Q: I always watch the Country Music Awards show, but never do I hear a word about Pocahontas native Gretchen Wilson anymore. Is she still around? She seems to have been like a shooting star — up one minute and gone the next.
W.L., of Belleville
A: Hey, bud, don’t stop chillin’ those brewskis. This is one redneck woman who’s still here for the party.
Granted, one of the area’s favorite daughters is no longer commanding the spotlight she did when she exploded onto the scene. For those with short memories, the woman who left school after the eighth grade to sing in local bars signed with Epic Records in 2003. Within a year, her first album, “Here for the Party,” had hit No. 1, and, on Oct. 20, 2006, was certified as multiplatinum five times over (5 million albums sold).
It also rocketed four singles into the Top 10: “When I Think About Cheatin’” (No. 4), “Here for the Party” (No. 3), “Homewrecker” (No. 2) and, of course, her signature song, “Redneck Woman,” (No. 1). The effort earned her a 2005 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance along with nominations for Best New Artist (she lost to Maroon 5), Best Country Song (lost to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”) and Best Country Album (lost to country legend Loretta Lynn’s “Van Lear Rose”). Pretty heady company for a 31-year-old upstart.
It appeared the former singer with Sam A. Lama and the Ding Dongs and Baywolfe was just getting started. Following up quickly on her hot launch, Wilson released “All Jacked Up” in September 2005 and watched it soar to the top spot on the country charts as well. Not only that, but the title track debuted at No. 21 on the Hot Country Songs chart, which was the highest debut ever by a female artist. Again, she earned a slew of 2007 Grammy nominations, including best song, album, performance and collaboration (with Merle Haggard on “Politically Incorrect”).
But already her newness was starting to wear off. Despite its torrid debut, the “All Jacked Up” single peaked at No. 8. While successful beyond most artists’ dreams, the album sold “only” 1 million copies. Three other singles from the album failed to crack the Top 20, although her rendition of “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today” grabbed another Grammy nomination in 2008.
After that stellar start, it’s no wonder that what followed seems to you like a slide into oblivion. Her third album, “One of the Boys,” debuted at No. 1 on the country charts in 2007, but sold fewer than 200,000 copies by the time it left the Top 200 Albums list 10 weeks later. Her single of “Don’t Do Me No Good” in 2008 failed to crack the Top 40, resulting in a two-year delay of the release of her next album and her decision to part ways with Sony Music Nashville.
But while she’s no longer selling by the millions, Wilson, now 44, is neither gone nor, obviously, forgotten. After leaving Sony, she was wealthy enough in 2009 to start her own record label, Redneck Records, and built her own studio on her farm outside Nashville. It allowed her to finally release her fourth album, “I Got Your Country Right Here,” with its top single, “Work Hard, Play Harder.” (Two months earlier, Columbia Nashville had finished off its contract obligation by releasing her first greatest hits album.)
What followed in 2013 was a year that surely brought joy to any faithful Wilson follower. In April she released her sixth album, “Right On Time,” and quickly followed with an album of rock classics, “Under the Covers” (fans love her interpretation of Heart) along with her first album of holiday songs, “Christmas in My Heart,” which includes the hippopotamus song. Then to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her debut album, Wilson came to The Pageant in St. Louis to record “Still Here for the Party,” a video available on amazon.com (along with “Undressed,” a 2015 let-your-hair-down dressing-room jam).
And the trailer park diva whose hometown park was quickly renamed in her honor is still crankin’ out the tunes. Just three months ago, she issued her ninth album, “Ready to Get Rowdy,” which is also available on amazon.com. So pop a top on that Blatz and party on. You also can find her on her Facebook page, which has more than a million followers to date.
Who eventually broke Gretchen Wilson’s record for the woman having the highest chart-debuting single?
Answer to Monday’s trivia: Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell is often credited for being the father of color photography for suggesting in 1855 that color photos could be made by combining red, green and blue separations. Six years later, Thomas Sutton demonstrated the theory during a lecture on Maxwell’s idea.