Above: Tucker surprising the crowd with a solo acoustic set,
delivering a haunting rendition of
Gary Stewart's "Cactus and a Rose"
at the Circle T Arena in Hamilton, Texas.
An Interview with Tucker
Tucker is a singer, songwriter and
entertainer, but more than all of that, he is a storyteller. To
write a bio of any kind on Tucker or even get him to do it would be
like trying to capture the essence of a personality on an
application for a credit card— just not possible. So I decided to
interview him and allow him to tell all of the pieces of his story
in his own words. Judi Boston, friend and manager.
Tucker Peterson on the subject of his music.
Judi: Tucker, I know you think of yourself as a songwriter, singer
and entertainer. Is one of these more important to you?
TUCKER: Yeah, I do all three of these, but consider songwriter the
Judi: Do you have one of your songs that is your favorite?
TUCKER: If asked what is my best song I’ve wrote, I would say I
haven’t wrote it yet. I’d be done, and my favorite would be the last
Judi: So you finish one and the next one is burning to be written?
TUCKER: It is a burden that is never content.
Judi: Is there a formula you use for writing, a particular way that
inspiration seems to come?
TUCKER: Every song I have wrote has been on my guitar Guilda, a 1977
Guild. I have no set way of writing—sometimes the tune, sometimes
the words. The song visits you and you must act or it moves on. I
never write on paper, it’s all in my head and when it is done I
write it down.
Judi: Have you written songs all of your life?
TUCKER: No. When I was 17 my girlfriend’s Dad wanted me gone. I
thought she was leaving for sure, so I wrote a song. When she came
over, I played it: she stayed. If I wouldn’t have wrote that song,
it would have saved me one divorce.
Judi: How many songs have you written?
TUCKER: I hear people say they have wrote hundreds of songs. So have
I— that I threw away. 50 that I am proud of; 32 recorded to date.
Judi: I know you were pretty much raised in Mississippi; all of that
we covered in your personal bio. But for this tell me about the
musical history and influence of Mississippi in your own music. How
did it start?
TUCKER: I was raised in Mississippi, same place as Carl Jackson.
Matter of fact, got my first guitar from his Mom and Dad. Petersons
been in that area since 1850, so they’re everywhere. One common
thread—music. On the weekends when there was music played, it was
moonshine, dice and music. My daddy was the greatest of them, and
these old black men would park their log trucks in the ditch and
walk up to play music….daddy loved it. I was a small child and would
watch in amazement. I asked one named Neckbone, “Was that in ‘G?’”
He said he knew “nothin’ ‘bout no ‘G.’” I never forgot that, to this
day only trust what Neckbone trusted…..feelings. To this day I like
open chords, yet my strumming hand is all up and down the
guitar…..telling it how I feel.
Judi: Your Daddy died in January 2007, and I know that your song
“Hillbilly Rocker Son” is your tribute to him, although it was
written long before his death. Tell me a little about how his talent
and music influenced your own.
TUCKER: My Daddy was great, one of the best singers I’ve ever heard.
I hear him time to time in my voice. He only ever wrote one song,
but he recorded it. It took off and a record company sent him the
money to come to Nashville. Daddy took the money and went drinking,
but he really regretted that in his life. He liked my music and was
proud that I wrote my own stuff. Still among the Petersons I
probably rate under him, even though I’ve done much more, but I am
good with that.
Judi: Who were some of the people who influenced you most as you
were growing up in music and who influences you now?
TUCKER: I woke every morning to Daddy plugging in an 8-track. He
always listened to Faron Young, Ray Price, Tom T. Hall, Elvis and
some others while he was getting ready for work. I was influenced by
all of those and others but mostly by being there to see real music
being played live, by those old black men playing songs like Stagger
Judi: Tucker, tell me about some of the musicians you have worked
with over the years.
TUCKER: I shared the stage with the Bellamy Brothers and Johnny Lee
to name a couple. I admire the talent of many of the musicians I’ve
recorded with, such as Don Crider, who co-wrote Reno and plays
fiddle for Doug Supernaw; Rodney Pyatt, played guitar for Rick
Trevino; and Steve Palousek who has played with Gary Stewart, Ray
Price and Gene Watson. There are many others. I have played with a
lot of great musicians; there’s an endless list out there.
Judi: What have been your favorite gigs?
TUCKER: There’s that “favorite” word again. Guess it would be the
next gig, although the night I opened for Johnny Lee, there was just
something special and electric in the air….’bout 4000 people there.
I had a great show and Johnny came out and was awesome as well; just
one of those special nights.
Judi: You have two CDs out. What do you enjoy about the studio work?
TUCKER: I love it, the creation…finding the right arrangement,
seeing your vision for a song come to life. I only record my songs;
sometimes it can be very frustrating getting everyone on the same
page…so that it sounds like it does in your mind, ‘cause when
something is played back, it is there or it’s not there. If it’s not
there, I know it immediately; but when it is there, it is pure
Judi: You have played music all of your life, but never really put a
band together until the last few years. What’s that been like?
TUCKER: Hard. Musicians are quirky people….you gotta go with the
quirks. If they want green M & M’s, I try to get them green M & M’s.
I am open to suggestions about arrangement, but bottom line it’s my
way or the highway. I have fired lots of guitar players. One night
had a guy sitting in wanting to be with the band, playing “Help Me
Make It Through The Night.” Pretty song and he butchered it….I told
him 3 times to lay back…..when the song was done, I said, “Pack your
stuff, now.” People actually clapped as he went out the door.
Judi: I know that you have strong feelings about drugs and alcohol.
TUCKER: I don’t do drugs, never have liked them….took some in ’83,
didn’t get it. Feel lucky to not have that desire. It is so sad to
see such great talents be destroyed. I am talking about behind the
scenes, musicians that I have worked with through the years….throw
it all away. I never have took much to drinking, some beer here and
there, a margarita now and then….but as a matter of fact, coffee is
my vice. I take a thermos to my gigs…….
………….I feel the rawest of form is the best of entertaining.
Judi: Would you explain that a little more?
TUCKER: Perfect example of what I mean is the Elvis “Live…Aloha From
Hawaii” was a great performance. He knew what it took and he cleaned
up, got to fighting weight and did two great shows. Those
performances will be the best of his legacy. When it was all over
they found him the next morning on the balcony in his robe with a
1000 mile stare, drugged beyond this world. The point is, he knew
what it would take to give his best…..RAW FORM, so he did that.
Johnny Cash the same. They both did shows on drugs that was awful. I
saw another really well known entertainer recently, and he was so
drunk it was awful. I thought, “How disgusting. Your fans came and
you didn’t deliver….” Just sad.
Judi: Do you have advice with regard to the drug and alcohol problem
for young people getting into the business today?
TUCKER: One night my son was home on leave from the Marine Corps; we
went to a movie. Ran into Billy Jo Shaver and we talked a minute.
When we left Camp asked me, “Dad, why haven’t you introduced me to
some of these people before?” I said, “Because I took you fishing
instead. His son, Eddie Shaver, was a great guitar player. They used
to say when God took Billy’s two right hand fingers, He put them on
Eddie’s left hand. Eddie was found beat to death in a cheap motel
over drugs. You wasn’t missing nothing. You have found your own way
by being you.” So he plays sax for the Marine Corps Band. Guess I
would say trust the God-given talent. It will be your best, not the
drug-given talent. I would also like to tell those starting out
this….if you play your own music you will have a harder road, you
won’t get the better gigs, the top 40 Cover bands will get the
gigs…but top 40 Cover bands have always come and gone and always
will. If you stick to your music and don’t let anyone tell you how
to play your music, you will leave the world your own legacy, and
you will always feel what it is like to be a legend, even if only in
your own mind…..still a great feeling.
Tucker Peterson on the subject of storytelling.
Judi: You did a storytelling gig for Steve Collins, Troubadour
Studio, and The Moth. Tell me a little bit about those experiences.
TUCKER: I was recording the “Letting Go” CD and we were just
talking. Steve said, “Tell that story about how you broke your leg
and reset it yourself.” So I did….Steve recorded it, sent it to New
York to THE MOTH. THE MOTH later did a cross-America tour on
storytelling, and I did the show in Austin; told one of my outlaw
stories from when I was a stupid young man. It was fun and the
people went nuts, they just loved it.
Tucker Peterson on the subject of Theatre.
Judi: We have a wonderful Community Theatre here in Bosque
County and you have been involved with it since 2004. Let’s talk
first about that first show “FOXFIRE.” You played Dillard Nations,
singer/songwriter…..talk about that first acting experience.
TUCKER: I was lucky on “Foxfire” because Dillard and Tucker were the
same. I won two Omar Awards, awarded by our community of theatre
goers for that role. The Director, Jan Derrickson, was great about
letting me add parts to the character; it was fun.
Judi: In that play there were words to songs that Dillard had
written, but no music. You put the words to music for the
production. Tell me about that.
TUCKER: At first they said, “Just play some songs, you know.” I
said, “No way, this needs to be Dillard’s music. People in the
audience shouldn’t know the songs.” So I took the words and worked
relentlessly on an entire set of songs. As time passed and
rehearsals went on, we would get to a part where I sing a song and
I’d just pass over it and say, “I am working on it…” I think
everyone had their doubts. About two weeks out I delivered and blew
them away. Won one of those Omars for the music score. That play was
up against the musical “Grease,” for awards that year and took 17 of
the 24 Omars.
Judi: You took over the directing on one show, BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE,
then directed DEATHTRAP and recently did a great deal of work as
director on a show I was directing, ON GOLDEN POND. You bring a very
unique talent to all of your directing. Talk about directing.
TUCKER: Yeah, Butterflies Are Free I was actually the assistant
director for the first few weeks of rehearsals. Two weeks out I took
over as director. I was happy with the play but knew if I’d had it
from the get go, it could have been better. When I directed
Deathtrap I had learned from Butterflies Are Free that you can’t sit
there opening night and wish you’d done this or that. I went all
out, even spent a lot of money out of my own pocket. I was very
proud of it. It won Omars for Best Actor and Best Set; actually,
though it didn’t win for Best Play, it won almost half of the awards
that year. Being proud of the work is what’s important; I’m really
not all that much on the awards. They are nice, but I usually take
the plaques off, say thank you and donate them back for next year.
On Golden Pond was an SOS call from Judi. I came in and did a lot of
work with a rookie actor, but he did well. I love theatre; it is
real acting. You are live, you can’t fix something when someone
screws up and they will, you have to teach the actors how to cover
each other. All plays have mess-ups; it’s the illusion you create so
that no one sees them. I also designed and built the sets for the
shows I directed.