The grandchildren called my father's father "PaPa." PaPa was a singer, too. He was around during the time of the Chitlin' Circuit. The Chitlin' Circuit was a tour route that was only for black artists and it was only in the South. It was the only place that a black singer could get a gig. It was hard on the Chitlin' Circuit, because although it was designed for black singers, it was still the South and sometimes bad things happened to the musicians that were travelin' in the South. PaPa never got over that. He has a lot of anger and no trust for the music industry, so he wouldn't let his sons leave and try to earn a living as musicians. The older brothers rebelled and went anyway, but my father, the youngest, was not allowed to go. The Barrino Brothers consisted of my Uncle Perry, Uncle Jute, and Uncle Nate. They traveled all around the Carolinas singin' and makin' music. All of my grandfather's boys, including my young father, were so in love with music. I don't think my father ever got over not being able to sing with his brothers and his anger over that motivated him to make his own band and put me where I am today.
My earliest memory of music was when I was about five years old. My parents used to sing at weddings and they would take us along. Their big wedding song was Natalie Cole's "Inseparable." They used to sing it and it sounded so good to me. All kinds of feelings would wash over me when I heard them singin' that song. I would watch them and I could actually feel the love that song was tryin' to express. It made me think that being married was a great thing.
Rico and I would imitate them in the bathroom at home. We would imitate all the facial expressions and hand gestures. We would stand up on the toilet and make sure our facial expressions made us look like our parents. My brother used to practice putting his hand underneath my chin, just like my father used to do to my mother.
One day, my parents heard us imitating them and came to see our bathroom show. They were impressed, and the next time they sang at a wedding, my father introduced Rico and me as the "couple" who was going to perform "Inseparable." We were shocked that my father did that, but we had practiced it so much in the bathroom, we just knew we could do it. I remember walking to the microphone. I was nervous at first. Remember, I was just five. I looked over at Rico, and he smiled at me and made me feel better. The first note that I hit made the bathroom scene come to life for me and I was no longer nervous. The further along in the song we got, the more I could feel the audience's reaction.
People were amazed at how good we sounded. My father got so many compliments that he decided to put the family together and form a group. We were called the Barrino Family. We toured the Carolinas and other cities in the South, blessing church services, revivals, and concert halls with our sweet harmonies and moving lyrics. The Barrino Family was famous for the little five-year-old girl with a grown woman's voice. That was me – 'Tasia. People used to tell my parents they couldn't believe that such a big voice was comin' out of such a little girl! I sometimes think all of my mother's dreams for her musical career were rolled up into my big voice. A voice that was given to me by God.