Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].
A lot of people are asking Tina Turley what the hell she’s still doing in town. She should be on the road making millions as a country singing superstar.
But the country crooner, who was born and raised in Huntsville, wouldn’t change a thing with how her life turned out. So far, so good, she will tell you. She’s always been one to grab life by the horns. She tried hard and gave it her best, jumped at opportunities, made sacrifices and even moved far away. But she always came back. She’s deeply rooted here. Without the support of people from this beautiful little town, maybe Tina would have never discovered her true country self.
“As difficult as some of it was, I wouldn’t change anything,” she says. “I have no regrets. Not one.”
Music has been a part of Tina’s life for as long as she can remember. Her father, Ed, who was a well-known man in the community, was in a country band called the Muleskinners. Tina’s mom sang, too. But not in a band or a choir or anything like that. Usually it was when Mrs. Turley was cooking in the kitchen.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…
Tina found her voice at a young age. She performed in her school’s talent show singing Merle Haggard’s classic hit Okie from Muskogee when she was just eight years old. By the time she was 12, after teaching herself how to play the drums, she had received a special licence to play in bars with her dad’s band. Things were a lot easier to get away with back then.
To this day, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors can bring a tear to Tina’s eye. She can rock out like the best of them to any AC/DC song. She doesn’t wear the white gloves, but you might see Tina moonwalk to a Michael Jackson tune. But it’s always been country, whether old or new, that truly speaks to her. It’s the story in a good country song that catches her ear.
“I always loved music… it’s hard to explain but it’s like a desire inside. I taught myself how to play. There was just something that drew me to it. And when it’s there, it’s hard to get rid.”
In the early 90s, she left her hometown and headed to Toronto in search of something new and different. She lived there for four years and was the drummer for an all-girl band. It was in the big city that she released her first album. A song from that album was a Top 10 hit on the Canadian country music chart. She followed her heart to Nashville with high hopes that she would make it big. She had taught herself how to play the guitar. She met so many amazing musicians who shared the same big dream. She learned to write from the heart and had the world at her fingertips. But an encounter with a not-so-gentle man deterred Tina from pursuing a musical commitment with him.
“If I couldn’t do it on my own then I didn’t want to do it at all,” she says. “If that’s what it takes to make it in Nashville, I didn’t ever want to be famous.”
Even though she left Nashville somewhat disillusioned by that encounter, she could never abandon the one thing that made her feel so alive. She formed a band and, in a short time, Tina Turley and the Loose Boots had garnered quite a following. She played everywhere and anywhere she could. In 1995, she took the stage at Maple Leaf Gardens in front of 12,000 people as the opening act for Tim McGraw. That experience, summed up in one word, was exhilarating.
It was surreal in some respects. You can’t believe you’re there. You’re thinking, ‘Wow. This is so cool.’ I thought I was going to choke and I turned my back to the audience. I said to myself, ‘You know what, Tina? You better get your shit together here.’ And then I turned back to face the audience and was ready to give ‘er.
Tina soon started touring solo out west. She played from Merritt Mountain in British Columbia to the Calgary Stampede and Edmonton, frequently stopping at various radio stations along the way to promote her album with an interview. It was one of the most memorable times of her music career.
She released three music videos that received medium rotation on the Country Music Network and, at the time, was the only independent artist without a label to achieve that.
(Above left) Boots, hats and jacket… and the acoustic guitar are Tina’s essential cowgirl items; (above right) Tina with her four-legged companion Tater. He’s been a friend by her side for a long time.
She has hundreds of die-hard fans and recalls an encounter with a woman who was crying and shaking while she asked Tina for her autograph.
“I don’t see myself any different than anyone else,” she says. “I’m just me. I find it hard when people ask me for my autograph… don’t get me wrong, it’s very humbling. But to me, I’m just me. Everyone succeeds with their own niche. What I’ve accomplished is priceless. You couldn’t put a value on experiences good, bad and otherwise. At the end of the day it all boils down to the choices you made.”
She might not be touring across the world making millions with her band, but for the last 10 years Tina has been doing something pretty special with her musical gift. She’s the organizer of the annual Family Traditions HOOT. On June 18, hundreds of people (hopefully!) from near and far will flock to the Stisted Fairgrounds for a fun-filled day that brings people together for a great cause. Proceeds raised at past HOOT events have been directed to Muskoka Youth and Family Services and The Table Soup Kitchen, and this year the Stisted Agricultural Society will benefit. Thirteen bands from all over Ontario will take the stage over the course of the day and other highlights include a horseshoe tournament and a silent auction. The HOOT is near and dear to Tina’s big heart. It’s a chance for her to give back. She’s endured some hardships in her own life and it was the generosity of others who helped her get through a tough time.
(Above left) Tina Turley will be taking the stage again with her band during the annual Family Traditions HOOT set to take place June 18 at the Stisted Fairgrounds; (above right) People of all ages and from all over Ontario have been attending the HOOT since its inception 10 years ago. (Photos courtesy of Tina Turley)
“I understand what it’s like to not have things,” she says. “You can’t turn your back on your brother or sister. That’s what we’re here for. The HOOT means a lot to so many people. My friends are the volunteers and they take it seriously because it’s a part of them. When the sun is setting and the last band is on the stage and I see all my friends and family and loved ones with smiles on their faces, that makes it all worthwhile. I stand back and watch and I can’t even put words to it. It’s a connection. It’s indescribable.”
Ask anyone who knows Tina and they will tell you that this country girl has already made it big. And she’ll never close the door to the possibility that one day she just might be back on the road again. For Tina, music runs as deep as her family roots do in Huntsville.
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