Portrait by Ronald McDowell

Billy Sherrill

(Nov. 5, 1936- )
1995 Inductee (Lifework Award) Alabama Music Hall of Fame

As one of Music City’s most innovative and influential producers, Phil Campbell native Billy Sherrill pioneered the lush, layered “countrypolitan” sound that brought Nashville’s country music industry into the mainstream of popular culture.

Growing up in Franklin County, Sherrill played piano during evangelical tent-meeting revivals preached by his evangelical father.  After learning to play saxophone, he teamed up with fellow musician and songwriter Rick Hall to form a rock ’n’ roll and rhythm-and-blues band called The Fairlanes. Sherrill and Hall co-wrote “Sweet and Innocent” for Roy Orbison before moving to the Muscle Shoals area to form a publishing partnership – Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) – with music enthusiast Tom Stafford above the City Drug Store in downtown Florence.

Sherrill relocated to Nashville in 1960, when he accepted an offer to serve as in-house engineer at the new studio owned by Florence native Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records.  He went to work a producer for the Epic Records label in 1963. With a background in pop, rock and R&B rather than country, Sherrill became known as the “Toscanini of Twang” as he added more of a modern, sophisticated musical sensibility to the co-called “Nashville Sound.”  Eventually his unconventional country production techniques would include lavish string sections and background vocals.  As his success and stature soared, Sherrill often wrote or co-wrote songs for his artists that would suit his particular style of studio production.

For Epic, Sherrill produced David Houston’s Grammy Award-winning No. 1 smash “Almost Persuaded” (which he co-wrote with Glenn Sutton) before signing a fellow Alabama native, former waitress and hairdresser Tammy Wynette.  Sherrill produced and co-wrote Wynette’s classic hits “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” and “I Don’t Wanna Play House” before teaming Houston and Wynette for the smash duet “My Elusive Dreams” (co-written by Sherrill and fellow Alabamian Curly Putman).  He also produced Wynette’s signature tunes, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “Stand By Your Man” (which he also co-wrote).

Sherrill later signed Barbara Mandrell, George Jones and former Sun artist Charlie Rich to Epic, producing Mandrell’s first Top 40 single, “Playin’ Around With Love,” Jones’ “The Grand Tour,” “A Picture of Me (Without You)” and “The Door” and the two breakthrough hits that would finally establish Rich as a star, “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl” (which Sherrill co-wrote).  He also teamed real-life husband-and-wife Jones and Wynette for a series of chart-topping duets – “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “We Loved It Away,” “Golden Ring,” “Southern California,” “Near You” and “Two-Story House” – that reflected the topsy-turvy nature of the singing duo’s marriage during the early to mid-1970s.

Sherrill also produced and co-wrote hits for Tanya Tucker, Joe Stampley, Johnny Paycheck, Marty Robbins, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Cash, Moe Bandy, Johnny Rodriguez, Janie Fricke, David Allan Coe, Bob Luman and Kenny Rogers and Dottie West.  In the early 1980s, he reunited with Jones for the comeback hits “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “I’m Not Ready Yet,” “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” and “Same Ole Me.”  He also produced Elvis Costello’s 1981 Nashville album, “Almost Blue,” and Ray Charles’ 1984 duets album Friendship, which also featured Jones, Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, the Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. The album climbed to No. 1 on the country albums charts.

Sherrill won his second Grammy Award for Charlie Rich’s No. 1 country hit “A Very Special Love Song” in 1974.  With a track record of 26 No. 1 country hits and 50 more Top 10 hits, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter Association International’s Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.  Sherrill won the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s Music Creator’s Award in 1985, and the Nashville Entertainment Association awarded him its Master Award the following year.  He was inducted into the Nashville-based Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008.

Chart Songs as a Songwriter


Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
Almost Persuaded David Houston 1 1966
Already It's Heaven David Houston 1 1968
Another Lonely Song Tammy Wynette 1 1974
Bedtime Story Tammy Wynette 1 1972
Door George Jones 1 1975
Every Time You Touch Me I Get High Charlie Rich 1 1975
Good Lovin' Makes It Right Tammy Wynette 1 1971
Have A Little Faith David Houston 1 1968
He Loves Me All The Way Tammy Wynette 1 1970
I Don't Wanna Play House Tammy Wynette 1 1967
I Love My Friend Charlie Rich 1 1974
I'm A Stand By My Woman Man Ronnie Milsap 1 1976
Kids Say The Darndest Things Tammy Wynette 1 1973
Most Beautiful Girl Charlie Rich 1 1973
My Elusive Dreams David Houston & Tammy Wynette 1 1967
My Man Tammy Wynette 1 1972
Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
Singing My Song Tammy Wynette 1 1969
Soul Song Joe Stampley 1 1973
Stand By Your Man Tammy Wynette 1 1968
Take Me To Your World Tammy Wynette 1 1968
Til I Can Make It On My Own Tammy Wynette 1 1976
Very Special Love Song Charlie Rich 1 1974
Ways To Love A Man Tammy Wynette 1 1969
With One Exception David Houston 1 1967
You And Me Tammy Wynette 1 1976
You Mean All The World To Me David Houston 1 1967
Good Things David Houston 2 1973
I'll See Him Through Tammy Wynette 2 1970
Reach Out Your Hand And Touch Tammy Wynette 2 1972
Takin' It Easy Lacy J. Dalton 2 1981
We Sure Can Love Each Other Tammy Wynette 2 1971
Where Love Used To Live David Houston 2 1968
Woman Always Knows David Houston 2 1971
I Do My Swinging At Home David Houston 3 1970
I'm Down To My Last I Love You David Houston 3 1969
Livin' In A House Full Of Love David Houston 3 1965
Losers Cathedral David Houston 3 1967
My Elusive Dreams Charlie Rich 3 1975
Sugar Lips Al Hirt 3 1964
Til I Can Make It On My Own Kenny Rogers & Dottie West 3 1979
Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad Tammy Wynette 3 1967
Hello Mexico And Adios Baby To You Johnny Duncan 4 1978
My Woman's Good To Me David Houston 4 1969
There's A Party Goin' On Jody Miller 4 1972
Woman To Woman Tammy Wynette 4 1974
You Make Me Want To Be A Mother Tammy Wynette 4 1975
Everybody Makes Mistakes Lacy J. Dalton 5 1982
Homecoming Tom T. Hall 5 1969
Southern California George Jones & Tammy Wynette 5 1977
Tonight Barbara Mandrell 5 1978
After Closing Time David Houston & Barbara Mandrell 6 1970
Almost Persuaded Ben Colder 6 1966
Dream On Righteous Brothers 6 1974
Red Wine And Blue Memories Joe Stampley 6 1978
Rock On Baby Brenda Lee 6 1975
The Ceremony George Jones & Tammy Wynette 6 1972
Don't Let Me Touch You Marty Robbins 6 1977
Let's Get Together One Last Time Tammy Wynette 6 1977
One Of A Kind Tammy Wynette 6 1977
We Can Make It George Jones 6 1972
What My Woman Can't Do George Jones 6 1973
Dream On Oak Ridge Boys 7 1979
Friend, Lover, Wife Johnny Paycheck 7 1978
Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
No One Else In The World Tammy Wynette 7 1979
Oh Happy Day Glen Campbell 7 1970
Rings Tompal/Glaser Brothers 7 1971
Sweet And Innocent Osmonds 7 1971
Good News Jody Miller 9 1973
Love Ten Feet Away Keith Whitley 9 1986
Put Your Clothes Back On Joe Stampley 9 1979
Baron Johnny Cash 10 1981
Beautiful Woman Charlie Rich 10 1978
Maiden's Prayer David Houston 10 1971
There's A Song On The Jukebox David Wills 10 1975
Tonight My Baby's Coming Home Barbara Mandrell 10 1972
It's All Over David Houston & Tammy Wynette 11 1968
Too Far Gone Joe Stampley 12 1973
This Time I Almost Made It Barbara Mandrell 12 1974
Slow Down Lacy J. Dalton 13 1982
Too Far Gone Emmylou Harris 13 1979
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad Billie Jo Speers 13 1981
Where Could I Go But To Her David Houston 14 1967
Baby I Love You So Joe Stampley 15 1977
North Of The Border Johnny Rodriguez 17 1980
Please Don't Play A Love Song Marty Robbins 17 1978
Bring Him Safely Home To Me Sandy Posey 18 1972
Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
Day That Love Walked In David Houston 18 1972
Playin' Around With Love Barbara Mandrell 18 1970
If You Think I Love You Now (I've Just Started) Jody Miller 19 1971
Almost Persuaded Patti Page 20 1966
I Don't Want To Lose You Con Hunley 20 1980
One Last Time Glen Campbell 20 1972
Stand By Your Man Pattie Page 20 1968
America The Beautiful 1976 Charlie Rich 22 1976
I Wish I Had A Mommy Like You Patti Page 22 1970
Proud Of You Baby Bob Luman 22 1975
It's All Over Now Charlie Rich 23 1975
Come On Down To Our Favorite Forget-About-Her Place David Houston 24 1976
Telephone Call Tina & Daddy 25 1974
Balad Of A Hillbilly Singer Freddy Weller 26 1972
Living In A House Full of Love Gary Allan 27 1997
My Elusive Dreams Bobby Vinton 27 1970
Outlaw's Prayer Johnny Paycheck 27 1979
Road Song Charlie Rich 27 1976
Another Lonely Song Andy Williams 29 1974
Home Sweet Home David Houston 32 1971
You're Everything Tommy Cash 32 1972
11 Months And 29 Days Johnny Paycheck 34 1976
He's A Jolly Good Fellow Charlie Walker 39 1966
I Don't Wanna Play House Connie Francis 40 1968

*Chart position is based on Billboard Magazine Pop, Country, R&B, & A/C Charts. Other music industry charts may have shown higher chart positions.

 

Phil Campbell native Billy Sherrill entered the music business as a performer moving on to become a session musician, engineer, producer, and record executive. It was through his work as a songwriter and producer that he gained industry immortality. Sherrill is known for his lavish orchestrated productions, while maintaining the country music instruments. This sound, dubbed "Countrypolitan", expanded the base for Country music by creating a crossover to the Pop market. The tide of hits began when he co-wrote and produced David Houston's number one hit, "Almost Persuaded" in 1966. It was Sherrill who discovered Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Janie Frickie, and Lacy J. Dalton. In 1968 he co-wrote and produced "Stand By Your Man" with Tammy Wynette. He produced hit recordings for others such as George Jones, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, and Elvis Costello. As a songwriter Sherrill holds the record for winning the most awards in the history of BMI, and has earned more than 50 number one hits and dozens of gold and platinum records. Billy Sherrill is the 1995 Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement recipient.


Phil Campbell native Billy Sherrill gained industry immortality for his work as a songwriter and producer. Known for his lavish orchestrated productions, dubbed "Countrypolitan", Sherrill expanded the base for Country music, allowing for a crossover to the Pop market. He co-wrote and produced David Houston's number one hit, "Almost Persuaded" in 1966. It was Sherrill who discovered Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Janie Frickie, and Lacy J. Dalton. In 1968 he co-wrote and produced "Stand By Your Man" with Tammy Wynette. He produced hit recordings for others such as George Jones, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, and Elvis Costello. As a writer Sherrill has won the most awards in the history of BMI, earning more than 50 number one hits and as a producer, dozens of gold and platinum records. Billy Sherrill is the 1995 Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement recipient.

Career Milestones
1959: 1st Published Song - "Your Sweet Love" recorded by Bob Beckham
1959: Signed with Tree Publishing
1963-65: Became a Producer at Epic Records
1966: Became Executive Producer at Epic Records
1966: 1st Number One Song - "Almost Persuaded" recorded by David Houston
1968: Appointed Director A&R Columbia and Epic Records, Nashville
1974: Best Country Song - NARAS - "A Very Special Love Song"
1984: Induction to Nashville Songwriters Assoc. International Hall of Fame (NSAI)
1985: Alabama Music Hall of Fame Music Creators Award
1986: Masters Award - NARAS
1995: Induction to Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 

More info: Billy Sherrill - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Billy Sherrill: Information from Answers.com

Billy Sherrill's Page - Nashville Music Pros

CMT.com : Billy Sherrill : Biography

Producer Billy Sherrill

Billy Sherrill: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article

Billy Sherrill « Musicians Hall Of Fame News

Filmography: Billy Sherrill - IMDb

Facebook: Billy Sherrill (30)

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Listen: Amazon.com: The Most Beautiful Girl: Charlie Rich: MP3 Downloads

Listen: Emmylou Harris Anthology: The Warner / Reprise Years by Emmylou Harris - Download Emmylou Harris Anthology: The Warner / Reprise Years on iTunes

Listen: Amazon.ca: Emmylou Harris: Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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