Mel Tillis

American country music legend Mel Tillis wrote around 1,000 songs and achieved success first as a songwriter with several 1950s and '60s hits recorded by other artists until he broke through as a singer in '69. His sturdy baritone voice and old-fashioned approach to lyrics and melodies combined with the comedy that he mined from a pronounced stutter when he spoke endeared him to audiences nationwide. Named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1976, he had 74 singles on the Billboard Country Song Chart including 36 top ten hits and six that went to number one. He had 40 releases on the Top Country Albums Chart and his novelty release 'You Ain't Gonna Believe This' went to number three on Billboard's Comedy Albums Chart in 2010. Born in Florida, Tillis learned to play guitar and drums as a child and as a teenager came first in a local talent show. After university, he served in the United States Air Force and formed a band named the Westerners while he was stationed in Japan. Back in the States he played guitar in comedy entertainer Millie Pearl's band and began writing songs. In 1957 country star Webb Pierce recorded his song 'I'm Tired' and he continued to supply Pierce with hits such as 'Honky Tonk Song' and 'Tupelo County Jail'. Many other artists recorded his songs including Ray Price, Brenda Lee, Bobby Bare, Tom Jones and Charley Pride. Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a hit with his song 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town' and Waylon Jennings had a hit with 'Mental Revenge'. He made his own entry into the charts in 1958 with the singles 'The Violet and a Rose' and 'Sawmill' and his '67 release 'Mr. Mel' went to number 20 on Billboard's Top Country Albums Chart. The album 'Let Me Talk to You' (1968) reached number 17 on the Country Albums Chart and his first big hit singles 'These Lonely Hands of Mine' and 'She'll Be Hanging Around Somewhere' came in '69. Throughout the '70s and into the '80s he had a string of hit singles including six that went to number one on the Hot Country Songs Chart: 'It Ain't Over' (1972), 'Good Woman Blues' (1976), 'Heart Healer' (1977), 'I Believe in You' (1978), 'Coca Cola Cowboy (1979) and 'Southern Rains' (1981). He made many appearances on American television such as 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour' and acted in several movies including 'W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings' (1975) starring Burt Reynolds, 'The Villain (1977) starring Kirk Douglas, 'Every Which Way But Loose' (1979) starring Clint Eastwood, and 'Smokey and the Bandit II' (1980) with Reynolds once again. His daughter Pam Tillis, a country music star in her own right, released a tribute album 'It's All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis' in 2002. Mel Tillis passed away in 2017 in Ocala, Florida, aged 85.

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