Country star Barbara Fairchild visits ‘The Smoky Mountain Gospel Jubilee’

Aug. 08, 2014 @ 11:47 PM

Barbara Fairchild’s smash 1973 hit “The Teddy Bear Song” is a gem of a country tune – gentle, funny, sad and, when you think about, kind of unsettling.

“I wish I was a teddy bear,” the lyrics go. Why? Because teddy bears are inanimate objects that don’t have to deal with painful emotions.

“If you really listen to the words, Don was really going through a heartbreak,” said Fairchild, referring to Don Earl, who wrote the song with Nick Nixon.

“He started writing that song because of how he felt. He wished he was like a teddy bear, because then he wouldn’t feel anything.”

Fairchild said she will sing “The Teddy Bear Song” when she performs on “The Smoky Mountain Gospel Jubilee” this Monday, Aug. 11.

“I’ll also do some wonderful gospel music,” she said. “I really love the Lord, so I love every chance I get to sing about him.”

The show, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is broadcast live on Praise 96.3/WJBZ from Ogle Furniture Outlet, 1063 Dolly Parton Parkway. Admission is free.

Fairchild had a number one hit with “The Teddy Bear Song,” and it was nominated for a Grammy. It was her only chart-topper.

In the wake of the song’s success, “I got busier and made more money,” she said. “I never became a millionaire, but the road dates paid better.”

She followed “The Teddy Bear Song” with a string of successful hits, including “Kid Stuff,” “Baby Doll” and “Cheatin’ Is.”

“I wanted to be a singer all my life,” said Fairchild, who got her break singing on local television as a high school student in St. Louis.

Her father, who supported her career, drove her to Nashville. “We went to meetings, and nothing came of it,” Fairchild said.

“One guy said, ‘You’re a cute little girl, and you sing good. But we’re not really looking for a cute little girl who sings good.’”

One day Fairchild bumped into her future producer, Jerry Crutchfield, while cutting across a record label’s parking lot. He eventually signed Fairchild and her collaborator, Ruby VanNoy, as songwriters.

Fairchild recorded “The Teddy Bear Song” after a series of modest chart successes as a singer.

“The Jordanaires were on that session,” Fairchild recalled, naming the legendary Nashville vocal group. “This song just really felt special, and they said it too.”

On the strength of “The Teddy Bear Song,” Fairchild developed Teddy Bearchild, a plush animal and accompanying book whose sales, she said, raise money for children with autism.

Fairchild released country singles into the 1980s, and in the early 1990s she joined the gospel group Heirloom. She and country stars Connie Smith and Sharon White released the 2003 gospel album “Love Never Fails.”

In 1992, Fairchild moved to Branson, Mo., where for a time she performed in Mel Tillis’ production. Currently she and Roy Morris, her husband of nearly 20 years, present weekday shows in Branson’s Golden Corral Showroom.

Morris also will perform in “The Smoky Mountain Gospel Jubilee.”

“Our life really is about ministry,” said Fairchild. “Even the country side of what we do. We look for any way we can to share God’s love.”

kburns@themountainpress.com