Pop Tim Culpepper's "Pourin' Whiskey On Pain" album into your music player of choice, and you just might be taken back to the winter months of 1986, when a young Kentucky native on RCA Records named Keith Whitley was first hitting with "Miami, My Amy." If it does, Culpepper said that sound is intentional.
"Growing up and listening to that kind of music did something to me," the Alabama native tells Billboard. "I love that feeling that it gives you when you hear the bending of those notes. It's a great sound, and I love it."
Music was all around during his formative years, as he recalls. "My dad played in the clubs, and ran with Merle Kilgore and Marty Robbins, all these people that I consider legends. He was one of my heroes, and I wanted to be just like him. One night, I drug out the 1955 Epiphone guitar, and I asked him to teach me how to play." Tim says that solidified the bond between father and son.
Another person who played a role in his life early on - though he says he barely remembers it, was Merle Kilgore. "My grandmother told me that when the two of them were hanging out together, and when my parents wanted to get up and dance, he'd watch me and baby sit a little bit," he said. To this day, Culpepper can do a deadpan impersonation of the writer of such hits as "Wolverton Mountain" and the longtime manager of Hank Williams, Jr.
The Whitley influence can best be heard in the powerful "Ghost," which was the album's first single. "I just thought that it was a fresh and unique take on a subject that has been written about a hundred times. It's about a lost love leaving a haunting memory. In this case, the memory is a ghost. When I first heard it, I just knew there was something infectious about it. It was a sad topic, but it had a feel good melody - one that sticks in your mind. It hit a core with a lot of people, and the video also brought us a lot of exposure. We won the Independent Country Music Association Video of the Year. A few weeks ago, we went down and met with Alan Shepard, and accepted the award.
Currently, the title cut from his album is making the rounds on radio right now, and that's something that given his traditional stylings -- makes him feel good. "I have found there is a demand for what we are doing, because I've seen it all the time. Radio has really accepted our music and what we have to offer. I think there's room for anybody. If it's pleasing to the ears, I think it will work."
For Tim Culpepper, it works very well indeed.
- Country