“Each man creates his own destiny. It's up to you what you're going to do with your life. It's not up to anybody else.” Gretchen Wilson
Grammy Award winning American country music singer and songwriter Gretchen Wilson went from a struggling musician to an overnight sensation with her debut single “Redneck Woman” (2004), which rose to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. The song also brought the former cook and bartender a Grammy Award in 2005. Following the success of the single, Wilson released her debut album “Here for the Party,” which was nominated for a 2005 Grammy for Best Country Album. The album received quadruple platinum certification from RIAA. Wilson enjoyed further success with her second album, “All Jacked Up” (2005), which was also a chart topper in the U.S. It collected four Grammy nominations in 2006. The album won two additional Grammy nominations in 2007 for the song “I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today.” After her third album, “One of the Boys,” (2007) which produced two Top 40 country hits, the singer left Sony Music Nashville. She made a comeback in late 2009 with the No. 30 country hit single “Work Hard, Play Harder,” which became Wilson's first charted single since 2008's “Don't Do Me No Good” and her first Top 40 single since 2007's “One of the Boys.” Her fourth studio album, “I Got Your Country Right Here,” will be released on March 30, 2010, under her own label, Redneck Records. A compilation album, “Greatest Hits,” was released by her former label in January 2010.
An avid humanitarian, Wilson has supported the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation and is a spokesperson of Country Bands Together.
In 2008, Wilson faced a lawsuit for copyright violation from The Black Crowes over the song “Work Hard, Play Harder.” The Crowes claimed the song was copied from their “Jealous Again.” Also included in the suit were Sony BMG, her publishing company, and the cable network TNT, which used the song in advertisements.
Wilson is divorced and has a daughter with Mike Penner.
Childhood and Family:
Born on June 26, 1973, in Pocahontas, Illinois, to a 16 year old mother, Gretchen Frances Wilson had a tough childhood. Her father abandoned the family when she was two years old. Without his support, young Gretchen and her mom lived in trailer parks and were basically poor. By age 14, she had worked at a bar beside her waitress mother and eventually dropped out of high school after the eighth grade at age 15. Now living on her own, she worked as a cook and bartender and sang for extra tips to make ends meet.
Gretchen was first reunited with her father when she was 12. Commenting about her musical talent, she said, “My dad just picked around on the guitar and has a quiet voice.” She added, “His family, I'm told, had a little traveling band. I think it was a gospel band.”
Prior to her move to Nashville, Gretchen married musician Larry Rolens, but the marriage ended in divorce. She then dated Mike Penner and gave birth to their daughter, Grace Frances Penner, on November 9, 2000. The couple split up in 2005.
Currently, Gretchen and her daughter reside in Lebanon, Tennessee. She is a St. Louis Cardinals baseball team fan and recorded an adaptation of her hit song “Redneck Woman” called “Redbird Fever” in honor of the Cardinals.
In 2007, Gretchen completed the General Educational Development (GED) program.
Here for the Party
While working as a bartender and cook, Gretchen Wilson sang to earn extra tips. At age 17, she began singing in small bars around the St. Louis area and was spotted at age 18 while singing Patsy Cline covers. Subsequently, she and her band, Sam-A-Lama, were brought to Springfield, Missouri, to play regularly at a bar called the Townhouse. After two years, she moved back to Pocahontas. In 1996, Wilson moved to Nashville to kick off a career as a country music singer.
Wilson initially found little success in Nashville and spent four years working in bars and singing with local musicians before meeting John Rich of Big & Rich. A few months later, she worked with him on some demos. She also joined the MuzikMafia, an informal group of Nashville singers and songwriters that gathered weekly to play songs.
In 2003, Wilson scored a record deal with Sony Music Nashville. Her debut album, “Here for the Party” was released on May 11, 2004, with John Rich serving as associate producer. The album rose to No. 1 on the U.S. Country chart and runner up on the Billboard 200. It also charted at No. 1 on the Canadian country charts and No. 2 on the Australian country charts. The album became the fifth best selling album of 2004 with nearly 3 million copies sold and eventually earned 5 times multi platinum certification in the U.S. It also went platinum in Canada and gold in Australia. The lead single “Redneck Woman,” which was co-written by Wilson and Rich, skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts and No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also rose to No. 1 on the Canadian Radio & Records Country Singles. The song went platinum in the U.S. and Wilson earned a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and an additional nomination for Best Country Song. The follow up single, “Here for the Party,” which was co-written by Wilson, Rich and Big Kenny, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts and No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified gold by RIAA. The album also spawned two more Top 10 country hit singles with “When I Think About Cheatin'” (#4) and “Homewrecker” (#2).
Wilson was handed the Horizon Award by the 2004 Country Music Association and nabbed Academy of Country Music Awards for Top Female Vocalist and Top New Artist that same year. She also received a 2005 Country Music Association for Female Vocalist of the Year and was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2005 Grammy Awards, while the album earned a nomination for Best Country Album.
The sophomore album “All Jacked Up” hit the music shelves on September 27, 2005. Produced by Wilson, Rich and Mark Wright, the album rose to the top of the U.S. country charts and the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by RIAA. The title track became Wilson's next gold single when it rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 51 on the Billboard Pop 100 and No. 2 on the Canadian Radio & Records Country Singles charts. It was followed by the singles “I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today” (#22), “Politically Uncorrect” (#23) and “California Girls” (#25). At the 2006 Grammy Awards ceremony, “All Jacked Up” was nominated for Best Country Album and the title track picked up nominations for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The single “Politically Uncorrect,” a collaboration with Merle Haggard, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. “I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today” received 2007 Grammy nominations for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.
Wilson released her third album, “One of the Boys,” on May 15, 2007, under Columbia Nashville. The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The album yielded three chart singles for Wilson on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts with “Come to Bed” (#32), a duet with John Rich, “One of the Boys” (#35) and “You Don't Have to Go Home” (#53).
In July 2008, Wilson launched a new singled titled “Don't Do Me No Good,” which was intended to be the lead off single to her fourth album. The song peaked at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. The following year, she released the singles “Don't Make Me Take My Earrings Out” and “If I Could Do It All Again,” but they both failed to chart.
After a series of disappointments, in July 2009 Wilson announced she would leave her former label Columbia Nashville. On October 26, 2009, she released a new single titled “Work Hard, Play Harder,” which she wrote with John Rich and Vicky McGehee. The song debuted at No. 56 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on November 14, 2009, and rose to No. 30 by February 2010, marking the first Top 40 single for Wilson since 2007's “One of the Boys.” It also made the Top 40 on the Canadian Radio & Records Country Singles chart. “Work Hard, Play Harder” marked Wilson's first single released through her own record label, Redneck Records. It also served as the lead off single for her album “I Got Your Country Right Here,” which is slated to be released on March 30, 2010. Meanwhile, Columbia Nashville released her first “Greatest Hits” album on January 19, 2010, to wrap up her recording contract with them. The album peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts and No. 168 on the Billboard 200. It also made the top 40 on the Canadian country chart. Wilson also had a No. 47 country single with a rendition of the John Rox written Christmas song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”
Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance, “Redneck Woman,” 2005
Country Music Association: Female Vocalist of the Year, 2005
Academy of Country Music: Top Female Vocalist, 2004
Academy of Country Music: Top New Artist, 2004
Country Music Association: Horizon Award, 2004