The documentary film The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile is currently airing in select theaters across the United States. Directed by Kathlyn Horan, the film was made during the production of Tanya Tucker’s 2019 comeback record While I’m Livin’, which went on to win Tanya two Grammy Awards, including Best Country Album—Tanya’s first Grammy Awards of her career.
Though Brandi Carlile is given primary credit as the producer of While I’m Livin’, along with title-level credit for the documentary distributed by Sony Pictures as an Executive Producer and co-star, Shooter Jennings was also a co-producer on Tanya Tucker’s album, and was also the guy that had the idea of making a comeback record for Tanya Tucker in the first place, and to bring Brandi Carlile on board to help.
But the story goes even farther back than that, and believe it or not, legendary underground country band Hellbound Glory and frontman/songwriter Leroy Virgil played a pivotal role as well.
Hellbound Glory’s 2011 album Damaged Goods was a bit more of a stripped-down affair compared to their previous records, allowing the songwriting of Leroy Virgil to rise to the forefront. It was an album about those who’d spent their lives partying past their prime, and one of the jewels of the album was a song called “Better Hope You Die Young.”
In 2018, Hellbound Glory re-released the song as part of a Record Store Day exclusive of their 2017 album Pinball called Pinball (Junkie Edition), released on the record label of Shooter Jennings called Black Country Rock. The album included a cover of Tanya’s signature hit, “Delta Dawn.” Since “Better Hope You Die Young” seemed almost like it was written for Tanya Tucker, Tanya was solicited to see if she wanted to sing on a new version of the song as a duet with Leroy Virgil. Tanya took a listen to the song, and accepted.
“You can live your whole life just like there’s no tomorrow but, baby, it’s a fact/ that all them all-nighters are just time you borrowed; someday you’ll have to pay them back,” Tucker sings. When she recorded the song with Hellbound Glory, Tucker hadn’t released a new album in nearly 15 years, and had been pretty much put out to pasture by the country music industry.
Recording her parts for Hellbound Glory’s “Better Hope You Die Young” (the 2nd version is officially called “You Better Hope You Die Young’” got Tanya Tucker back in the studio, and back in the business. After Tanya Tucker won her two Grammy Awards in 2020, Shooter Jennings was interviewed backstage, and explained how it all went down.
“I was working with a band called Hellbound Glory, who is one of my favorite bands of all time, and she was singing one of their songs, and that’s how a guy named Adam Sheets … this whole project would have never happened if it hadn’t been for Adam Sheets and Hellbound Glory. We did this one cut of Tanya, and I told Brandi, ‘I just recorded Tanya Tucker.’ And she said, ‘I love Tanya Tucker!’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you co-produce [her album] with me?’ [At first] Tanya didn’t want to do it. We talked her into it, and now she has two Grammys.”
…even more backstory, Shooter Jennings first discovered Hellbound Glory when the band played a livestream here on Saving Country Music, and Shooter was enthralled by the band’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Adam Sheets, who was referred to above, was another music blogger in the Shooter Jennings orbit at the time.
Now Tanya Tucker is enjoying a second wave in her career. And though the Grammy Awards, big names like Brandi Carlie and Shooter Jennings, and other industry types are involved in keeping the ball rolling, it was little ol’ Hellbound Glory and elements of the underground that helped get it started. Just remember that the next time you see Tanya Tucker on a big stage, or when you watch the new The Return of Tanya Tucker documentary.
Hellbound Glory’s new album The Immortal Hellbound Glory: Nobody Knows You was released on September 30th.