Songcraft: Conversations with Great Songwriters Podcast

Mel Tillis


Ep. 76 - Mel Tillis

Heart Over Mind: The Two-Time Country Writer of the Decade

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WARNING: explicit content

The songwriting legend reveals how learning to laugh at his stutter was his ticket to show business; how the first song he ever wrote became a #1 hit; what it was like to spend two months touring in a station wagon with Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee; how a confrontation with a hotel manager inspired a major hit; the time he got so nervous he showed up for a TV performance with no strings on his guitar; and the surprising song he would choose to be the only one to represent his work in a time capsule.

As an artist, Mel Tillis scored 36 Top 10 country hits between 1968 and 1984, including six #1s. But Tillis was writing hit songs long before he found success as an artist. As a songwriter he hit the Top 20 an astounding 49 times, most often as the creator behind songs made famous by iconic artists such as Carl Smith, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Brenda Lee, Faron Young, Ricky Skaggs, and many others. His long list of songwriting successes includes "Burning Memories" and "Heart Over Mind" by Ray Price, "Detroit City" by Bobby Bare, "Honky Tonk Song" and "I Ain't Never" by Webb Pierce, "Mental Revenge" by Waylon Jennings, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and Mel's own recording of "Sawmill."

He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, the same year he was named the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year. He was named Comedian of the Year by the CMA six different times in the 1970s. In 1999 BMI named him the Country Songwriter of the Decade - for two decades! He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and became an official member of The Grand Ole Opry that same year. In 2012 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama for his contributions to country music.

      

Songcraft's Mel Tillis Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy a selection of Mel's great songs. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.