By Deb Everts
Three of country music’s biggest female stars are bringing their “Chicks With Hits” tour to the Seneca Allegany Events Center Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m.
Country greats Terri Clark, Pam Tillis and Suzy Bogguss will be on stage together performing their fans’ favorite hit songs from their legendary careers with acoustic guitars, a little bit of percussion and some bass.
Set on a small stage, the uniquely intimate show will be an evening full of harmony and humor.
With 36 Top 10 singles between them, there’s a lot of material to pull from. Over the span of their careers, the trio has won countless Country Music Awards and Grammy Awards.
Between them, they have sold over 10 million records around the world. All are members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Clark is known for singles such as “Better Things To Do,” “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” and “I Just Wanna Be Mad.” Among Tillis’ hits are “Maybe It Was Memphis,” “Mi Vida Loca,” “Spilled Perfume,” “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” and “Let That Pony Run.” Bogguss’ hits include “Outbound Plane,” “Someday Soon,” “Letting Go,” “Hey Cinderella” and “Drive South.”
The Press recently had the opportunity to talk with Clark and Tillis about their music and the tour they are bringing to the Seneca Allegany Events Center.
According to Clark, it was her idea to put this tour together, thinking about the concept about five years ago. She knew she wanted to put a package together that would feature females with hits and they would give their audiences 90 minutes to two hours of hit after hit after hit.
Clark said it had to be somebody who had the hits, as well as somebody who could play instruments and sing harmony. She had Pam and Suzy in mind but, at the same time, she and her agent had to start with a list, which they narrowed down to Pam and Suzy.
“You can have an idea, but if you don’t have some team members or partners to make it happen, it stays just an idea,” she said. “Pam and Suzy are both great harmony singers and they were on board with this idea right away when I suggested it.
“The other factor is, when you’re on a bus with two other artists, there’s no room for divas and crazy on that ride,” Clark continued. “You gotta choose good people that you’re going to get along with, and we sure do.”
Clark said Suzy and Pam were acquaintances of hers when the tour was being put together, but when they started rehearsing for this tour that kicked off in October 2017, they really got to know each other.
“We went over to Suzy’s house and had dinner, then we sat down and rehearsed with our guitars in a very casual manner,” she said. “The minute we started singing together, it sounded like family harmony — right ‘off the bat.’ We all found our parts and it just seemed like such a natural thing.”
TILLIS SAID CLARK and Bogguss are funny, warm and generous people. There are no big egos. It’s just easy with them and she really loves that.
“It’s not that there isn’t work involved, but it’s easy work and it’s fun work. We’re on a team together,” she said. “We blend in harmony so well, which was such a great surprise because we didn’t know. Sometimes you get the concept for a tour before you actually know if it’s going to work.”
Clark said when she moved to Nashville, in 1987, she was selling western wear at retail shops and also waiting tables and bartending. She was a huge Pam Tillis and Suzy Bogguss fan and they were both all over the radio having hits, in the early ‘90s.
“I was aspiring to be like them, so getting to sit onstage with them every night and singing the songs I cut my teeth on when I first went to Nashville is an honor for me and it’s pretty special,” she said.
According to Clark, most of her uptempo hits are more fun and are female empowering songs. She said a lot of her favorites are songs that were never singles, but were just album cuts.
“Probably ‘Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,’ ‘Better Things to Do’ or ‘Girls Lie Too’ are my most popular songs,” she said. “Judging from the crowd’s reaction when we are on stage, I would say Pam’s biggest hit is still ‘Maybe It Was Memphis and Suzy’s ‘Drive South’ is a big one for her.”
Tillis said she knew she was a fan of Clark and Bogguss and she has become interested in what they do as artists. She said they both have more depth to them as artists than what people might know.
“We’ve all kept going with our music and keep reaching. There’s more to us than our 90s hits,” she said. “That’s one thing — it was easy to fill the show out with our hits.”
Out of all her songs, Clark said she likes “No Fear” from one of her earlier albums, Fearless. She said although it wasn’t a big hit, there are a lot of songs on it that have a lot of depth and meaning.
Clark said her most recent album, “Raising the Bar” — released in September 2018 — has 13 tracks. She said she worked on it for a few years and she’s very proud of it.
Born in Montreal, Clark now resides in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. She is currently the only Canadian female member of the Grand Ole Opry.
“I look at [membership in the Grand Ole Opry] like an honor and I’m sure somebody’s going to come along and change that, at some point. For now, I will wear the badge and represent it as well as I can,” she said.
ACCORDING TO Tillis, she has a lot of admiration for both Clark and Bogguss. She said they are consummate professionals and they never “phone it in.” They care about every show and really have fun taking it seriously.
“For one thing, we feel like the 90s was such a nostalgic time for people in country music, and a lot of people say ‘that’s the soundtrack of my life,’ so we take that to heart,” she said.
Born in Plant City, Florida, Tillis was raised in Nashville where she now resides. The musical success of her famous father, the legendary Mel Tillis, definitely influenced her in wanting to be in the music industry.
“Growing up around it and falling in love with music felt like a part of me,” she said. “It was inspiring to grow up around so many incredible people. Of course, with my dad at the top of my list, it was very inspiring.”
Of all her songs, she said her signature song, “Maybe It Was Memphis,” has stood the test of time but, she said, a lot of them have really held up and people still want to hear “Let That Pony Run,” “Cleopatra Queen of Denial,” “Shake the Sugar Tree” and others.
Tillis said she does about 70 shows a year but, with the girls on the “Chicks with Hits” tour, at least a dozen.
“Everybody feels like time is moving so fast and, with music, certain songs can take you back to a certain time. It’s kind of nice to feel you can slow time down,” she said of the tour.
According to the Grand Ole Opry, Suzy Bogguss was born in Aledo, Ill. and grew up in a farming family that loved music. While she was earning a degree from Illinois State University, she sang in clubs and coffee houses to earn extra money. Three Top 10 hits came out of her 1991 album, Aces, a platinum-selling record that made Bogguss one of the fastest rising stars of the early 90s. Her latest album, Aces Redux, is a re-recording of Aces.
In an announcement for the 2017 launch of the “Chick with Hits” tour, Bogguss said, “All three of us have kept sight of the things that made us love making music in the first place — the love of singing and the desire to make people feel something with the songs. And we’re hams! Anybody could tell that we love what we do. We are going to have big fun and those we have the opportunity to share it with will too.”
For more information about each individual country singer, visit their websites at terriclark.com, pamtillis.com and suzybogguss.com.