Most entertainers move to Las Vegas as their career is winding down, but Tammy Graham did the opposite. She used the Vegas clubs as a launching pad for her career as a contemporary country vocalist, releasing her eponymous national debut in 1997 after years of toiling away in lounges.
As a child in Little Rock, Arkansas, Tammy Graham (b. Tammy Wynette Graham, February 7, 1968) was something of a child prodigy, teaching herself how to play rocking boogie-woogie piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. By the age of nine, she had won several local and regional talent contests, and had placed second in a world competition. She soon landed a job demonstrating pianos at an instrument store in North Little Rock Mall. Graham earned a name for herself and, on the advice of Harold Bradley, she and her family moved to Nashville. Throughout her teens, she billed herself as "Little Miss Jerry Lee Lewis" and played clubs throughout the town. When she was 14, she formed a backing band and began touring the South. She spent three years in Nashville and on the road before deciding to relocate to Las Vegas -- the Music City wasn't interested in her kind of rootsy, hard-driving country, and Vegas was much more receptive.
Graham and her parents moved to Vegas when she was 17. For the first few months, the family lived on the money she won in talent contests, since neither of her parents could find work. She eventually began working steadily in local casinos, eventually earning a regular slot at Caesar's Palace. Within a few years, Graham had earned a reputation for delivering passionate performances, and created a buzz not only in Vegas, but also Nashville. In 1996, she signed to Career Records, a subsidiary of Arista's Nashville division, and began working on her debut album with producer Barry Beckett, who had previously worked with Lorrie Morgan and Tammy Wynette.
Tammy Graham's eponymous debut album was released in the spring of 1997. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine