Mel Tillis Celebrates 50 Years of Music


Mel Tillis on the red carpet on November 6, 2006, for "The 40th Annual CMA Awards" in Nashville.
Photo courtesy of the Country Music Association

January 2, 2007 — This year marks the golden anniversary of Mel Tillis' "I'm Tired," which hit big for Webb Pierce in 1957. When Mel was starting out, he worried that he'd never make it with his stutter, but in time it became part of his act.

"When I first went to Nashville, I couldn't talk at all," Tillis told Tom Netherland in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Minnie Pearl said, 'You are going to have to talk to your audiences. They won't laugh at you. They will laugh with you.' I've been running my mouth forever and still haven't talked myself out of it."

The stuttering turned out not to be an obstacle for Mel. Had he never notched a hit as a singer, he'd still be a legend for writing standbys for Charley Pride ("The Snakes Crawl at Night"), Faron Young ("Unmitigated Gall") and Pierce (many, including "I Ain't Never").

Highlights of Mel's career include being named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1976 and being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also acted in several films, including Smokey and the Bandit II, The Villain and Every Which Way but Loose.

Mel, now 74, plays mostly in Branson these days. He still records, loves to paint and fish and is finishing his first novel. He's come a long way since the day "I'm Tired" became a hit. "I was a fireman working on the railroad, the Atlantic Coastal Line," Mel said. "I got off that train in a hurry."