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Golden Graham talks with the stars of country music

Becky Hobbs

Interview by Graham Lees

   

Known affectionately as ‘Beckaroo’ by her friends, Becky Hobbs was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and started playing the piano at nine years of age, about the same time Becky started making up her own songs, which she found easier that trying to follow the large sheets of music. At age the of fourteen Becky was playing guitar and formed her own band a year later. Becky is one of a kind, a gifted songwriter and talented entertainer. Many artistes have recorded Becky’s songs over the years, including George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Glen Campbell, John Anderson, Janie Fricke, Lacey J. Dalton, Moe Bandy, Alabama, Helen Reddy, Shirley Bassey and the most recent was Ken Mellons with the light hearted ‘Ruba-Dubbin’.

Becky Hobbs has a string of accolades behind her. Becky was voted Most Promising International Act of 1989 in Great Britain. Cashbox magazine voted her Independent Country Music Female of the Year 1994. Airplay International King Eagle Award for both Female Artiste of the Year and Songwriter of the Year 1995. Becky was also Tracker magazine Golden Music Awards Female Artiste of the Year for 1995 & 98.

In March this year I had the greatest of pleasures in talking to Becky about her music and songwriting. Becky Hobbs returns to Britain this year to perform at the 21st anniversary spectacle, at Notts Americana in July 2001.

“I’m so excited to be on the Americana festival, I’ve heard so many great things about it! The Bellamy Brothers are also on there. We’ve worked before with the ‘Bells’ and we love those guys. They’re a riot, they party everywhere they go!” (laughing). 

Becky is no stranger to our shores.

“I played both Wembley and Peterborough Country Music Festivals and had a small tour of England at some of the smaller clubs. The last time I was in England I played the Grantham festival, where I believe some people didn’t get paid. Boy it was a great show for me! I was on RCA for like five minutes and all the RCA people from the US were there and we got a ‘Standing O’. It was an awesome date for me.”

Becky wrote and recorded what must be the greatest tribute song to George Jones, ‘Jones On The Jukebox’ on her critically acclaimed All Keyed Up album in 1988. Becky tells a little about the background to this song.    

“George Jones is absolutely one of my favourites. It was sort of funny though. Growing up in Oklahoma I would listen to rock ‘n’ roll and my mom had some George Jones albums. I used to make fun of my mom for listening to country music. Then years later I moved to Los Angles in the early 70s and I started getting more and more country, adding a pedal steel to my band. My mom got a good chuckle out of that, it was a kinda full circle thing and it took the City of the Angels to find my country roots.”

So what was George’s reaction to the song.

“He loved it. We played it for him backstage at the Opry before it came out and he just loved it. After it came out I ran into him and his wife Nancy at Orlando airport. They came up to me and Nancy said we just love the way you say ‘quarter’ in ‘Jones On The Jukebox’ I said what? She said go on say it, say it, ‘quarter’. So I said quarter and they just laughed and I went wow!! I love George and I got to open several shows for him around that time, He’s just awesome, he’s just a great cat.”

Shirley Bassey recorded one of Becky’s songs and I asked Becky to recount how this came about.

“That was years ago. It was called ‘I’ll Be You’re Audience’ and Helen Reddy recorded the song first in like 1974. Then Shirley Bassey recorded it on her Good  Bad, But Beautiful album and I have also heard that it’s on another of her albums.”

Keeping with Becky’s songwriting, Alabama recorded Becky and Don Goodman’s powerful and beautifully written ‘Angles Amongst Us’. The song was included on both Alabama’s Double Platinum Cheap Seats album and on their Triple Platinum, Greatest Hits Vol.III album, with the number receiving more response form Alabama’s fans than any other song they have recorded. Becky also recorded it on her own 1994 album The Boots I Came To Town In. (on Intersound/Platinum).

“That song has been amazing for us. Every day of my life somebody either calls me, or I run into somebody who tells me how much that song means to them. It is awesome!  Just the week before last (February) Randy Owens sang it at Dale Earnhardt’s funeral. Everyone in this country was such a Dale Earnhardt fan. It’s been used for many charities, from St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, to donating organs, for Seeing Eye dogs, all kinds of charities. You know, I’ve sung the song at weddings, at funerals it’s just awesome.”

Though not one of Becky’s own songs, her recording of ‘Talk Back Tremblin’ Lips’ on Curb records, did well with the video making #6 on CMT. The song was also a hit for a couple of male artistes.

“Ernie Ashworth, I understand was the first artiste to record that, it is a John D. Loudermilk song and then Johnny Tillotson had a pop hit after Ernie had it out.”

In 1996 Becky married talented musician and songwriter Duane Sciacqua. Duane has played with Glenn Frey (of the Eagles), Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Bruce Willis and Don Johnson. He has also played on numerous TV and movie soundtracks such as Hotshots and Cobra.  So what is Duane doing at present?

“Well, right now he is basically working with me. Last summer he did the Dukes Of Hazard Reunion Tour, with John Schneider and Tom Wopat. Those guys are great! He had more fun than a barrel of monkeys and they really let him shine o stage.”

So what is Becky’s working schedule these days? 

“What I’ve basically been doing for the past several years, is writing songs here in Nashville on Music Row and in the summer months we do quite a few of the European festivals and International work. This summer have quite a few nice things and filling in some of our European dates with USO shows (United Services Overseas). Which I think is a great thing to do and I’m excited because the trip where we start out, the second date is at Interlaken Switzerland with the Bellamy Brothers and Nottingham Americana is a week later. In between those dates we are going to be in the Mediterranean on aircraft carriers, so I think that is going to be exciting!”

Playing for the troops is something Becky Hobbs is no stranger to doing. Last year Becky was out in Sarajevo, Bosnia entertaining troops from 35 nations.

“It is interesting, because we played a British base on July the fourth which of course is our Independence Day…in Sarajevo, so it was quite something. There were troops there from all over the world, it was a wonderful date. We do a pretty rowdy show, we do honky tonk and rockabilly, the live shows are something I’ve always enjoyed. To me…once you get on stage, you turn off all your cares and have fun, so the people have fun too.”

Becky has worked with many of country music’s big name artistes and told me a little about some of those artistes.

“Through the years I’ve worked with almost everybody. During the years I was on MPM Records, RCA Records and Curb records here, I was opening shows for Joe Diffie and Colin Raye, they were having some big hits then. Tim McGraw opened shows for me. It’s interesting…before Garth Brooks came to Nashville…on his successful trips to Nashville…he opened for me at Binks, in Stillwater, Oklahoma and years later I opened for him in Queens New York. He was so sweet, he thanked me for being so nice to him when he opened for me. Binks was a little bitty honky tonk and the main thing I remember about that night, was there was no dressing room and I had to get dressed back in the kitchen and the floor was greasy (burst of laughter). Yeah, Garth is that way, he is very loyal to the people who were good to him when he was a nobody. He’s a great guy!

You know the biggest people in the business…the Johnny Cash’s, the Willie Nelson’s, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette…the biggest, are the nicest, because they know what separates them from other people is a stroke of luck, or timing, something in the universe that was totally out of our control.”

2001 brings a new album from Becky Swedish Coffee & American Sugar (Country News Records), so what of the near future.

“I’m working on two projects right now. I’m working on an album called Songs From The Road Of Life, which is going to be more acoustic orientated, but that doesn’t mean that the up-tempos won’t be rocking, but it will be acoustic. Some of my best writing ever, with a lot of the songs not being co-written. Then I’m working on a tribute album to Nancy Ward, Beloved Woman Of The Cherokee, which I am one of her fifth great granddaughters. She lived in the mid 1700s in the eastern Tennessee area. She introduced dairy products to the Cherokee and was a great peacemaker between the colonists, the settlers and the Cherokee. So that is a real heart and soul project for me, something worth savouring!”  

Of Beckaroo’s other interests and hobbies.

“ I’m digging, digging in the dirt man. I love getting out there and rolling up my sleeves you know. In the spring and summertime and fall, we have a herb garden. It grounds me and gives me ideas for songs. I’ve got three cats, I love cats and had them all my life…I’m a cat person. I finally learnt to cook when I got married, but my husband is of Italian decent and is a great cook…he just throws in fresh thing and shakes the skillet around, he’s just an awesome cook!”

It was a pleasure talking to Becky Hobbs, I found her a very friendly and easy to talk to. So don’t miss Beckaroo’s performance at Notts Americana 2001, it certainly is something to be remembered.

 

 

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