‘An old dude’ remembers Pam Tillis

Published 11:21 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2016

By Frank Roberts

Note: Thanks to “8,” I’ve been out of commission for a couple months. I was born in ’28, and on Nov. 8 I turned 88.

In other words, I’m an old dude and, as you probably know, that kind of age is accompanied by aches and pains galore.

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It happens every now and then — you get two for the price of one. I was interviewing some country performers at an outdoor concert, and on my list was the lovely Pam Tillis. She invited me to come into her bus, relax and ask away.

The ‘two-fer’ was when she introduced me to the pretty lady with her.

They met at the University of Tennessee and became best friends. Callie Khouri was traveling with Miss T. on this particular tour.

If her name is not familiar, her story is. She wrote the critically acclaimed Susan Sarandon-Geena Davis flick about “Thelma and Louise,” the story of two gals giving some cops a run for their money. They were after a man who had attempted to rape one of them, and the police were after them in a high-speed chase.

As for Pam T. — I had briefly met her dad, Mel, earlier — she was pure pleasure, but her life was not always that way. She was in an automobile accident when she was 16, an accident that disfigured her face. She was in and out of surgery, eventually getting ahead of the game and facing her fans with smiles.

Fans? Of what, exactly? She began her pro career singing a combination of jazz and rock, heading a group called “Freeflight,” popular in the San Francisco area. She went to Nashville in 1978, wed, had a son, and then divorced.

As with many other performers her initial earnings came from session singing and songwriting.

After some rest and relaxation, she went into rock and roll. And she was a darned good songwriter whose efforts were performed by such respected folk as Juice Newton, Chaka Khan, Dan Seals and disco artists like Gloria Gaynor.

Next, it was Pam Tillis singing rhythm and blues and, next, disco. Is there no end to this gal’s talent? Nope. Later, she sailed the ocean blue and concertized successfully in England. Then, over to Nashville and, finally, following in dear ol’ Dad’s footsteps, she went country.

Gently, she hit the record books. An album called, “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” became the first debut record by a female country artist to hit No. 1 in a number of years. And she continued with her songwriting, collaborating both musically and romantically with Bob DiPiero.

She also performed in “Jesus Christ, Superstar” and on Broadway in “”Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Her first No. 1 hit — one of my faves — was “Mi Vida Loca,” which translates to “My Crazy Life.”

Speaking of life — you get out of life what you put into it, minus taxes. And you shouldn’t go through life looking for something soft. You might find it under your hat.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.