Back Stories-When I Call Your Name
Vince Gill is one of the very best singers in any genre period!
There's a heartfelt honesty in his vocal delivery that is both simple, and stirring. Unsurprisingly he's had an amazing career as well earning multiple Grammys, ACM, and CMA awards. Vince is also a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and has already been inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame. But it's been a long climb up, and our featured song's back story does help shed some light on a not so happy, but albeit productive time in Vince's life. It's hard to believe that despite winning the 1984 ACM New Male Vocalist award where he beat out Dan Seals who already had a top 10 hit, the hits did not just pour out like summer tea on your back porch.
Chart success as a solo artist eluded Vince. At RCA he had three top 10 hits: "If It Weren't For Him" w/ Roseanne Cash (1985) "Oklahoma Borderline" (1986), and "Cinderella" (1987), It seemed as if Vince's career was on an upswing, however the numbers were not there for the label despite the support of radio.
At home wife Janis Oliver was having considerable success with her band Sweethearts of The Rodeo, a duo. she fronted with her sister Kristin. Of course they were named after the ground breaking Byrds album featuring Gram Parsons.
The Sweethearts of the Rodeo charted seven top ten singles from 1986-1988. The band even provided the soundtrack for the movie Nadine, and were nominated for an ACM award. However things were not going so great for Vince
Vince was released from his RCA contract, and found himself alone in an empty house due to the hectic touring schedule of the Sweethearts of the Rodeo. That feeling of loneliness was the inspiration for the song. Vince has been very open about his experiences as a struggling artist early on. He's said that he learned the most during that time in his life.
In 1988 he had the opportunity to sign with MCA which was almost like going full circle as Tony Brown now headed the label in Nashville. Tony had originally signed Vince to RCA, but had left shortly after.
Vince shared the idea for "When I Call Your Name" with songwriter friend Tim Dubois, and they got to work. But after hearing the initial recording Vince felt there was something missing.
What Vince did was set the old school country feel with Barry Beckett's piano intro. I can hardly imagine the song without it.
A soaring steel reminiscent of Conway Twitty's "Lost In The Feeling", (my all-time favorite Conway song) was also added. And actually, Conway's Steel player John Hughey worked with Vince for at least a decade, and left an indelible mark on Vince's music. He was a dear friend.
Also added was Patty Loveless' signature high lonesome shadow harmonies. The flood gates were now open! There's no way to keep a dry eye when listening, and I mean really listening to this song while nursing a broken heart. Patty's vocals really adds a layer of drown in your whiskey that defies words.
Oh the lonely sound of my voice calling
Is driving me insane
And just like rain the tears keep falling
Nobody answers when I call your name
The song was the title cut from Vince Gill's 1989 album.It became his highest charting single at the time going all the way to #2. The album also found success first with a gold certification in 1990. Then a platinum certification in 1991, and finally a double platinum certification in 1996. To say that the song changed the narrative, and direction of Vince Gill's career is an understatement
Though Vince was a respected session musician, and had a Billboard top 10 with "Let Me Love You Tonight", which he sang for country rockers Pure Prairie League, It took him some time to hit his stride. I think Vince is a good example of what working hard, and perseverance can do. Vince said about the "When I Call Your Name" album that it was the first pure country album he recorded, and he was very proud of it.
Along with George Strait, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, and several others, Vince helped marshall in a new wave of traditional country
in the 90s that we still revere today. Give the song a spin below, and check out the full album here. Also check out Vince Gill's most recent record "Okie". I especially like A World Without Haggard, and When My Amy Prays. The latter marks the 22nd Grammy Vince has won this time around for Best Country Solo.
#39 Billboard Year End Chart
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