I still look like Vince Gill
“My whole life,” I said to Vince Gill, 20-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Famer, “my family and friends have told me that I kind of resemble you. A little bit.”
More than a little bit, actually. Even strangers have been saying I look like Gill since my early teens. We have the same cheeks, the same eyes, the same nose, the same unruly brown fluff atop our heads. We're even the same height and build. Standing two feet from him Friday morning at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Lutz, I thought: Man, those guys weren’t lying.
I half expected Gill to walk away. It was not yet 7 a.m., and he was due to tee off in less than 20 minutes. For all he knew, I was carrying a dog-eared copy of Catcher in the Rye in my back pocket.
But there’s a reason Gill has a reputation as one of the nicest guys in Nashville. Instead of waving for security, he grinned.
“Oh yeah. I can see that. We got happy cheeks.”
“You see that? We could be uncle and nephew, sort of.”
“Sure,” he laughed. “I’ll be your uncle.”
Validation. Surreal, unlikely validation. For years I’ve known there was a legendary country singer who looked like me. Now Gill knows there’s a journalist in Tampa who looks like him.
Gill, of course, is one of Nashville’s all-timers, a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year and world-class guitarist with more than 20 Top 10 singles, including I Still Believe In You and One More Last Chance.
But he’s also one of the most avid celebrity golfers around. His annual Vince Gill Pro-Celebrity Invitational, founded in 1993, raises money for the Tennessee Golf Foundation. And for years he’s been a regular at the Outback Pro-Am, taking place this weekend at TPC of Tampa Bay.
Before his 7:15 a.m. tee time, we found a few minutes to talk about music, golf … and, of course, our mutual debonair looks.
This is pretty early. Do you prefer to get out there early when you play?
No. As a musician, you don’t realize there’s two 7 o’clocks. It’s way too early.
You never seem to miss an opportunity to play, though. You’re in the middle of touring right now, and you’re getting back on the road in a few days. Why make the trip down here for a tournament?
This is as good and as fun as it can possibly get. I’ve played golf since I was a little boy, and to get to walk down here and realize you’re standing next to Tommy Kite or Tom Watson, some of my heroes when I was a kid – it’s pretty fantasy-like. It’s not unlike getting to play with Chet Atkins. When you’re hanging out with the best of the best, it’s pretty amazing.
Are there golfers on the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour that you’re friendly with?
Yeah, I’ve known most of these guys for a long time. I’ve hosted my own tournament for nearly 20 years and have always had touring professionals at it. There’s a really neat chemistry between golfers and musicians, I think. A lot of them like playing and singing as much as I like golfing.
Do any of these guys ever get to come up onstage with you in concert?
Occasionally. I like to get them up there and make them sweat a little bit, like they make me sweat.
I’ve heard John Daly sing. I don’t know...
Well, the important thing is that in life, it’s a matter of how much you love it, not how good you are at it.
All of those guys are guitar gods, mostly in the rock field. I’m generally the token country guy. But you just sit there and you can’t believe the greatness after greatness after greatness of these guys. It’s like sitting here watching great golfer after great golfer hit balls. Did I think, when I was a little kid learning to play Sunshine Of Your Love in my room, that someday I’d stand up onstage and play it with Eric (Clapton)? No. Same thing when I was watching these guys. Did I think I could come up here and hit balls with them, play a round of golf with them? No. But life did that.
You’ve been in the music business a long time. In the past 30 years or so, how have you seen Nashville change?
I think every generation can look at the generation that comes after them and think, “Well, we didn’t quite have it like that. We didn’t have it that good. We had to do it a little harder.” Each one is different. It’s not really fair to compare. I love anybody that’s got talent, and anybody that wants to do this. And the only way for it to evolve is for the next generation to come along and do what you’ve taught them.
You got your start in a band. I feel like I’m seeing a lot more country bands hit big now – Love and Theft, Lady Antebellum, Gloriana, Zac Brown Band.
Yeah, it’s true. It goes in waves. I’m sure you could make the same case in the year of Alabama and Restless Heart and Shenandoah. It’s funny. You can find periods of time when all of these things worked. You can make the same case for people from Oklahoma, when it was Reba and Garth and me and Ronnie Dunn. I think they’re out there looking for any people that are gifted, who can sing and play.
Speaking of Oklahoma, are you a Sooners fan? Sam Bradford is probably going to be the top pick next week (in the NFL Draft). Give me your scouting report on Sam Bradford.
(laughs) He’ll be like Peyton Manning, man. He’s good. Really good.
There’s a video online, I don’t know if you’ve seen it – A Coach Who Looks Like Vince Gill? About Mike Leach?
Yeah, I’ve seen it. It’s hysterical.
Do you think you look like Mike Leach?
A little bit. At times. I gotta put on a little weight.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*