3/4/09: The Incomparable Queen of Country Music

Dear Dick Wolf:

I don’t know if you’re much of a country music fan. Growing up in New York, you may not have been exposed to it much. In fact, I don’t even think there’s a country station in NYC at the moment, is there? I couldn’t find one last time I was there. And the country music station here in L.A. always boasts about being the “most listened to country station in America.” Well, we’re market number two – y’all over there in the Big Apple are number one. So, if the number two market is the biggest for country music, that would lead me to believe that the number one market simply doesn’t cater to the hick crowd.

But me, well, I grew up hick. In a very small town in Oregon called Keno (last population tally: 1,059). One bar – the Whoa Tavern (my mom tended bar there), one supermarket – the Keno Food Center, one small store – the Keno Store, and Keno Elementary School, which went up to the third grade. After that, kids were bussed to Klamath Falls, a bigger city a few miles away. There was also a church, a florist, a small cafe, a pizza parlor that served sarsaparilla, a feed store, post office, hair salon, and a baseball field (I was on a softball team for many years and we practiced there). I can remember just three stoplights, although there may have been more. The Keno Food Center had a small arcade – I played a lot of Mario Brothers, Centipede and Q-bert. And the Keno Store had AWESOME chicken salad. And Jo-Jos! Have you ever had those? They’re dee-lish. Big fat french fries. Dip them in ranch dressing and you’ll swear you’re in food heaven.

Well, when I was growing up in this small town of Keno, my parents liked to listen to KLAD, the local country station. Being a child of the 80’s, totally in love with Simon LeBon and the rest of the Duran Duran boys, I couldn’t stand all that twangy crap. I would beg dad to change the station to KTMT, which played      Top-40 hits. The Bangles, Debbie Gibson, the Thompson Twins, Tiffany, The Cars…you get the picture. The COOL music. But he liked the country songs. So, when we were in the truck, I was forced to listen.

Then in high school, country somehow became cool. We all wore Wranglers, cowboy boots (I still have the pair of Justin lace-ups I wore as a teenager), and these weird knitted belts that were totally hip at the time. My girlfriends – and all the redneck boys I had mad crushes on – were into the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Bellamy Brothers and others. So, I started listening, too. The first country album I bought (well, cassette tape, actually) was Tanya Tucker’s Love Me Like You Used To.


The second was Always and Forever by Randy Travis.


And let me tell you, I played the heck out of those. They changed my life. From then on, it was all country all the time. And to this day, it’s what I listen to most.

Now, at the time I started falling into the country music puddle, a band called “The Judds” had already been popular for a few years. They were a mother/daughter duo – Naomi and Wynonna Judd. And I have a very vivid memory I associate with their song “Grandpa”…

My brother and I were friends with our neighbor’s son Ryan, and we used to go over there to hang out. Well,  Ryan’s dad Bob skinned rabbits. I don’t know if he sold the fur or the meat, probably both. One day, I went over there, and walked into their barn – it was the first time I’d been in there when Bob was skinning rabbits. They were hanging everywhere. Fur-less hunks of meat. He asked me if I wanted to see how he did it, and I think I stood there and watched because I was paralyzed with shock. Now, my dad hunted, and we ate the animals he killed. Deer, ducks, elk. But seeing the reality of how a creature made the journey from the wild to our dinner plates was a little horrifying. Especially when that creature was a cute little bunny. As Bob peeled the fur off of one of the dead rabbits, like he was peeling a banana, “Grandpa” was playing on the radio in the barn.

Hey – I didn’t say is was a good memory.

Despite this, I grew to really like the Judds’ music. They became HUGE. When I was 21, the day I got my first tattoo, I remember sitting in bed watching a special on Wynonna. Her mom had retired and she’d gone solo by that time. As I listened, I recall being blown away by her voice. She was simply amazing…A few years later, I got a job working for a country music station in Portland, while I was in college (I’ve mentioned this to you before). Well, the best thing about working at a country music station was that I got to go to all the country concerts that came to town FOR FREE. Not only that, but I got to meet the artists, too! It was a hick girl’s dream job. Well, when Wynonna came to Portland, I got to meet her, too. She was, as you would expect, AWESOME.

She called me her “sisterfriend” and I thought that was the COOLEST THING EVER. Wy and I were sisterfriends! D-I-E!


(Me & Wy, circa 1998. I know, I had high hair.)

Fast forward 11 years. Wynonna is, in my book, the QUEEN of country music. Still, after 25 years on the scene. There’s no woman like her. And recently, my friend Preston and I were fortunate enough to see her live, in all her glory. Being in the radio industry, it’s a nice perk to get tickets from the record label. Because usually, you get backstage privileges, too…



The show was, of course, FAAAAAB!

(Don’t have an iPhone yet, so no sound.)

People wonder why I love country music so much. Well, if you ever see Wy in concert, you’ll understand. She’s the Universe’s glue. And it’s inspirational attitudes like hers that dominate the country music scene. The people are real. They sing the truth. If you can get past the “twang” that most critics harp on (like I used to, before I grew to love it), and just listen – really, really listen – you’ll find that country music speaks to the soul.

For me, it’s my refuge. And just when I think I’m ready to throw in the towel on my dreams, the powers that be step in and remind me why I moved to Los Angeles in the first place – by doing things like sending me to a Wynonna concert, out of the blue. She said it to us, on stage, that night: “Don’t ever give up on your dreams. Dreamers are the saviors of the world, to remind you that there’s always hope.”

Hallelujah, sisterfriend.

When I was growing up in Keno, I dreamed of being a movie star. Today, I’m in L.A. pursuing that dream. It’s really a dream of being a successful actress, but when you’re a kid, you don’t analyze it like that.

So, Mr. Wolf, anytime you wanna help make a small town girl’s dream come true, please let me know.

Thank you. Amen.


Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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  2. To Dick Wolf ,

    I love Law & order Special Victims unit so much that I think it would be extremely great if you make a movie out of it .

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