"Little Liza Jane" by Vince Gill
Fun fact: The upcoming Mountain Stage show in Bristol TN/VA featuring Vince Gill was our fastest selling event since R.E.M.'s appearance in 1991. Mountain Stage is fortunate to have had a few other fast selling shows recently, but what bears mentioning this time is that all the tickets were gone within just a couple of days of the show even being announced. Over a holiday weekend, no less.
In the past, fast selling shows were announced several days before tickets actually went on sale. Why were the good people of Bristol (as well as several West Virginians, we’ve heard) so eager to step away from their Fourth of July cookouts to scoop up Mountain Stage tickets? What's the big deal?
We’ve had a couple friends ask us that – friends who readily admit to not being the greatest of country music fans, especially the more modern stuff, which is understandable. And it is perhaps because of Vince Gill’s massive success as a contemporary country hitmaker that some remain unaware of his long ties to roots music.
Gill spent most of the mid and late 70’s as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist with outfits like the Bluegrass Alliance and Ricky Skaggs’ Boone Creek before joining country rockers Pure Prairie League – a group his high school bluegrass band had opened for – in 1979. He left in 1981 to join Rodney Crowell’s renowned backing band The Cherry Bombs. It was there he met Emory Gordy, Jr. and Tony Brown, who would go on to produce Gill’s wildly successful solo career.
In 1982 Gill appeared alongside Gordy on the on-off David Grisman project Here Today, where he recorded one of the finest traditional bluegrass vocals you will ever, ever hear:
"The Lonesome River," featuring Vince Gill on lead vocals
Gill’s solo career launched in 1984, and while he managed to chart a couple of Top 10 hits, things didn’t really take off until ’89, with the release of When I Call Your Name.
It was around this time that Gill turned down an offer from Mark Knopfler to become a full-time member of Dire Straits. (Gill talked about this just a few days ago on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me )
This video was shot around that time, and while it’s not the best quality, it leaves no doubt whatsoever about what Knopfler saw in Gill’s musicianship:
Vince Gill, blowing minds
It wasn’t long after this that Gill became an outright country superstar, releasing multiple Top 10 platinum-selling albums, and hosting the CMA awards a record-setting 12 consecutive times. And he’s done all this while bucking long-established Nashville conventions, writing nearly all of his own songs and featuring his own virtuoso guitar playing on his records – a path that would later be followed by country superstar / guitar heroes like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley.
Check back with us on the Mountain Stage blog for more information about this show, including additional acts as they are announced, as well as the radio broadcast and podcast schedule. Thanks for supporting live performance on public radio.