Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

Gretchen Wilson seeks to retrench career

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Hot young country female singers such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood need to enjoy their success while it lasts, because that shooting-star ride might be over as quickly as it started.

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Gretchen Wilson performs during the 32nd annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, in this Nov. 14, 2004 file photo. Wilson has been nominated for new artist and for best country album during the 47th annual Grammy Awards nomination announcements Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2004, in Los Angeles.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Gretchen Wilson performs during the 32nd annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, in this Nov. 14, 2004 file photo. Wilson has been nominated for new artist and for best country album during the 47th annual Grammy Awards nomination announcements Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2004, in Los Angeles.

Just ask Gretchen Wilson.

From 2004 to 2006, Wilson was as hot as they come on the record charts. Her debut CD, Here for the Party, sold more than 5 million copies.

She had in succession the huge hit singles Redneck Woman, Here for the Party, Homewrecker and When I Think About Cheatin' .

Her single I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today off her second CD, All Jacked Up , was nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.

Then, as fast as her popularity came, it began disappearing, with her singles first failing to crack the Top 20 or Top 30 listings of Billboard's Hot 100 country charts and then failing to make the charts at all.

In July, Sony Music Nashville and Wilson jointly announced that she would no longer record for the label but that both would work on catalog projects.

At 36, the divorced former bartender and ninth-grade dropout from Pocahontas, Ill., was left without a major label contract.

In October, she launched an independent label, Redneck Records.

She was quoted by Nashville's MusicRow magazine saying, "My management and I looked at a lot of different options over the last couple of months, and starting Redneck Records made the most sense to continue the relationships I've built with radio, retail and the fans. This is a really exciting time in my life, and I'm looking forward to everyone hearing my new music."

Apparently, radio station programmers and listeners weren't looking forward to her music: The first single, Work Hard, Play Harder, died a quick death.

Perhaps more important than her recordings, Wilson at 34 earned a General Educational Development diploma.

She spoke to a congressional panel about the importance of funding for adult education. The National Coalition for Literacy and the Center for the Book presented Wilson with a 2009 NCL Literacy Leadership Award at a reception at the Library of Congress.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 39 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.

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