“A neighbour down the street had a lady friend named Kate/ turns out she was one of those you have to inflate.” - Leave It To Jesus - Kirsty Lee Akers-Trey Bruce.

Blow-up plastic dolls are rarely wanton weapons inflated to expand a country singer's career on radio or TV.

There are two major exceptions - Hunter Valley singer-songwriter Kirsty Lee Akers who recorded her blow-up doll tune in Nashville and Oklahoma born star Mel McDaniel who died at 68 in Nashville in 2011.

Let's put this all into a historical perspective.

It started 39 years ago when Mel released the late Kent Finlay's song Plastic Girl as a single from his 1977 debut album Gentle To Your Senses.

Many American radio networks banned the song but Australian stations diverse as 4KQ in Brisbane, 2KY in Sydney and 3CS in Colac played it on high rotation.

Sales soared after Queensland morals crusader and political candidate Vilma Ward - mother of three daughters - had the song banned by ABC radio.

Vilma complained to the Australian Broadcasting tribunal and 4KQ where the station's music director Ian Skippen responded by breaking the record on air on his breakfast show.

But Vilma, who earlier complained about Dr Hook song Girls Can Get It , was not convinced it was Plastic Girl that Skippen and fellow DJ and former 3UZ and Nu Country FM music director Rod Stone smashed on air.


“It could have been a Slim Dusty record, anything at all,” Vilma told me in an interview for the Sydney Daily Mirror.

“People have asked me if I'm a prude and stupid. I don't think we should have listen to things like: “she's my plastic girl, she'll never say no, she never gets a headache, she's always there when I want her.'”

But that wasn't all.

“I had six complaints from mothers who had heard it,” add Vilma.

“They were appalled their teenage daughters had to listen to this.”

The song's Texan writer Finlay ran the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos for almost 40 years from 1974 where he mentored young singer-songwriters diverse as Todd Snider and Bruce Robison.

Finlay died at 77 in March, 2015, and was honoured in a book and tribute CD Dreamer featuring James McMurtry, Jon Dee Graham, Slaid Cleaves, Terri Hendrix, Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay, Randy Rogers, Walt Wilkins Adam Carroll, Sunny Sweeney and Owen Temple

McDaniel, who died at 68 on March 31, 2011, was bemused by the song's Australian infamy when I interviewed him in Nashville in 1983.

“It was originally the hidden bonus track on the album,” Mel joked.

“But it obviously wasn't hidden in Australia.”

McDaniel, born in Checotah - same hometown where December tourist Carrie Underwood was raised after being born in Muskogee - enjoyed the song's rebirth when it boomeranged on his 13 th album Reloaded in 2006.

Kent and Mel may have gone to God but not Vilma, now 85, who attacked former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the Ten Network Wake-Up show over pension changes in 2014 after appearing in Kevin Rudd election flyers.

Vilma OAM and long-time ALP stalwart also ran for Lord Mayor of Brisbane after campaigning against sand mining on Stradbroke Island.


“We had it all, at least I thought we did/ until the love you hid came out in the pouring rain/ you had me fooled I would never have dreamed you could cheat on me/ until she took my place/ burn baby burn, this is the fire you started.” - Burn, Baby Burn - Kirsty Lee Akers-Trey Bruce.

It's not clear if Kirsty can entice Vilma for live back-up vocals on her new song Leave It To Jesus that also features a blow up plastic doll in its hilarious video.

The video has the same mock shock impact as She Left Me For Jesus by her 2012 Australian touring partner - Texan Hayes Carll.

Maybe Kirsty can entice Vilma from the buckle of her bucolic Bible belt to Kurri Kurri wineries to promote the song - one of the many highlights of her fourth album Burn, Baby Burn .

Akers, now 28, wrote Leave It To Jesus with Trey Bruce whose parents - Ed and Patsy Bruce - toured here in the late seventies after writing huge Waylon & Willie hit Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.

Ed recorded it on his self-titled 1976 album before Jennings and Nelson hit #1 for four weeks with their Grammy winning version in March 1978 from their duet album Waylon & Willie .

Nelson's solo version was featured in The Electric Horseman movie with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and was covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks as Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Chipmunks for their 1981 album Urban Chipmunk .

Arkansas born Ed, now 76, starred in TV series Bret Maverick with James Garner during the 1981-82 season and Fire Down Below with Steven Seagal.

Ed's 21 album career followed rockabilly hit Rock Bopping Baby at 17 for Sun Records as Edwin Bruce.

Other hits were The Last Cowboy Song, Girls, Women and Ladies, Evil Angel, When You Fall in Love Everything's a Waltz, You're the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had, Love's Found You and Me, You Turn Me On Like A Radio, My First Taste of Texas and You're Not Leaving Here Tonight.

Those Bruce genetics are indeed rich.

Akers wrote 100 songs during her five year hiatus after acclaimed third album Naked but trimmed it to 11 for this disc with producer Glen Hannah's input and advice from family and friends.

Trey and Kirsty penned six of her surviving 11 songs including the Trey produced joyous entrée song When I Miss You Most and Leave it To Jesus at Pocket Studio in Nashville.

“I've been writing with Trey since 2007,” Kirsty revealed, “and it is intimidating when you're writing with people and you think about some of the hits they've written for other artists but you've really gotta try and not think about that because if you go in there and you're really nervous and holding back then you're not going be able to write the best song you can.”

Burn, Baby Burn - a reality rooted cheating song also written with Bruce - is an apt title track, accompanied by a live video featured on Nu Country TV on June 11.

Akers recreated the heartbreak of a family member burned by an adulterous partner.

“I couldn't help but feel her pain when someone she had loved for 10 years had been unfaithful. I put myself in her shoes and thought about how I would feel if it was me,” Akers says of the scorned woman's grief and anger.

“This song is all about wanting the one who did you wrong to feel the same pain you feel.”

It's a sibling song of sorts of Another Other Woman that she penned with Bobby Huff - a writer for expatriate Australasian publisher Barry Coburn - and Jay Collie.


“When you're scared I'll hide you/ when you're lost I'll find you/ when you think you're walking through this world alone/ I'll be the hand for you to hold/ I will be the one that you can count on/ I will be the arms to catch you when you fall.” - I Will - Kirsty Lee Akers-Jerry Salley.

Kirsty also mined family and friends for song inspiration for the album with multi-instrumentalist Hannah who produced nine tracks at his Studiogoonga with bassist Matt Fell, pedal steel guitarist Michel Rose and background vocalists Glenn Cunningham and Lyn Bowtell.

The studio has also been recording home for many artists including Hannah's singing spouse Felicity.

Kirsty's parents' divorce inspired Take Me Back.

And husband Jesse Anderson, whom she wed at Pokolbin near the former CMC Rocks The Hunter festival site in the winery belt on April 4, 2014, was source of I Will.

“I never wrote a song about him before even though we've been together 11 years,” Akers, now 28, revealed of her tender love ballad about her husband whom she met two decades ago in kindergarten and dated from their high school era.

“I thought it was about time.”

Akers also explained their wedding date before the nuptials.

“Four is my lucky number and we've also been engaged for four years, so this seemed like the obvious date for us,” Akers said at the time.

Kirsty and Jesse split their time between Nashville where she writes and performs with diverse peers and their home in the Hunter Valley.

“Jesse has been with me through it all and he fits right in in Nashville,” Akers confessed.

“He's very down to earth and he doesn't like the spotlight, which is great for me because he keeps me grounded.

“I don't think I could be with another musician.”

Jesse has been at Akers side since she released her first EP at 16, debut album The Little Things in 2007 and became the only act to win the trifecta - Toyota Star Maker, Telstra Road to Discovery and a Golden Guitar .

When I Miss You Most , accompanied by a highly accessible video featuring Akers and male lead in car and motel scenes, topped Australian charts and the title track also scored community and ABC radio and Nu Country TV exposure.

Akers also collaborated with Jerry Salley - prolific bluegrass producer-writer and Australian visitor - for drinking song Wake Me Up When You're Sober that details a woman ravaged by her beau's drinking.

“I tend to write a lot more when I'm in Nashville,” Akers explained of her song sources.

“Nashville seems to be a really inspiring town and because there's so many songwriters over there, there's just so many people you can co-write with. I could write with someone different every day of the week for a year and you still wouldn't have come across half the songwriters over there.

“Sometimes I might actually hear somebody say something and think, ‘oh that's a good idea for a song.' And I write it down in my phone. I might not come back to it for another six months but when I do I tend to get a good song out of it. It's all different scenarios, I could write something about what I'm going through at the time or as I said earlier, it could just be totally made up.

Akers credits Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn for influencing her embryonic vocal delivery and style.

But she also draws on nouveau Texan torch bearers Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert and Tennessean Pistol Annies pal Ashley Monroe for inspiration.

The singer emulates Musgraves on her assertive rich princess parody Ain't That Kinda Girl .

Equally powerful are redemption requiem A Little Time In Hell and freedom anthem Drive Till The Wheels Fall Off.

Unlike some artists she prefers not to research co-writers before sessions.

So she collaborated with two relatively unknown writers - Grant Vogelfanger and Witt McKay of the duo One Arm Train - on Just Don't Call Me Baby .

“Most of the time, if I get hooked up with a songwriter, I try to not even research them,” Kirsty explained.

“I don't want to look up what songs they've written because you can get really nervous and anxious. So, I try not to think about that but then afterwards I think “that was so cool to write with them and to think that they wanted to write with me.”

Kirsty's album Burn Baby Burn is out now on Maven-Sony .

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