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Country Roots - Stevie Nicks

Born in Phoenix, Arizona on May 26, 1948, Stephanie Lynn Nicks was raised on music. She remembers that as early as fourth grade, she would hear songs on the radio and ask her parents, Jess and Barbara, to stop talking so she could learn the lyrics and ultimately sing along. However, long before grade school, at the age of four, Stephanie started her singing career as a sidekick to her grandfather. As proclaimed in the Bella Donna album, A.J. Nicks, the “grandfather of country music” and young Stephanie harmonised on songs such as “It’s Late” and “When Will I Be Loved?” on the stage at a restaurant her parents owned.

By fifteen years old, Stephanie, now called Stevie because of pronunciation issues (mainly her own), showed a great interest in music. She had lived in Arizona, El Paso, and Salt Lake City and was now situated in San Francisco, California. She began guitar lessons, learning on a borrowed Classic Goya Spanish guitar. On her sixteenth, she received the guitar and she wrote her first song that night, a little country tinged ditty called, “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost (I’m Sad But Not Blue)”. She said from that moment on, she knew she wanted to write songs.

Finally, at the age of seventeen (or on the “edge of seventeen” if you prefer,) she joined her first band, The Changing Times. This Dylan inspired group of teens did not need a guitar player, nor did they need a songwriter. They needed a vocalist and Stevie’s nasal mountain voice fit the bill. Her singing style was later the force behind her joining the Fritz Rayburne Memorial Band, a.k.a. Fritz in 1968.

While Fritz was a predominantly rock group, all the members had country roots. Most notably was guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, a senior at Menlo High School. Lindsey had been playing a guitar since he was three, teaching himself to play by listening to the likes of Hank Williams, Marty Robins, the Beatles, Elvis and the Everly Brothers. It was with Lindsey that twenty-three year old Stevie Nicks would start her professional career.

As the newly formed duo, Buckingham-Nicks, Lindsey and Stevie left Fritz and San Francisco far behind, moving to L.A. where they eventually secured a recording contract. They began work on their self-titled album in 1971. The disc contained songs such as “Frozen Love”, “Crying In The Night” and would have included “Candlebright”, “Sorcerer” and the famous “Rhiannon” had there been enough room.

On New Years Eve, 1974, Lindsey and Stevie joined Fleetwood Mac, which was then an English blues band turned spaced out jams à la the Grateful Dead. The recent departure of Bob Welsh left the band short a guitarist and while they didn’t particularly want Stevie, they wanted Lindsey enough to take his girlfriend in too.

It was quickly proved that the starlet was the needed addition to push the band to the top with the updated “Rhiannon” climbing to the top twenty. The other single from the again self-titled album, pianist Christine McVie’s “Say You Love Me” was taken to the Billboards. Later, it was given a face-lift, gaining a banjo during the groups 1997 reunion tour.

Stevie’s country style continued to shine in many of her songs recorded with the Mac, such as “That’s Alright” from Mirage and “I Don’t Want To Know” from Rumours. Her solo work’s persistent country themes are very apparent in many songs from 1981’s Bella Donna which included “After the Glitter Fades” with a slide guitar and “Leather and Lace”, a song written for Waylon Jennings and Jessie Colter to sing, but preformed with the Eagle, Don Henley.

Stevie’s more recent releases emphasise her return to country music, with the song “Too Far From Texas”, a duet with Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks from 2001’s Trouble In Shangri-La. The album also has re-done versions of “Candlebright” and “Sorcerer”, maintaining the feel from the early Buckingham-Nicks era demos.

As for her effects on modern country, Waylon Jennings does his own version of “Rhiannon” and he and his wife Jessie did eventually get around to recording “Leather and Lace”. Willie Nelson takes lead vocals on “Gold Dust Woman. Her classic “Landslide” has been covered by the Dixie Chicks and she appeared with them on the Elvis tribute, Divas Las Vegas Live. She works closely with Sheryl Crow and Don Henley in the matters of producing and song writing.

Throughout the years, Stevie Nicks has stayed close to her background, and the music of her favourites that influenced her and she in turn helps to keep country music in style for the younger generations.

Works Cited
Buckingham Nicks. www.buckinghamnicks.net. 16 Feb. 2003.
In Her Own Words. www.inherownwords.com. 16 Feb. 2003.
Nicks Fix. www.nicksfix.com. 18 Feb. 2003.
Penguin. www.fleetwoodmac.net. 16 Feb. 2003.
Stevie Nicks Underground. www.sararhiannon.com. 16. Feb. 2003.

This essay got a 35/30 in my gym class, go me!

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