Tim Atwood is not only an extremely talented musician and vocalist but also an entertainer in the truest sense of the word, with a nonstop sense of humor that made our interview in itself not only informative but fun. I don't know of another Country artist that can claim a staggering 8,500+ Grand Ole Opry performances to their credit who successfully transitioned from the spotlight's fringe playing piano to the center stage where he performs his high energy stage show to audiences all over the world.
Tim Atwood who hails from East Peoria, Illinois believes music is just in his DNA and spirit, being a wonderful gift from God. He recalls that as a young tot sitting in the driveway of his home banging on upside down garbage cans, using the lids as his cymbals to emulate drums prior to his parents finally buying him a drum set. Tim learned to tune the strings on his plastic guitar six strings at the age of seven by ear watching his father tune his own guitar. His grandmother Atwood was the piano player in the family.
Tim described his father as a weekend warrior who played music on the weekends with a band.
Raised in this music loving household Tim's path was sealed when he watched his uncle, Tommy Atwood, sing Tenor as a member of the Florida Boys Quartet. This as well as his family's love of God contributed to Tim's passion for Gospel music. When Tim began to understand that his uncle Tommy, a member of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, actually made a living by playing and performing music, Tim was hooked and knew that music and entertainment was to be his life's work.
While in high school Atwood played music in a band, starting out as the bass player and ending up the piano player after the band's original piano player made the mistake of showing Atwood how to play Floyd Cramer style. As Atwood continued to teach himself more on the piano on his own, he has never taken music lessons, he was eventually replaced when his first mentor on the piano in left the band, and thus begins the story of Tim Atwood and the piano. When he got older he started started playing out in nightclubs as well.
Continuing the family tradition, his professional music career also started playing Gospel music and at the age of thirteen, playing with The Harris Family. In 1976 at 20 years of age, Atwood decided to risk it all and move to Nashville, with no prospects of a job only his musical talent to be relied upon. “I always had the dream of going to Nashville, playing in recording sessions and being on TV. I took a big leap of faith,” Atwood said. “I really didn’t have a job to go to but got a job two weeks after I got to Nashville,” Atwood continued.
Almost immediately Tim began touring with Country legends Mel Street, Lynn Anderson and Jim Ed Brown, before settling in at the Grand Ole Opry, where he racked up over 8,500 Grand Ole Opry performances to his credit. The Opry allowed him to play music styles and for numerous Country music artists and stars over the years, everybody from Taylor Swift, Roy Acuff, to Porter Wagoner and Vince Gill just to name a very few. Atwood's dream as a kid in Peoria came true and he wa making a living doing what he wanted, Country music. “Then I decided one day I wanted to be in the spotlight,” Atwood explained.
With his sense of humour in full display, he comically relayed that “For thirty-eight years I played piano in the Grand Ole Opry staff band. I got tired of looking at everybody’s backsides, so I decided to change my view. I’ve transitioned from the spotlight’s fringe to center stage. Time for others to look at my backside for a while”.
In 2018, Atwood released his solo album, 'Livin’ the Dream', and was inducted into the Academy of Local Musicians Hall of Fame. With his first hit single “Let’s All Go Down To The River,” which earned him a top five spot in the national music charts, Tim experienced a career highlight when he returned to the Grand Ole Opry at the front of the stage, as an artist. “From all those years backing Country music’s elite on the Opry stage to walking on the Opry stage as an entertainer myself, felt wonderfully strange. Yet it felt so right,” Tim remembered, “I was back home.”
'Livin’ The Dream' reflects Tim’s love for Traditional Country music combined with his ability to update the classics to make them his own. His debut single, the patriotic anthem 'I’ll Stand Up And Say So,' continues to be a crowd pleaser and has been used widely during the many patriotic events recognizing those who have served.
Atwood has a special appreciation for the military. “I believe in those veterans and those who serve in the service now. If it weren’t for them, who knows where we’d be? I really appreciate their service, and have a great respect for all of the military," Atwood confirmed. Atwood’s son, Torre, served two tours of duty in Iraq in the U.S. Army 3-69 Armor Battalion, Third Infantry Division leaving the Army with the rank of Sergeant. Atwood said his son was injured in April 2007 suffering hearing damage as a result of an attack on his tank. Torre was riding in a small tank which hit an IED knocking out him and another passenger in the tank. Torre woke up and realized what was going on and grabbed his friend that was still unconscious from the impact pulling him out of the tank. The friend came to and they both ran from the tank and after they got about 500 yards from the tank the enemy hit the tank with an RPG and blew it up. Torre Atwood spent 6 weeks recovering at a hospital in Germany before returning back to the states. Torre Atwood received a Purple Heart in August of 2007 and suffers from permanent hearing loss as a result of his injuries.
“I am very proud of him,” Tim Atwood gushed. “And they always say when you have someone in the service, the whole family serves. I probably aged 20 years in the five years Torre was in the service. That was one of the scariest times of our lives. ” Atwood continued. Torre, is now a nurse in the Atlanta area working as a salesperson for emergency room equipment, while his other son has followed in his father's footsteps and is a profesional drummer.
Atwood is also a songwriter. A friend of his Country music star Jeannie Seely listened to one of his songs 'That’s How I Roll' on his first CD 'Livin the Dream' and decided to make it a cut on her new album. According to Atwood, the song was recorded in the studio featuring Seely and Lorrie Morgan with Vince Gill on guitar and has now been released. “I probably wrote that song in 15 minutes,” Atwood said. “It’s the first song I have written recorded by Jeannie Seely.” Tim's wife Roxanne has also co-written with Tim as well.
A member of the ALM Musicians' Hall of Fame, Tim has received two prestigious recognitions from the Reunion of Professional Entertainers for Entertainer of the Year. His album 'Livin' The Dream' was nominated by the AWA for Pure Country Album of the Year and the Genuine Country Music Association recently bestowed upon him their Fan Favorite Award.
National television audiences enjoyed Tim's appearances on the Hallmark Channel's Home & Family show, as a featured artist on Huckabee, a regular guest on Larry's Country Diner and the Daily & Vincent show, an artist on the Country Family Reunion series, and a fun romp on Today in Nashville. Tim's other TV credits include Another Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, Opry Live, Opry Backstage, Nashville Now, Hee Haw, Church Street Station, Country On The Gulf, Pop Goes The Country, Country Connection, and features on CBS, NBC and FOX National News. Tim also served twelve times as music director for the Inspirational Country Music Awards.
Atwood has also been acknowledged in the United States Congressional Record for his many accomplishments in the music industry, as both a studio musician and as performer who became an integral part of Country music heritage with his performances on the Grand Ole Opry, Hee Haw, Nashville Now, Opry Live and Nashville on the Road. Marion Virginia presented Tim with a key to their city, and Peoria, Illinois honored him with a Tim Atwood Day. Tim also became a member of the iconic Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia.
While he enjoys performing his own shows and recording his own projects, Tim continues to be a sought after studio musician in Nashville. Tim can be heard on recordings by George Jones, Dolly Parton, Junior Brown, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jeannie Seely, TG Sheppard, Bobby Bare, Mandy Barnett and many other Country greats. Being able to create America's soundtrack is one of Tim's favorite adventures in the music business.
When asked about one of his funniest occurrences on the road, Tim related a story from back when he was in Jim Ed Brown's band in the late 1970's, taping the television show Nashville on The Road in Estes Park, Colorado. The bus was pulled over at Great Bear Lake to stretch legs and Tim, being in his own words "young and fearless" decided that since the lake was called Great Bear Lake, he would bare it all. Hopping up on a rock, Atwood turned his back to his friends and “mooned” them. On this particular trip, however, they were allowed to take their wives, and his wife had a camera with her, and snapped a picture of Atwood's rear end shining in all its glory. Although you couldn't see his face, he had forgotten that he was wearing his tour jacket, so right above his hiney in bold letters in the picture it reads: THE JIM ED BROWN SHOW.
Tim thought it was hysterical until somehow Opry star Jeannie Seely heard about the picture and talked his wife out of that picture. Jeannie then framed that photo and placed it in her bathroom where Tim Atwood's butt literally remained on Jeannie's wall for the next 30 years. Although Jeannie's home suffered horrific damage in the 2010 Nashville flood, the picture of Tim Atwood's behind remained unscathed. Fortunately Jeannie's husband Gene confided that, while he liked Tim, he did not enjoy looking at his rear end every morning and Jeannie now keeps that framed photo in a trunk in her attic, which Tim greatly appreciates.
One of the other humorous and precious memories in Tim Atwood's life is his mother's telephone calls to him on his birthday to sing Happy Birthday to him. Tim still giggles when he recalls the horrible version of Happy Birthday that his mother always sang saying "I didn't know you could sing any song in so many keys at once."
On the personal side, Tim was married to Diana Atwood for 20 years before she passed away. The marriage produced two sons. When his wife died in 2000 at 49 years of age, Tim took time from his career to parent his two sons who were 16 and 17 at that time. Atwood is the first to admit that it was a very difficult time in his life and he turned to alcohol to soothe his wounded heart. Miraculously, Tim had an encounter with the Lord and the pure love and peace of his Saviour pouring into him replaced his need for alcohol or as Tim states "God shut that switch off". Tim credits the Lord for saving him from wallowing and living life in the dark place of addiction explaining it with his usual humor that he was advised that "I had to let God drive the bus."
Enter his manager and present wife and better half, Roxanne Atwood whom he married in 2003. Tim had known Roxanne as a friend for many years. Roxanne, keeps Tim’s show booked, his studio time and album recordings arranged and so much more of his life in line. Atwood says of his wife, that he has never seen her fail and lists her successes include writing and producing, being a TV personality on the Nashville Network, working with Bill Anderson on “Visits with the Legends” on XM Radio, being Floor Director for television programs and writing books. And Atwood laughingly adds that in her spare time she schedules all his events and keeps him working.. Tim gave credit again to the Lord saying "God just keeps sending me Angels."
Tim is a stylist who feels every song he sings, and in turn, the audience feels it too. Atwood has his audiences laughing at one of his many road stories, delivering them with as Jeannie Seely described, "A quick wit and Country boy charm. Then he’ll fire that audience up like only he can, bopping his head and raking his foot across those keys, the audience clapping their hands and singing along, and just like that, he belts out a poignant ballad that puts a lump in their throats and a tear in their eyes. Tim Atwood is an entertainer."
If you’ve not ever had the opportunity to see Tim Atwood in concert you most definitely need to check out TimAtwood.com and purchase some of his great music. His music includes phenomenal albums titled, 'Livin’ the Dream', 'That Old Time Religion” which is a Gospel album of pure joy, his most recent 'Buy this Piano a Drink' and a single titled 'I’ll Stand Up and Say So'. Stay tuned for Tim Atwood's new CD release on October 16th (which happens to be his late mother's birthday) , with Tim's musical talents in full display for an amazing listening experience for Country music lovers.
Being able to create great music for others is Tim Atwood's passion. Tim believes the only way he can describe his multitude of musical talents is that they are his gift from God, as his life and the many blessings the Lord has provided him has also been.
By Deborah Gibson