Country Music Style Article

THE WILD WEST

Country Music Style Magazine
May 1981
By Jim Albrecht

Dottie West is just about through with raising kids. Now she’s raising eyebrows . With a sexy new image, this wild West has been turning heads From Broadway to Burbank and all points in between. And now that her Marriage to her drummer, Byron Metcalf , is kaput (a result of his alcohol abuse, say’s Dottie), and her children are grown, Dottie is pursuing a career with gung-ho gusto. Just a few years ago she was hungry for concert bookings, TV appearances and movie offers. Now she’s having to turn them down. A Candid, outspoken mother of four (her youngest is 17), Dottie possesses the Looks, attitude and lifestyle one would rarely suspect of a 17-year Grand Ole Opry veteran with 34 albums under her designer belt. S he confesses a Preference for younger men (she’s 12 years older than Metcalf);sports slink Low-cut stage outfits most of her Opry contemporaries would be embarrassed To wear to the beach; and cruises Nashville in a snazzy yellow Coevette (‘’I have a new silver one coming’!’’ she raves). But Dottie isn’t trying to fool anybody. Like most women in the public eye-be they executives, entertainers or politicians’ wives- Dottie has had a face-lift. But unlike most women, she admits it. She’s about the same age as another red-headed, her longtime friend Willie Nelson. Yet the two seem about as similar as chiliburgers and quiche Lorraine I swear to ya,’’say’s Dottie,‘’I’m 48 going on 33!

Tastes and style in country music have changed radically since Dottie West first hit Nashville in 1961 in an era when female country crooners were rare. And Dottie has naturally adapted a more liberal life along the way. It wasn’t too long ago when she was singing her Grammy award-wining ‘’Here comes My Baby’’ in stately gingham dresses and beehive hairdos. She recalls turning down the chance to record Kris Kristofferson’s classic ‘’Help Me Make It Through The Night’’ because she felt it was too graphic adn sexy. But today you can find Dottie wearing skin-tight pants, posing for album covers in open-chested outfits., singing a variety of musical styles, and cooing sensual lyrics alongside duet partner Kenny Rogers. Dottie’ s big breakthrough, of course, came through her chance teaming with Kenny Rogers- a friend she admired for years, but one she never recorded with until fate brought them accidentally together in a recording studio one day and the pair cut an impromptu single, ‘’Every Time Two Fools Collide,‘’ witch went to No.1. Other duets followed, including, ‘’Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,’’ ‘’All I Ever Need Is You,’’ ‘’Till I Can Make It On My own,’’ and, they latest, ‘’What Are We Doing In Love?,’’ from her recent Liberty album ‘’Wild West.’’ Dottie joined Kenny’s L..A.-based management firm (Kragen & Co.), booking agent, record company, came under the aegis and propelled into a whirlwind of cross-country concerts and TV appearances. She and Kenny won two gold albums and top duo honors from the Country Music Association two years in a row (1978 and ’79). However, as a

solo artists, the hits weren’t coming. Dottie says it seemed that writers were sending Butler only male songs. The female tunes were all going to Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle and Anne Murray. In 1979, she switched producers. Enlisting the young talents of Brett Maher and Randy Goodrum (the later wrote Murray ’s ‘’You Needed Me’’) as producers, Dottie finally found her niche in the contemporary Country market. Top 10 singles have been coming with consistency ever since: ‘’Lesson In leavin’,’’ ‘’ You Pick Me Up (And Put Me Down), ‘’ Leavin’s For Unbelievers,’’ ‘’Are You Happy Baby?.’’ Now Dottie finds herself touring some 300 days a year, playing lucrative engagements in Las Vegas, and turning up on television with about as much regularity as the Tidy Bowl Man. Career commitments have been forcing her to turn down TV series and stage offers. She was recently set to star as the Madam in Broadway’s huge hit, ‘’The Best little Whorehouse In Texas,’’ but backed out when she discovered the stint would require a six-to-nine-month stay in New York, and previous commitments could not be broken. ‘’Dreams are coming true for me,’’ says Dottie. ‘’It’s sorta nice to know that you are wanted for things and you have to say no…’’ Dottie say’s Playboy magazine has even wanted to do a revealing photo-spread on her, but that’s one thing she’s refusing. She admits she was a touch reluctant to be so flesh revealing in photos and on stage,

adoring herself in $9,000 outfits by star dresser Bob Mackie. But she’s become used to the darling look. And as far as her music, she says, ‘’I don’t think we have to worry about being crossover now….I just want to be me…You have to keep up with the times. There’s more sex in country music, of course that. That happened after Kris, not just lately. And now a girl can be more open. Dottie appears to be ambitious than the average veteran singer –songwritter, and more eager to attempt the untried. (‘’I’m a Libra and we tend to get bored easily,’’ she says.) Movies, Broadway, Last Vegas, TV game shows, syndicated radio series (a show ‘’Dottie’s Scrapbook,’’ were she interviews stars, is now in the works), publishing, song-writing- they’re all becoming part of her career. ‘’I want it all!’’ Dottie admits. ‘’See what happened,’’ she begins, ‘’when I was just getting started in the business …like 1965 was my first hit, ‘Here Comes My Baby.’ Well, I had a baby at the time, you know…And I had three other’s that were small. Three sons and a daughter, I have….I really didn’t work on my career except just enough to barley make a living during the ‘60s and even the early ‘70s. And now that they’re older, I can do my own thing now and I just really feel more energetic about it. ‘’I feel I’m really me now. They’re doing their thing and I’m doing mine.’’(Her children from her former steel

guitarist husband, Bill West, are: Morris, 27, a member of a rock group called Thunder; Kerry, 24, works as Dottie’s touring sound engineer; daughter, Shelly, 22, sings in a duet with David Frizzell, young brother of the late Lefty; and Dale, 17, is still in school, but helps mom and the crew on the road during breaks.) ‘’I’m glad that I did it this way,’’ Dottie continues, ‘’because I really have a close family. They mean more to me than four gold records, let me tell you …’’I’ve grown very slowly, and I think that it was good for me because I know what I’m capable of. Now I have confidence in myself, and it takes a while to do that, to really gain the confidence to be able to walk on stage with a Red Skelton or a George Burns or somebody like this. I didn’t know if I’d ever really get to do this, and it’s taken a lot of work and a lot of time …but I had to grow to do that. If you would have thrown that at me in the ‘60s , I’d have been a nervous wreck and I don’t think I could have handled it. I would have probably lost it.’’ Up until recently , Dottie always had a man to to fall back on when times got tough. Her first marriage to Bill West lasted 20 years, and he traveled with her as a member of her band. They divorced in 1972 and that same year she married Byron Metcalf, who became the drummer in her band. She was 41 and he was 29 when they wed, but the only people the age difference seemed to bother were the Music City gossips. ‘’We

never noticed it.’’ says Dottie. Last year Dottie and Byron separated, a split Dottie blamed on Byron’s drinking. Dottie says she has no man in her life now (‘’I’m to busy for that’’) and for the first time in almost 30 years she’s totally on her own. ‘’I was married young, ‘’says Dottie. ‘’This is the first time I’ve really been alone and I’m enjoying it. I’m thing’s that I want to do. I don’t have to try and please somebody else or ask their opinion … it’s really nice to be free for a change .’’ Many might assume that Dottie and Byron’s age differences contributed to their marital downfall. But Dottie explains that wasn’t the case at all. ‘Byron was an alcoholic, ’’ she states. ‘’And I had lived with this. But the harder our schedule became, the worse it got for him. And that really was the problem. ‘’This is the first time I’ve said this, but I don’t think he’d mind because since then he talks about it. He went to the hospital and has not had a drink since. But it was too late as far as our relationship, because it had killed it. Because along with alcohol came other things you do, I guess, that you wouldn’t do

otherwise. ‘’He’s so sorry now. But it’s too late. ‘’The drinking … and with my schedule becoming so hectic … I can handle it, but that doesn’t mean that somebody else can, and with the alcohol, it made him drink more, because he felt like he had to or he was really a nervous wreck. The last two years were terrible. It was just awful, and he would say the same thing. But I think he’s a happier guy now. He lives in a really nice apartment not far from me.’’ Although Dottie appears to be a liberal-thinking lady, she’s not liberal enough to allow an open marriage were both husband and wife are permitted to see other lovers. ‘’I believe you gotta be true,’’ she says. ‘’You can’t be untrue. That’s what happened to my first marriage. He was (cheating). I’ve never said that either, but he was. And that hurts to say that because it hurts my pride. But what happens, I think, in this business we get so busy with our career … and I’m not saying it was all his fault that he did it. Maybe I really wasin’t taking the time to give him the attention he needed, even through he was with me, and, and I thought that he was with me all the time. But men do find time-

and I guess women do too-to do those things. ‘’Now Byron did it, but I think it was because of the alcohol. I don’t think it was that he didn’t love me. I think had he been straight, had his mind been clear … because alcoholism. It’s difficult to live with. Very difficult. Dottie speaks of about alcoholism from more than one bad experience. Her farther was an alcoholic who abandoned his family when Dottie was 14. ‘’Now Byron never hit me,‘’ she says,’’ but my dad was a mean drunk. I mean, when he was drinking he would beat us, and that’s just inhuman. I try to forget about that part of my life. ‘’ but Byron never did that. Byron was the kind that would just become very depressing and difficult. He would argue,, but there was not fighting, actual physical fighting. But because of this he saw an old girlfriend, and it really did break my heart. I Tied to live with him a year after that happened, and I just couldn’t keep it together after that.’’ Career pursuits have been keeping

Dottie away from Nashville home so often that, at this writing, she hasin’t been home long enough to get involved in divorce proceedings. And since she’s not rushing to get involved in a heavy romance yet, she’s in no hurry to go through with the divorce anyway. ‘’I know a lot of people are trying to say I’m seeing one of the guys in my band … I was supposed to be seeing my manager even, but I have nothing going and I don’t think of getting married again for a good while. I really want to concentrate on my career. And if I get married again it’ll probably be a younger guy … nothing wrong with older guys, that’s fine. I’m, sure they great lover … but I just happen to like young guys … I think it’s just as right for an older woman to be with a younger guy. It’s happening more and more now. It’s being accepted more. And if they want to accept me that way, that’s fine. If they don’t, just don’t,’’ she laughs. ‘’I have to please me some, too. I love pleasing people, and that’s what I try to do when I’m on that stage. But I have to please me at other times, too.’’ Since splitting with Byron, Dottie admits to receiving an occasional proposition-and has even considered making her own-but so far she’s remaining cool. ‘’That’s just the way I am,’’ she explains. ‘’I still feel that I don’t really have the right to. I’m still hitched … ‘’Now and then as I look through the audience I’ll see a good looking guy and I’ll think, well, it might be sorta nice, you

know. But so far I haven’t seen one. I had a few chances and I’ve said no. But after the divorce, maybe I won’t. Probably won’t.’’The oldest of 10 children, Dottie was worm on a farm outside mcMinnville, Tenn. When her farther, Hollis Marsh-who ‘’ and taught the guitar to Dottie-left the family, Dottie’s mother moved the kids into town and opened a restaurant . Majoring in music at Tennessee Teach, Dottie married Bill West shortly after leaving college, bent on becoming a Grand Ole Opry star. But breaking into the Opry was tough, and Dottie first went to Cleveland for a stint singing on the ‘’Landmark Jamboree’’ TV show. The show led to a recording contract with Starday records in 1959. Moving to Nashville in 1961, Dottie wrote ‘’Is This For Me?’’ witch became a hit for Jim Reeves. Her association with Reeves (she eventually recorded duets with him) brought her a recording contract with RCA in 1962, that lasted 13 years. Soon Dottie was a regular face in Nashville, paling around with Reeves and Patsy Cline (two close friends she lost in fatal plane crashes) and learning songwritting tips then-new-comers like Willie Nelson, Roger miller and Hank Cochran. Dottie’s first dream came true in 1964 when she became a member of the Opry. A year later, she wrote and recorded her biggest

hit, ‘’Here Comes My Baby,’’ witch won a grammy. (The song has since been covered by more than 100 artists.) A long string of top hits followed: ‘’Would You Hold It Against Me? (1966); ‘’Paper Masions’’ (1967); ‘’Rings Of Gold’’ (a 1968 duet with Don Gibson); ‘’I was Born A Country Girl’’(1969). Dottie has repaid the help artists like Jim Reeves gave her early in her career by helping other young singers get some breaks, most notably Larry Gatlin and more recently, Steve Wariner. In 1972, Dottie signed a lifetime contract to write and sing commercials for the Coca-Cola company and a year later her song, ‘’Country Sunshine,’’ was used in an extensive commercial campaign. The song also became a top hit and has since then become Dottie’s sinature song. Since Dottie devoted her main attentions to the more important task of raising her family, her climb to the top has been a slow one. But unlike many artists,

her career never sank to the depths of depression. Thoughts of quitting never entered her mind. ‘’There’s never been a time that I really thought, ‘Oh, no, it’s not happening, ‘ ‘’Dottie relates. ‘’There’s always been something for me to look forward to and something happening in my career that has really kept me on my toes and feeling good about it. And I think that’s one thing that kept me younger.’’ Today Dottie’s problems are relatively minor ones-like not finding enough free time for shopping (‘’I really like the finer things in life, ‘’she admits. She hopes to find the perfect white rolls Royce soon) and having to worry about security. She avoids going out in public much because she’s immediately recognized and dosen’t like to wear disguises like Dolly Parton dose. (She resorts to a video player for her home and bus, and a portable unit to bring to hotel rooms in order to see the latest movies.) And like most stars, Dottie has received her share of threatening phone calls-and some calls that are just plain weird. ‘’I got a really weird call from two women, ‘’ Dottie recalls, ‘’and all they wanted to talk about was lingerie and this and that … I mean, it was idefinitely lesbians, and it was frightening in a way because they wanted to come to my room. I just got somebody with me. I’m seldom alone anyway. But this was really a strange call and I think this happened

because I just did an interview and I said in there something like ‘There’s no man in my life now.’ … This certainly dose not mean that I like women. I have some friends-my secretary and the two girl singers in my group. But that has never been my thing at all. ‘’I really am a woman and I love men-and I’m known to like younger men! Traveling some 300 days a year, one would have to expect an unpleasant call or two along the way. But, as they, that’s show biz! It seems the bigger the star, the less leisure time there is and the more they have to be concerned with security. And if lack of time and need for protection are any way to measure success, then Dottie West is certainly more than successful. Currently, the intial game plan for Dottie is to devote less and less time to duets and touring with Kenny Rogers, although she says they will probably always tour and record some. ‘’Kenny is my absolute No. 1 friend in the world, ‘’says Dottie, ‘’but too many people, especially my new fans, are thinking that’s the only thing I have. And we can’t let that happen. I’ve worked too long to be an artists on my own.

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