Regina Regina Biography
Last updated: 01/26/2010 11:00:00 AM
Combine a story Hollywood couldn't dream up with a sound Nashville could only dream of: That is Regina Regina.
With their self-titled Giant Records debut album, Regina Regina is poised to set the world on its country ear with their distinctive Texas-meets-North Carolina harmonies. The project was produced by Giant Records President James Stroud and noted songwriter Wally Wilson.
With a name like Regina Regina, it's unclear who gets top billing. But that's okay with Regina Nicks and Regina Leigh. The vocal duties are equally shared, and this is definitely a case where both members of the team pull their own musical weight.
Regina Regina evolved out of a close friendship which began when both were working for one of Nashville's major employers - Reba McEntire. Leigh, the blonde, spent nearly three years on the road as one of McEntire's background vocalists. Nicks, the brunette, served almost six years at Starstruck Entertainment as personal assistant to McEntire and her husband-manager Narvel Blackstock.
Nicks was born in Houston, but grew up on a farm near Lufkin, Texas where she sang in church choirs, youth groups, a show choir at Angelina Junior College and, eventually, nightclubs throughout East Texas. "These were real honky-tonks," she laughs, her voice still proudly carrying a delightful Texas twang. "I'm serious."
A month after her 1990 move to Nashville, Nicks landed a secretarial job at Starstruck. She worked for Reba's fan club, filling orders and answering phones. Soon, she became the personal assistant to McEntire and Blackstock. "I know you're not supposed to have idols, but she was my idol," Nicks says of her former boss. "When she'd play concerts in Texas, I'd wait in long lines behind the coliseum while she'd stand beside her bus to sign autographs."
While working at Starstruck, Nicks told very few that she was a singer. She was too busy trying to support her family. Within a year, her marriage fell apart. Her husband moved back to Texas, and Nicks remained in Nashville with son Wesley.
"After that, there was no pursuing a musical career," she explains. "Wesley was my life and my number one priority. And I was very happy. I was happy with my job. Everybody I worked with was like family. I loved Nashville."
After Nicks was heard singing to herself in the hallway at Starstruck, she was encouraged to meet producer Wally Wilson, then an executive at Sony Tree Publishing. It was there in March 1995 that Regina Nicks met Regina Leigh - again.
"I knew her, but I had no idea she sang," Leigh says. "I would talk to her on the phone all the time at Reba's office. We even lived in the same apartment complex. She would keep my dog for me when I was on the road. It was just really strange. When she walked in the room, we just hugged and Wally said, 'Do you know each other?... After one song, "Amazing Grace," both Reginas knew they wanted to sing together.
Of course, Nicks, and most of Nashville, were aware that Regina Leigh was among Music Row's most respected singers.
Leigh, a Marshville, North Carolina native, was three when a routine drive with her mother provided an indication of the future. "I was standing up in the car seat with my mama," Leigh remembers. "'Delta Dawn' came on the radio and I just started singing. Mama couldn't believe I knew that song and that I was listening that closely. Of course, I'm sure I didn't have all the words right!"
Leigh, too, sang in church, and was singing in a country band at the age of 13. "My first gig was at Mineral Springs Music Barn," she recalls with a smile. "I made $17 that night." The band began playing at area festivals. That same year she made her first record, "Has The World Gone Crazy," for Lamon Records, a label owned by a regional country act, the Moody Brothers.
Beginning at 14, she had a dance studio, where she taught clogging lessons for the next 11 years. At 15, she was singing in nightclubs and traveled to Nashville to be backed by Kenny Rogers' band on "I Never Liked Waltzes 'Til Now," a single released on the independent Roundhouse Records, which charted nationally.
The logistics of Leigh's parents' transportation arrangements during her school years were complicated by her multiple activities. "I'd teach clogging, then we'd leave to go to the club to sing, and then I'd go to school during the day," she says. "There was one club in Charlotte, The Palomino, where we'd play six nights a week once every six weeks. I'd get home at 2:30 in the morning and then get up at 7:00 to go to school," she says. "I went to school during the week, but every Friday and Saturday I was playing in a nightclub. My parents went with me all the time. "
While still living in North Carolina, Leigh won a developmental deal with a major Nashville label, but nothing was released. However, industry veteran Bobby Roberts, who now manages Regina Regina, was impressed enough with Leigh's work, to recommend her for a job singing with the national country act, Dave & Sugar. After five years in the trio, she left to spend almost three years as one of Reba's background vocalists.
Not only was Leigh a devoted Reba fan, she'd sung many of McEntire's songs in countless clubs in North Carolina. "I already knew the lyrics," she says. "I just had to learn when to sing and when not to." Nicks pipes in, "She was used to taking the lead all the time!" These days, Leigh and Nicks are sharing vocal duties in Regina Regina.
"I had never even sung with another person," Nicks admits. "I was always doing the solo thing, but it all seemed very natural that we could do this. Everybody else was amazed that our voices blended so well."
Leigh continues, "Our vibratos are so much the same. Usually, you can't find two singers whose vibratos don't fight each other. With ours, it's like magic. We can look at each other and she knows what I'm going to do - or I know what she's going to do."
Whether it's individually or in harmony, the voices project an undeniable honesty. Both Reginas agree that it may have to do with the personal chemistry between them.
"There was a friendship in place before we decided to sing together," Leigh says. "That wasn't the part we had to develop. There are just so many things that have fallen into place. We're total opposites, but we're just alike in so many other ways. This is the real thing."
"There are so many connections that are strange," Nicks adds. "It's just meant to be."
Partners aside, Leigh is married to songwriter Tony King, formerly of Matthews, Wright and King. They reside in Nashville with Maltese puppy Jasmine. While awaiting the album's release, Leigh worked as a background vocalist on TNN: The Nashville Network's "Prime Time Country."
Nicks is beginning her first year of marriage to Nashville native U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeff Nicks, a fighter pilot now serving as a flight instructor. The couple lives in Mississippi with now nine year-old Wesley.