of Dottie West), David Frizzell (brother of Lefty Frizzell), Tommy Cash (brother of Johnny Cash), Carlene Carter (daughter of Carl Smith and June Carter) and Thom Bresh (son of Merle Travis). Jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, son of country stars Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody might have fit into this category had he not died young.
True superstar success for those with famous kinfolk is indeed rare. The three biggest that come to mind are Crystal Gayle (Loretta Lynn’s sister), Lynn Anderson (the daughter of songwriter Casey & singer-songwriter Liz Anderson) and Hank Williams Jr. Pulling up behind these three are George Morgan’s daughter Lorrie, Roseanne Cash and the subject of this article, Pam Tillis.
Who are your favorite related country singers? Are there any that you believe succeeded only because of a previous generation’s name recognition?
Do you think family performers (both acts that perform together and those that come years apart, like Mel and Pam) are more prevalent in country music than other genres? Why or why not?
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- Ron: Sky Above, Mud Below by Tom Russell is another.
- Jack Williams: Another Othis Taylor song from White African is "My Soul's in Louisiana."