Mel Tillis

Induction Year: 1976


Birth Name: Lonnie Melvin Tillis
Birth Date: August 08, 1932
Place of Birth: Tampa, FL
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Biography

Country music legend, Mel Tillis, started performing in the early 1950’s with a group called The Westerners while serving as a baker in the United States Air Force, while stationed in Okinawa. In 1956, Webb Pierce recorded a song written by Mel entitled “I’m Tired”, and it launched Mel’s musical career.

Mel has been in the music/entertainment business now for 50 plus years. He and his band, the Statesiders, have worked concerts all over the 50 states, Canada, England, and other countries. He has appeared on such television shows as 20/20, The Tonight Show, The 700 Club, Prime Time Country, 60 Minutes, Crook & Chase, David Letterman, and he has served as host for Music City News Awards and Music City Tonight.

He has starred in several television movies as well including “Murder in Music City” and “A Country Christmas Carol.”

Mel has also been the spokesman for and done numerous commercials over his career for companies such as Badcock Furniture, Fina Oil Co., and Whataburger.

Mel has recorded more than 60 albums. He has had thirty-six Top Ten singles, with nine of them going to Number One - “Good Woman Blues,” “Coca Cola Cowboy,” and “Southern Rain” to mention a few.

One of Mel’s hobbies – painting – has turned into a charitable event. 1000 limited edition signed and numbered prints of his painting “Masonic America” are being sold with all profits going to the Scottish Rite Foundation which benefits speech and hearing clinics all over this great nation.

These are comments from Mel Tillis at his induction into the Hall of Fame: "Some sophisticated critics put down country lyrics as shallow, crudely written stuff for simple-minded rednecks. They say our songs are all about broken hearts, triangle love affairs, and homesick truckers. That's far from true. We have plenty of upbeat songs, happy ones, even funny ones. There are a lot more funny country songs than you'll find on pop and rock records. And we're not the least bit ashamed of writing about the hurt and loneliness as well as the joys of love, 'cause that's what's happening...I think the songs country writers create do something else that's important. Since we deal with the basic things of life, and aren't ashamed to do so, our audiences feel especially close to us. That's an honor for us. We're grateful that they think of us country writers and performers as flesh-and-blood men and women, just as they are. "

Former Occupations:
Baker
Cook
House painter
Strawberry picker
Railroad fireman
Truck driver
U.S. Air Force

Education:
High School--in Pahokee, Florida
College--University of Florida (Gainesville) 



Discography / Career Highlights

Career Milestones:

late 1940s--first radio performance on WIS in Columbia, SC
early 1950s--had a regular job on radio singing country music on the Armed Forces Far Eastern network radio station (in Okinawa during the Korean War)
1951--first professional gig at the Mayflower Hotel in Jacksonville, FL
1952--first songwriting attempt, "Honky-Tonk Song" (went to #1 in 1957 for Webb Pierce)
1956--came to Nashville for the first time
1957--moved to Nashville
1957--first cut, "I'm Tired," recorded by Webb Pierce
1957--signed recording contract with Columbia Records (first song recorded was "Honky-Tonk Song")
early 1960s--first television appearance on the "Mike Douglas Show" as a guest and on Porter Wagoner's weekly series as a regular.

Career Highlights:

1973-1978 - CMA Comedian of the Year 
1975 - actor in “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” with Burt Reynolds
1976--CMA\Entertainer of the Year
1978 - appeared in “Every Which Way But Loose” with Clint Eastwood
1980 - actor in “Smokey and the Bandits” with Burt Reynolds
1981 - actor in “The Cannonball Run” with Burt Reynolds
1984 - actor in “The Cannonball Run II” with Burt Reynolds
1985 - lead actor in “Uphill All the Way” with Roy Clark
1999 - BMI Songwriter of the Decade (for 2 decades)
2001 - named Golden Voice Entertainer, received Golden R.O.P.E. Songwriter Award, BMI Special Citation of Achievement 
2007 - inducted as a member of Grand Ole Opry, 
2007 - inducted as a member of Country Music Hall of Fame
2009 - ACM Pioneer Award
2012 - awarded 2011 American National Medal of the Arts


Catalog Highlights:

"Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" -Artists: Johnny Darrell (1967), Kenny Rogers 1969)

"Detroit City" - Artists: Bobby Bare (1963)

"Heart Over Mind" - Artists: Ray Price (1961), Mel Tillis (1970)

"Mental Revenge" - Artists: Waylon Jennings (1967), Mel Tillis (1976)

"All the Time" - Artists: Kitty Wells (1959), Jack Greene (1967)


Comments:

Was owner of Cedarwood, Sawgrass, and a number of other publishing companies until 1987

Wrote "Stutterin' Boy," his autobiography

Backup band was called The Statesiders

Appeared in the following feature films: "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings" (his first), "Smokey and the Bandit II," "Uphill All the Way," and "Murder in Music City"
 
Mel was the 1998 spokesman and honorary chairman for the Stuttering Foundation of America.

Mel was raised to a 33° Mason at the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C., in 1998.

On October 11, 1999, Mel was honored with the Grand Cross.

 

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