Thursday, June 12, 2014
Music Weird interviews Tab Hunter, part 2
This is part 2 of my 2005 interview with Tab Hunter, which continues from here. I interviewed Tab for the liner notes of his greatest hits collection, Young Love: The Best of Tab Hunter, which came out at the same time as his best-selling autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. A documentary, Tab Hunter Confidential, is coming in 2015.
In this part of the interview, we talked about specific recordings that would appear on the greatest hits collection, Tab's love of country music, and his dislike of being labeled.
Did you ever think of yourself as a rock 'n' roller? You didn't cut too many rock 'n' roll songs.
I didn't really think "rock 'n' roll." It was during the rock 'n' roll era.
"Black Coat" was kind of a rock 'n' roll song.
Yeah, that was Randy's suggestion. I had fun doing those things, but I always loved the standards. I always have. And it's so nice today to hear so many of the wonderful old ones coming back. And to hear some of my favorites of the time now coming back, like Dinah Washington. I was in love with Dinah. I just thought she was the best. And now you hear so much of Dinah. I thought, it's about time that people for the last 10 years or so have almost, like, rediscovered some great people.
You recorded "Jealous Heart" at Warner Bros.
A good country tune. I love the song. I love "Jealous Heart." But, see, now, Randy was the first one, at Dot, who told me about "Jealous Heart." I was ready to a lot of that stuff over at Dot. I was ready to do a lot of country stuff over at Dot.
Crossover country-pop was getting big around '57.
Very big. But Warners would not allow me to record for Dot any longer, so I just took the ideas on over to Warner Bros.
Do you think you recorded "Jealous Heart" at Dot?
I might have. I very well might have. It was just so many years ago.
You did "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time."
I love that song. I remember the Andrews Sisters doing that.
"There's No Fool Like A Young Fool."
Again, that was Randy Woods.
I wonder if he liked having his ideas go to Warner Bros.?
Well, Randy was a pretty terrific guy.
I loved the tune the first time I heard it with Vera Lynn.
That was Randy at Dot. He loved that old song, and I recorded that on Dot. I think I had to record a lot of that stuff over again with Warners.
"I'll Never Smile Again"?
I liked the song, but I wasn't happy with the way I did that, with the way it came off.
"I Ain't Got Nobody"?
Again, Randy. Let me tell you, Randy Wood was a master. Dot Records had a sound, and they were a great group to be with. I cannot sing their praises enough. Randy did very, very well by covering records from the country field, or from R&B, into the pop field.
Well, he did it with "Young Love."
Exactly—the Sonny James record.
"Time After Time."
I always loved that song. And "Candy"—I always loved that song. Johnny Mercer—that's where I first heard it. But then Don Ralke came up with that arrangement, which I thought was sensational. He was really good.
"When I Fall in Love."
I always loved that song too. I was kind of a romantic as a kid. I liked all that stuff.
You did a good job with these songs, but you got some criticism for your singing.
People are always taking pot shots at me. But like Geraldine Page once said to me.... I said, "God, Gerry, you're so fortunate. Everyone loves you. You can't do anything wrong! Everyone loves you! People just hate me." She grabbed hold of my arm and said, "Just remember this, Tab: If people don't like you, that's their bad taste." And I looked at her and said, "Gerry, I will never forget that."
And, furthermore, there are so many people that should remember that. It applies to so many people. "If people don't like you, that's their bad taste." It affects you tremendously. And people are so quick to condemn and criticize, anyway.
I thought that part of the rock 'n' roll revolution was the idea that you didn't have to be Mario Lanza to make a record. You could have a boy-next-door kind of singer and it could be more down to earth. I like the earnestness of your recordings.
Well, I believed in all the tunes I was doing. It was very important. You've got to be there 100%. If people don't get your message, that's their bad taste. It makes you feel better, anyway, because you try.
The last tunes here are from R.F.D. Tab Hunter. "Hey Good Lookin'."
That was a great country tune. Hank Williams.
Bill [Buster, of Eric Records] wanted to include "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," but you vetoed that.
I did, only because I just sound like a whiny old.... I bored the hell out of myself with it.
I have to disagree. That's a nice recording.
Are you serious?
It has the steel guitar....
Well, the sound is interesting with the steel guitar. The plaintive sound, which I love. I love the steel guitar.
And it's a poetic song.
It is a poetic song, but I didn't feel that I did it justice.
What didn't you like about it?
I don't know. I just thought, "What a wimp." [Laughs]
How did you develop your interest in country music?
Well, I used to spend a lot of time riding horses in the barn. My whole life. My other life. If I wasn't in front of the camera or recording, I'd be out with my animals every free minute with the horses. And I used to show horses. And out in the barn we always listened to country stations.
And when I was 12 years old at Dubrock's Riding Academy, across the street, on Friday nights, I used to climb the fence and listen to Spade Cooley, "Shame, Shame on You," at the Riverside Rancho. I loved it. Back then, country was country. It was so great because it was so honest. Now it's gotten so pop in sound that when you hear a country song that's without all that, it's so appealing. To me it is, anyway.
I liked Mark Chestnut for a while. I thought he was going to really hit it big, and then he did on a couple of tunes, but I don't know what happened.
It's a tough field. I like K.D. Lang doing country music. Man, could she belt those things out. A real powerhouse. She's a real artist.
There were so many gay recording artists in the '50s and '60s, but people don't realize. Rod McKuen said....
I knew Rod. I went to a couple of his sessions and even recorded with him.
You mentioned gay recording artists—I never think about things like that. I think it's just a person. I never label something.
Right. I agree with that.
I'm so against labels. I remember, I was doing a Tennessee Williams play years ago, and one of the lines basically was, "People are so guilty of hanging labels around the neck of a person, like a bell around the neck of a leper." I think people are so guilty of doing that. The most important thing is the human being.
To me, the word [gay] even bothers me. I've never liked it. You are what you are and live the best life you possibly can as a human being. I don't like to see people labeled anything. The important thing is what one contributes in life. That's what's important: contributions. If you can move someone, if you can make somebody smile or bring somebody to tears, or just genuinely touch them inside, that's what's really important.
So often in this day and age, people have to cover up everything. They either want to let it all hang out and don't give a damn, which I find repulsive—I just can't stand that kind of attitude—or they're so frightened, they're afraid to make a move. Somewhere between there, there's got to be a life!
I don't like anyone in any situation trying to shove their agendas down someone's throat. Saying, "This is the way it must be." I think you live your life. I'm not saying that you have to be complacent about this whole thing, but I do think in due time things take their course. One extreme is like the other extreme. Extremes are not good. I mean, that's just my own feeling, but I'm old world. I'm old-fashioned. My God, I'm no longer a kid. I'm 73 years old.