"I'll get a cowboy hat, some real tight jeans/ I'll lose a little weight and get a bellybutton ring/ you better stand back, I'm a lean machine/ maybe I'm going to be the next big thing." - The Next Big Thing - Vince Gill- Al Anderson-John Hobbs.

When Vince Gill first toured Australia in the eighties he was a sideman for Byron Berline in Sundance.

On his second tour he was a duet partner of hotshot English guitarist Albert Lee.

And, with just one solo disc released before the Lee tour that included gigs at the Royal Melbourne Show, he was on the verge of becoming a superstar with a ballad blitz of the charts.

The Oklahoma born multi-instrumentalist did his time in the country and bluegrass mines with Pure Prairie League and Rodney Crowell's Notorious Cherry Bombs.

While here the son of late banjo playing Appellate Court judge, Stan Gill, unleashed his humour on an unsuspecting public.

Both of Gill's parents were into country as performers.

"He played a little guitar and a little banjo," Gill says of his father, who was a lawyer and later became a judge.

"Just enough to sing along to. She played the harmonica."

Vince gained parental inspiration early in his career.

By the time Gill was a teenager, he learned how to play his father's banjo and guitar. He also played publicly with his father.

While in high school he joined brother Bob in a bluegrass band, Mountain Smoke.

"We did a little bit of travelling around in Oklahoma, Texas, playing festivals and things like that."

The band made one record, but Gill says, "Good luck finding it. We did it ourselves."
Mountain Smoke also opened one gig for Kiss and many decades later Hayseed Dixie released a Kiss tribute album done bluegrass style.

Gill, of course, was before his time as he proved on his eighties Australian tours with Sundance and Albert Lee.

"It was just hysterical, seeing a bluegrass band come out and open for Kiss," Gill says. "The folks didn't like it. I knew who they were. I don't know that I had too many of their records."


Gill later joined Bluegrass Alliance with latter-day stars Sam Bush and Dan Crary.

A year later, he joined fiddler Byron Berline and his group Sundance.

He made the move to Los Angeles in 1976 to join Berline and stayed on the west coast for seven years.

Gill joined Pure Prairie League in 1979 - the band was known for hits Two Lane Highway, Amie, Let Me Love You Tonight and parody I'll Fix Your Flat Tyre, Merle.

Gill joined the band by accident.

It was having auditions and Gill, a tenor, went with a friend who was trying out.

Gill just wanted to see if the members remembered him from when Mountain Smoke opened for them.

They did and asked Gill to join as lead singer.

Gill recorded three albums with the group that soared charts with Gill aboard.

Gill also became involved with a local singer, Janis Oliver. They married three years later.
Oliver and sister Kristine performed and recorded as Sweethearts of the Rodeo.

Gill also hooked up with Rodney Crowell who saw him play with Berline's Sundance.


In the early 1980s Crowell formed Cherry Bombs with former Presley pianist Tony Brown, bassist Emory Gordy Jr. and Gill.
Brown soon joined RCA Records in Nashville and searched for new talent.

The Gills left the West Coast for Nashville in 1983 to further their respective careers.

Brown singed Gill to RCA in 1984 but left for MCA before recording with Gill.

Gill recorded three discs with RCA: an EP Turn Me Loose, The Things That Matter and I Never Knew Lonely.

Rodney Crowell & Vince Gill

Next came Oklahoma Borderline, Cinderella and Everybody's Sweetheart - a tongue-in-cheek about his wife's band, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, who were more successful at that point than Gill.

In 1989 Gill signed with MCA with Brown still there.

His first album for the label, Never Knew Lonely, broke him.


A duet with Patty Loveless, singing spouse of Gordy Jr, on When I Call Your Name, hit number two on the charts in 1990.

The Country Music Association voted it single of the year. He also had a big hit with the title track.

But this almost didn't happen because Gill was asked by Mark Knopfler to join Dire Straits in 1989 or 1990.

"I did consider it a little bit. I am just a major of fan of his. He's a major player. I had just recorded my first record for MCA, and I said man I can't do it. I've invested too many years into this country music thing. I said no and when the album came out it was a big hit."

Pocket Full of Gold followed in 1991 with hits Liza Jane, Look At Us and the title track.

Gill then soared with I Still Believe In You.

With this, Gill's career soared.

He had four #1 hits with the title track, Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away, One More Last Chance, Tryin' to Get Over You and a top five with No Future in the Past.

He also hit the top with The Heart Won't Lie - a duet with Reba McEntire with the song on McEntire's album.

He won a brace of Grammys and CMAs including coveted Entertainer of the Year in 1993 and 1994.

The hits kept coming with Whenever You Come Around, What the Cowgirls Do, Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Turn), You Better Think Twice and the title track from When Love Finds You.


The disc also contained Go Rest High On That Mountain - tribute to his brother Bob, who died, and Keith Whitley.

Gill was surprised how well the song did.

"It surprised me that it was a hit. It was interesting because it was not a huge hit. But it's probably had more of an impact that any song I've ever recorded. People playing it at services. It was kind of a real personal song for me and needed to be put on the record for personal reasons and see it unfold."

"It was hard to write but it's interesting because music gave me an outlet to grieve and play the guitar and find a place to say things that I would never if it wasn't for music. That avenue helped me to get through some stuff."

Gill scored more hits with High Lonesome Sound but slowed down with later albums The Key and Let's Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye.

He bounced back after divorce from Sweethearts Of The Rodeo singer Janis Oliver - his wife of 17 years.


Vince Gill & Amy Grant
Vince wed Christian Amy Grant - former spouse of TV host-singer Gary Chapman - and produced an album for her.

Gill has played and sung on hundreds of albums and won wide acclaim for humour in his hosting roles on the CMA Awards.

"I had 15 years of the music business and the experiences of it prior to that wave of success," Gill says.

"I've seen every conceivable stage, I guess. I've played for a tip jar; I've played for stupid money."

Gill made a creative comeback with 14th album The Next Big Thing (MCA) where he elevated self-parody to an art form.

The title track is a satire of the videogenic vat of panties soaking schmaltz that made Gill and peers mainstream radio staples.

"For a little while you can do no wrong/ well live it up, son, 'cause it won't last long/ / there's always somebody waitin' in the wings/ thinkin' they're gonna be the next
big thing."


"You knew this day was coming all along/ so why bitch and moan and say they've done you wrong/ just teach them what you know and pass it on down/ 'cause man, you got to face it, it's a young man's town." - Young Man's Town - Vince Gill.

Gill also wrote sibling song Young Man's Town after being asked advice by an artist in his 40s at a Nashville restaurant.

The song shares vitriol with the title track but Gill concedes it's better to pass the baton than belt descendants with it.

"After he walked away, I looked at my buddy and said, 'Boy, that fellow has no idea - this is a young man's town these days,' " Gill revealed.

Emmylou Harris, who sings harmony, says "there's a certain kind of sadness in it, dealing with the natural process of aging and new blood coming in. But in Vince's hands, there's no bitterness. There's a real sense of grace about the song."

Being producer enables Gill to play guitar and mandolin and temper humour with vitriol.

"It's got its knife out a little bit, but Next Big Thing is humorous," Gill, 48, revealed, "it should make you laugh, talking about kids in pink bedrooms and how they all swoon over the next guy. Nobody sustains forever. I wanted to tell a story that was telling both sides.

You need an influx of young people to come and carry this torch and learn what you have taught them.'"

Gill, a celebrity golfing altruist, is not bitter - he shines with a raft of riveting roots country and small dose of ballads.


Music City is a young man-woman's town but hasn't doused Gill's homage to the past.

Real Mean Bottle, with Dawn Sears on harmony, is a timely tribute to Merle Haggard but could have applied to the late Waylon, Harlan Howard and Johnny Paycheck if they had survived.

"The stories you told about prison/ about a young man gone astray/ Lord, it must have been a real mean bottle/ made you sing that way."

Gill elaborated on the song source.

"I was having a conversation with Harold Bradley, who's probably the most recorded guitarist in history," says Gill.

"He's done a session with Hank Williams Sr. They did this one song, and he went up to Hank after, and he said, 'that may have been the saddest song I've ever heard.' He said, 'that was a real mean bottle that wrote that song.'"

"I thought that was a real neat phrase. I thought for me, to make it honest, I should write it about Merle. As I grew up, that's the guy when I was growing up I thought was the greatest. I didn't know Hank Williams' music growing up because I was too young."

So what drew Gill to Haggard?

"First of all, he's the greatest singer, the greatest phraser, and then on top of that, his songs are really poetic," Gill revealed.

"They really speak to me in a big way. I always thought he was brilliant songwriter. He sang and phrased better than anybody."

The two met for the first time in about 1980.

Gill was playing at Red Rocks in Denver with Emmylou Harris, while Haggard was on a tour of honky tonks.

"We went and piled in the car and went to a club to meet Merle," says Gill.

"His wife at the time had recorded one of my songs."

Leona Williams recorded I'm Almost Ready.


Maybe the real strength of this disc, apart from the 17-song value, is the eclecticism of the music and lyrical lava.

The rollicking title track segues into the comparisons of a return of a former lover in She Never Makes Me Cry and the one strike wisdom of Don't Let Her Get Away.

But it's not just the diverse flavours of love that hit the listener in the heart.

Enjoy a hefty dose of nostalgia in Tex Mex tearjerker We Had It All and a not so silent witness role of a 1942 built piece of wood and steel in This Old Guitar And Me.

For good measure there's Old Time Fiddle - one of two co-writes with Paris, Texas, born Leslie Satcher - and fishing fuelled Whipoorwill River (with Dean Dillon.)

Satcher harmonises on Old Time Fiddle but Lee Ann Womack guests on her other tune Two Hearts.

Gill mines mood swings with delicious dexterity - resisting a cheating desire in From Where I Stand, with Bekka Bramlett harmonising, the vitriolic warning to a lover on the rebound in You Ain't Foolin' Nobody and making the most of fading life in finale song In The Last Few Days with singing spouse Amy Grant.

Gill proves he will survive long after the next big thing.

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