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Birmingham News

Entertainment News

All about Emmylou

01/24/03

MARY COLURSO
News staff writer

Here are some things you might want to know about Emmylou Harris:

As a youngster, she taught herself to play the guitar from folk-music books and records.

As a teenager in Woodbridge, Va., she won the Miss Woodbridge beauty pageant. Her prizes were scholarship money and a tiara.

She has an older brother, Walter Rutland Harris Jr., who lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his family.

Her mother, Eugenia Murchison Harris, 81, lives with her in Nashville.

She is a fan of National League baseball no designated hitters, please! and roots for the Atlanta Braves.

She always brings along a stack of books when she tours and has said that reading keeps her sane on the concert trail.

Novels by Jane Austen are in her home library, along with nonfiction books by Annie Dillard.

She has been married and divorced three times. The men in her life: songwriter Tom Slocum, producer Brian Ahern and singer-songwriter Paul Kennerley.

She is the mother of two grown daughters, Hallie and Meghann.

One of her most important mentors was country-folk pioneer Gram Parsons, who died in 1973. The song "Boulder to Birmingham" is her tribute to Parsons.

Her basic discography includes 25 albums, starting with 1968's "Gliding Bird." The latest is 2000's "Red Dirt Girl."

Some of the contemporary singer-songwriters she admires are Tom Waits, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Shawn Colvin, Tracy Chapman, Julie and Buddy Miller, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Among her favorites in traditional country music are Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard.

She studied drama at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Harris quit halfway through her second year.

She has been known to listen to alternative radio stations and has a fondness for Beck. However, she shuns Top 40.

When deciding on the set list for concerts, Harris thinks of stringing songs together like a string of pearls. When performing older material, she likes to give it a new spin.

She received the Patrick J. Leahy Humanitarian Award in fall 2002 for her efforts to abolish landmines and help people who've been hurt by them.

When Harris asked Mary Chapin Carpenter to perform at her Concerts for a Landmine Free World, Carpenter immediately accepted.

When the request comes from Emmylou Harris herself, it's easy to say yes. Her name is recommendation enough. And I love to sing harmonies with her, Carpenter says.

An animal lover, she supports the Nashville Humane Association and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

She shared her life with a cat named Jemima for 17 years, from 1985-2002.

Her backing groups have been named the Hot Band, the Angel Band, the Nash Ramblers and Spyboy.

She called her publishing company Poodlebone Music because her dog at the time, Bonaparte, was part poodle and had a sharp bone in his head. "If he's galumphing around the room and he runs into you, it's quite painful," Harris once said. "He's like a unicorn with this bump."

She last performed at City Stages in 1997, at the Blockbuster stage. Harris also showed up for sets with Julie and Buddy Miller and the Dead Reckoners.

She has participated in two albums as part of Trio, a singing group that includes Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt.

She may have changed her ways over the past three years, but in 2000 Harris was an unrepentant smoker. "I'm not sure if the cigarettes are hurting my voice," Harris told Newsweek. "I don't want to know, either."

Her hair became prematurely gray when Harris was in her 20s. She colored it for several years, but decided to let nature take its course in her 40s. "It's the best thing I ever did," Harris has said.

Although she is a natural beauty, Harris admits to a skincare regime that includes monthly facials and a no-tan policy for her face.

She sang at the 1997 wedding reception of Birmingham bigwig Richard Scrushy and his third wife, Leslie Jones, in Jamaica.

At least two of her 1980s albums, Cimarron and Last Date, were remastered, repackaged and rereleased by Eminent Records. Last year, Warner Bros. gave the same treatment to her 1980 Roses in the Snow.

She did a short tour with longtime pal Linda Ronstadt in 1999 to promote their album "Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions." The stop closest to Birmingham: Atlanta's Symphony Hall.

In 2002, she was selected as one of the 40 greatest women in country music by Country Music Television. Harris was in good company; others chosen included Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, June Carter Cash, Kitty Wells and Brenda Lee.

She has won many music accolades including several Grammys, Billboard's Century Award and the Patsy Montana Entertainer Award from the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

She sang "Just Before it Gets Dark" last year on "Taken," a special series on the Sci-Fi channel produced by Steven Spielberg.

A fact-packed Web site devoted to her life and career can be found at www.emmylou.net. There's also an electronic newsletter, Emmylou On Line (EOL for short), run by a fan who goes by the screen name Cimarron.

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