Mel Tillis

Though his off-stage persona hinged on a broadly comic presence that often poked good-natured fun at his trademark vocal stutter, Mel Tillis possessed serious talents as both a singer and songwriter in the country vein ... Read more »
Born: 08/07/1932 in Dover, Florida, USA

Filmography

Actor (45)

Beer for My Horses 2008 (Movie)

Bob the Plumber (Actor)

The 41st Annual CMA Awards 2007 - 2008 (TV Show)

Actor

Palo Pinto Gold 2007 (Movie)

Storyteller #2 (Actor)

CMA 40th: A Celebration 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Memories: Grand Ole Opry Stars of the Fifties 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Roger Miller Remembered 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

Riders Radio Theater: The Television Show 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

America's Music: The Roots of Country 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Ralph Emery: On the Record With Mel 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Music City News Country Songwriters Awards 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Opryland's Country Christmas 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

A Day in the Life of Country Music 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Remembering Patsy Cline 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Star Spangled Branson 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Another Evening With the Statler Brothers 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Country Music Legends 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

The World's Funniest Commercial Goofs 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Uphill All the Way 1986 (Movie)

Booger Skaggs (Actor)

The Dukes of Hazzard 1978 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

Cannonball Run II 1984 (Movie)

Mel (Actor)

Country Comes Home 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Fifty Years of Country Music 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

The Cannonball Run 1981 (Movie)

Mel (Actor)

The Dean Martin Christmas Special 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

The Stockers 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Skinflint 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)

Actor

Smokey and the Bandit II 1980 (Movie)

Fairground Owner (Actor)

Lucy Comes to Nashville 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Actor

The Villain 1979 (Movie)

Telegraph Agent (Actor)

Mel and Susan Together 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Actor

Country Music Hit Parade 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

Burt Reynolds' Late Show 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

W. W. and the Dixie Dancekings 1973 (Movie)

Gas Station Attendant (Actor)

The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour 1967 - 1972 (TV Show)

Actor

Bandit: Bandit Goes Country (TV Show)

Actor

Country Galaxy of Stars (TV Show)

Actor

Country Gold (TV Show)

Actor

Murder in Music City (TV Show)

Actor

The Real Patsy Kline (TV Show)

Actor
Music (17)

Dallas Buyers Club 2013 (Movie)

("Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town") (Song)

The Runway 2012 (Movie)

("Bop‐A‐Lena") (Song)

Beer for My Horses 2008 (Movie)

("Burning Memories") (Song Performer)

Beer for My Horses 2008 (Movie)

("Burning Memories") (Song)

Expired 2008 (Movie)

("Emotions") (Song)

An Everlasting Piece 2000 (Movie)

("Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town") (Song)

Viva Las Nowhere 2000 (Movie)

(Song Performer)

A Life Less Ordinary 1997 (Movie)

("Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town") (Song)

Grosse Pointe Blank 1997 (Movie)

("Detroit City") (Song)

The Beverly Hillbillies 1993 (Movie)

("I Ain't Never") (Song)

Pure Country 1992 (Movie)

("Thoughts of a Fool") (Song)

Hamburger Hill 1987 (Movie)

("Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town") (Song)

Tough Guys Don't Dance 1987 (Movie)

("You'll Come Back (You Always Do)") (Song Performer)

Fort Apache, the Bronx 1981 (Movie)

("Steppin' Out") (Song Performer)

Smokey and the Bandit II 1980 (Movie)

("Here's Lookin' at You") (Song Performer)

The Villain 1979 (Movie)

(Song Performer)

Every Which Way But Loose 1978 (Movie)

("Send Me Down to Tucson") (Song Performer)
Producer (1)

Uphill All the Way 1986 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Biography

Though his off-stage persona hinged on a broadly comic presence that often poked good-natured fun at his trademark vocal stutter, Mel Tillis possessed serious talents as both a singer and songwriter in the country vein, racking up six No. 1 singles and a slew of Top 10 hits over the course of a five-decade career. He found initial success in the late 1950s, penning songs for country stars like Webb Pierce and Ray Price before launching his own recording career. But it would be another decade before he would strike gold with his own music, beginning in 1972 with the chart-topping "I Ain't Never." More hits, including "Neon Rose" and "Heart Healer," helped to make Tillis one of the most popular country performers of the 1970s, a status that parlayed into a modest acting career in features and television. Though his singing career waned in the late 1980s, Tillis retained his golden touch as a songwriter and concert attraction well into the new millennium. His induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and receipt of the National Medal of the Arts underscored his status as one of country music's most accomplished talents.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Dover, FL on Aug. 8, 1932, Mel Tillis reportedly developed his famous stutter as a result of a bout with malaria at the age of three. He soon became a quick study on guitar and drums, and by his teenaged years, was claiming top prizes at talent shows. After graduating from high school, Tillis joined the Air Force, where he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. There, he fronted a country group called the Westerners, which played local clubs. Following his discharge in 1955, Tillis attended the University of Florida before heading to Nashville, TN to try his hand as a songwriter and performer. He found little success in either field and soon returned to Florida shortly before Webb Pierce garnered a Top 5 hit with his song "I'm Tired," which earned him a contract with Pierce's Cedarwood Publishing in 1957. Tillis landed his first Top 40 single the following year with "The Violet and a Rose," which later became a hit for Wanda Jackson.

Tillis continued to have greater success as a songwriter than as a performer during the 1960s. Among the artists who yielded hit material with Tillis' songs were Bobby Bare, who won a Grammy for his Top 20 rendition of "Detroit City," which was also recorded by Dean Martin and Tom Jones. Tillis himself would record his first LP, Heart Over Mind, in 1962, before finally generating a Top 20 hit with "Wine" in 1965. For the next four years, Tillis enjoyed a string of hits, including two Top 10 singles with "These Lonely Hands of Mine" and "She'll Be Hanging around Somewhere," and a pair of Top 5 singles, including "Heaven Everyday," in 1970. His status as one of Nashville's top songwriters also continued during this period, with such acts as Waylon Jennings and Kenny Rogers taking Tillis' songs to the upper reaches of the country charts. His first No. 1 single came in 1972 with "I Ain't Never," which had been a hit previously for Webb Pierce. A slew of Top 5 singles soon followed, including "Neon Rose" and "Midnight, Me and the Blues." By 1976, he had scored two more No. 1 hits with "Good Woman Blues" and "Heart Healer," which preceded his win for Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music awards.

Tillis also began contributing bit parts to features like "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings" (1976), "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980) and "The Cannonball Run" (1981), most of which played heavily on his stutter for laughs. He continued to net Top 10 hits during the early 1980s, though the chart successes grew fewer and far between. His last No. 1 came in 1981 with "Southern Rains," after which he would release two more Top 10 hits before his career as a singer largely wound down. By this point, he had become extremely wealthy through a series of shrewd investments in music publishing companies and radio stations. His talent for writing a hit song never lost its luster, as evidenced by No. 1 hits for Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis with "Honey (Open That Door") and "Diggin' Up Bones," respectively. Tillis also remained a popular concert draw, playing dates around the country as well as at his own theater in the country entertainment hub of Branson, MO.

By this point, his daughter, Pam Tillis, had followed in his footsteps to forge her own successful country music career. In 1998, Tillis joined fellow veteran country performers Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed and Bobby Bare to form the Old Dogs, which recorded a double album of Shel Silverstein songs for Atlantic Records that same year. Tillis' long and storied career received its proper tributes in 2007 with his induction into the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame. Three years later, the 78-year-old released his first comedy album, You Ain't Gonna Believe This (2010) before joining Al Pacino, Will Barnet and Andre Watts as the 2011 recipients of the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

By Paul Gaita

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