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A humble legend; Gill brings his sound to town.

Byline: Richard Duckett

Whenever Vince Gill appears in person or gets talked or written about these days, the introduction will often have the preliminary word "legendary."

"Legendary guitarist, singer and songwriter Vince Gill ..." "Legendary country star Vince Gill ..."

Few doubt that he's got the songs and music to claim such a title (as well as 22 million albums sold and 18 Grammy awards), and he'll be performing plenty of the hits as well as new material when he comes to The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts on Tuesday.

Gill, however, laughed when asked about being termed a legend.

"I don't go around calling myself that," he said during a recent telephone interview. His preferred maxim is "Not to believe all the good stuff they say about you and not to believe all the bad stuff ...

"I'm grateful I've had as blessed a career as I've had. It's the result of a lot of hard work, plus a willingness to collaborate with anybody. I'm more proud of that. I was proud to be a collaborator."

Gill's cheerful, self-effacing and regular-guy nature came across as giving credence to something else that is said about him - that he's legendary for his humility.

Still, on the subject of legends, Gill does have some people that he would call legendary. And it just so happened that he got to play with a couple of them recently.

Eric Clapton invited Gill to play at his Nashville, Tenn., concert Feb. 27.

According to one report, "both gentlemen guitarists traded licks and plenty of grins during the show's acoustic set," which included "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Running on Faith," "I've Got a Rock and Roll Heart," and the (dare one say it?) legendary "Layla."

"I was up there pinching myself," Gill recalled of the concert. "I remember when I was 10 learning `Sunshine of Your Love.' I was a little awestruck."

They met at a Grammy Awards ceremony. Clapton and Gill were seated quite near each other in the audience. "I so badly wanted to go over and introduce myself to him." Gill said. But an inner voice was saying, "Leave him alone." Then at a break during the show he heard an external voice: "I'm Eric Clapton."

The two have become friends. It may not be too surprising they get along. "I found him to be one of the most humble and easygoing people I've ever met," Gill said of Clapton. The two will perform together next on June 26 at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago.

Gill, 53, was learning plenty of guitar (including "Sunshine of Your Love") from an early age growing up in Norman, Okla., where he received encouragement from his father, who was a lawyer, administrative judge and country music player on weekends. He first played with bluegrass bands, and then had a spell as the frontman for the country-rock Pure Prairie League during which time the group had the hit "Let Me Love You Tonight." He moved to Nashville and subsequently embarked on a solo country career. Gill's

1985 album featured two Top 10 hits - a duet with Rosanne Cash on "If It Weren't For Him" and a solo hit, "Oklahoma Borderline."

He has sung duets with a number of artists, including Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and his wife, Amy Grant. Gill has also worked frequently as a studio musician, written songs for other artists, and produced - most recently for LeAnn Rimes' forthcoming new album.

Through it all he has not been a stranger to these parts, coming here solo and also with Amy Grant for their Christmas show.

"I've always done well in the Northeast. I've always found that for 30 years," he said.

Gill now has a recording studio in his home and is working on a new album of his own. Touring takes him away from home and family, but not an excessive amount of time. "Just enough. It's a good balance."

He sounded pretty content with his lot. "It's funny. I feel the same as I did 30 years ago. I don't feel like an old guy. I still feel the same," he said.

Asked if he would rather be starting out as a singer now compared to when he was getting his career going, Gill said, "I'd take mine just because it was my experience. Not because it was better but because it was mine."

But who knew that the music career might have had to make way for the PGA? The revelation came about when Gill talked about playing with another of his legends a few weeks ago - Arnold Palmer. They played a round at Palmer's recent golf tournament.

"I've always had a love of golf. I had aspirations of playing golf for a living," Gill said, noting that he's a scratch golfer even now.

Still, golfing with Palmer was pretty special.

"Eric Clapton and Arnold Palmer all in one month," Gill said, speaking of legends.

Vince Gill

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester

How much: $49.50-$57.50 & $77 (limited VIP). (877) 571-7469; www.thehanovertheatre.org

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Vince Gill says he once had dreams of playing golf for a living.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 22, 2010
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