Cardinals redneck Wilson still making noise in country music
June 06, 2017 3:00 AM
by Mark Mayer
If you want to get on Gretchen Wilson’s good side, tell her you are a St. Louis Cardinals fan. And after she puts away a few drinks, she’ll really talk some baseball.
“I grew up in southern Illinois and absolutely love the Cardinals,” Wilson said when reached at her Tennessee home prior to hitting the road for her first major tour this decade, which will begin in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and stop at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 15.
“I recently took my mom to a Cardinals-Cubs game,” she said. “I’m a baseball and football fan. I should like the Predators, but to be truthful I never was a hockey fan. The Cardinals were part of my upbringing.”
And that made sense since she grew up in Pocahontas, Illinois not far from St. Louis. Wilson exploded on the country/western scene 13 years ago with the mega-hit “Redneck Woman” that turned her instantly from honky tonk performer to Grammy winner along with ACM and CMA Vocalist of the Year during the period of 2004 and 2005.
Usually A-list performers shy away from smaller venues, but it’s places like Stoney’s where she crafted her career and has remained loyal to her roots.
“I have a pretty strong work ethic,” said Wilson, now 44 and still one of the best to ever fit into a pair of Wranglers. “I have played Stoney’s going on 12 years and always had a good time there. I love going to clubs and bars. I don’t like to play venues with barrier gates. I prefer being right next to the audience and partying with them.”
You can label Gretchen a grinder or a redneck and she has no problem with either term. In fact, she considers that a compliment.
“It comes down to the way I grew up,” she said. “My mom was a single parent and I was basically raised in a bar. I like to have a good time with people and feel right at home on a bar stool.”
When in Vegas, Wilson will venture into a casino and play an occasional game of blackjack. She likes gambling, enjoys a drink or two and then will basically talk sports, politics, career or anything you want.
“I’m in a very good place in my life right now,” she said. “I listened to everything from Patsy Cline to Lynyrd Skynyrd. I watched the type of videos Faith Hill and Shania Twain were doing. That wasn’t really me. My influences were 70s pop like Bob Seger and Heart. I even sang ‘Barracuda’ with Alice in Chains.”
It was “Redneck Woman,” a song she co-wrote with John Rich of Big and Rich, that became the anthem for women who enjoyed drinking beer and liquor while flaunting a harder type sex symbol image.
“Redneck has gotten a bad rap over the years,” she said. “It was endearing for me like hillbilly. I was happy with what life dealt me. I lived in a 14x80 mobile home. I do my part cleaning out the garage. I didn’t become a success at age 20. It took a long time. When John and I decided to release ‘Redneck Woman’ we figured either it would catch on or not.”
So at 32, she was an overnight success 12 years in the making. Wilson then dropped out of the Nashville scene to spend time with her daughter, but now that her girl is looking at colleges in the Boston area she has time on her hands.
“I felt it was time to get back on tour where I am most comfortable,” she said. “I am releasing a brand new album on June 16 called Ready To Get Rowdy that for the first time in my career features all songs written by me and includes a duet I did with Kid Rock. The time off was wonderful, but I am looking forward to working again and having a little fun.”
A little fun in Vegas this time around will be perhaps a show, drinks at the bar and $500 gambling money.
“I like seeing Cirque and comedy shows,” she said. “I like red wine, beer, Jack and diet coke. I run everything. If you want to talk to me, you get me. I love people, am proud of the South and will always enjoy hanging with the guys.”
So catch her at Stoney’s, have a drink and go ahead and talk baseball. Just don’t bring up the Cubs.
FYI: In April 2010, Wilson released a customized version of “Work Hard, Play Harder” in honor of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, with reworked lyrics mentioning the team and its fans. And Stoney’s is the second stop on a tour that has booked somewhere between 12 and 15 dates across the USA.