Tanya Tucker – Delta Dawn

I’ve always liked this song and Tanya’s scratchy voice. Helen Reddy did a fine version of this also but I’ll take this treatment. It is the version I grew up with…I’ve always been a fan of Tanya Tucker.

When I was a senior in high school I had a job at a place called Tuckahoe Farms. It was Tanya’s farm but she had sold it by the time I worked there. They raised thoroughbred racing horses and it was huge. I was always hoping she would come back to visit but she never did.

It was written by former rockabilly star Larry Collins and country and western songwriter Alex Harvey. It was first recorded by Harvey in 1972. Tracy Nelson and Bette Midler put the song in their live repertoire before it became a country hit for 13-year-old Tanya. The melody and chorus are virtually identical to the Amazing Grace

Harvey says the tune is really about his mother, a heavy drinker who died in an apparent suicide by crashing into a tree when the songwriter was a teen. Harvey had just returned from a TV gig with his band…he had asked his mother not to go, worried she would embarrass him by drinking too much and making a spectacle. The guilt over his mother’s death stuck with him for years. A decade later, he was hanging out at Larry Collins’ house with a group of country musicians. Everyone fell asleep except for Harvey, who stayed up strumming his guitar. That’s when he saw his mother.

Alex Harvey: “I looked up and I felt as if my mother was in the room. I saw her very clearly. She was in a rocking chair and she was laughing,” he recalled. “My mother had come from the Mississippi Delta and she always lived her life as if she had a suitcase in her hand but nowhere to put it down. She was a hairdresser in Brownsville. She was very free-spirited, and folks in a small town don’t always understand people like that. She never really grew up.”

“I really believe that my mother didn’t come into the room that night to scare me, but to tell me, ‘It’s okay,’ and that she had made her choices in life and it had nothing to do with me. I always felt like that song was a gift to my mother and an apology to her. It was also a way to say ‘thank you’ to my mother for all she did.

The song peaked at #6 on the Country Charts, #3 in Canada, and #72 on the Billboard 100 in 1972.

Helen Reddy would take the song to #1 on the Billboard 100 in 1973.

Barbra Streisand passed on the song after the backing track had been recorded by her producer without her prior knowledge.

Delta Dawn

Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

She’s forty-one and her daddy still calls her “baby”
All the folks around Brownsville say she’s crazy
‘Cause she walks dowtown with a suitcase in her hand
Looking for a mysterious dark-haired man

In her younger days they called her Delta Dawn
Prettiest woman you ever laid eyes on
Then a man of low degree stood by her side
And promised her he’d take her for his bride

Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “Tanya Tucker – Delta Dawn”

  1. A talent at the age of 13, that is impressive. A faded Southern belle whose reputation was tarnished when she hooked up with a man of ill-repute. At the age of 41, she is still wandering the streets of Brownsville, Tennessee, searching for her lost lover. I love the country lyrics, like “he was a-meeting you here today”, that is so precious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a staple here and I had quite a crush on Ms Tucker. I was hoping to see her at least once because she lived where I lived but I never did.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was one of the first albums I ever bought as a kid. Actually THE first, I think. I too preferred her version over Helen Reddy’s although I liked both. I never knew the poignant backstory of the lyrics. That’s almost another song to be written, imo. In the Country Music HOF museum, they display one of the dresses Tanya’s mom made for her to perform in. It definitely has a simple home-sewn look, which I love.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was such a staple here. I wanted to meet her so bad. I was younger than she was but she lived in the same county I did for a while but I never did get to.
      I have to make it to the Country Music HOF…it’s dumb that I haven’t gone already.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 13? Wow – I would never have guessed she was that young on this record . Pretty amazing. I like her version, but think I like Reddy’s better… but that was the one I heard growing up. Down here, it seems like its the other way around. I think I recall my sweetie saying at one time she thought of that song as a Tanya Tucker one too, since that was what they heard when she was growing up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all about the one we grew up with and yours truly had a crush on Tucker lol…Hell Dave she was close to our age…it is hard to believe she was that young when singing that.
      I love her voice much like I do Bonnie Tyler and Rod Stewart.

      Like

    1. I didn’t know that. I’ve always liked her voice.
      She was awful wild when she was young. Her and Glen Campbell were an item for a while…

      Like

  4. Great back story, one I never knew of. I was more familiar with Reddy’s version, a more poppy take; but when you have a perfect lyrics like, say ‘a man of low degree’ damn and dagnabit, that’s purty much perfect Country. (Naw, I won’t say ‘yee haw.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had never heard her version until just now… I always liked Helen Reddy’s, and I think I still might like it better, but Tanya Tucker has this natural tremolo in it that makes it unique, and she sure was cute…

    Liked by 1 person

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