Mel Tillis: Amazing 60 year career

Funeral set for much-loved singer/songwriter

Mel Tillis. Photo: Wikipedia

Mel Tillis, a true country star with one of the longest careers as both a recording artist and a songwriter, passed away on Sunday, November 19. He was 85. Funeral arrangements have now been announced.

Visitation will be held on Monday, November 27 from 11 AM to 2 PM at Sykes Funeral Home (424 Franklin St.) in Clarksville, Tennessee. A public funeral service will begin promptly at 3 PM at Mount Hermon Baptist Church (2204 Jarrell Ridge Rd.) with a private burial to follow.

A preceding service will take place at the Ocklawaha Bridge Baptist Church in Silver Springs, Florida this Saturday, November 25 at 3:00 PM.Out of respect for the family, attendees are asked to refrain from photographing, filming, or live streaming either service.

Public memorial service planned for January

Additionally, the Tillis family is planning a January public memorial service open to fans and the music industry. The event will be held in Nashville with details to be announced in the coming weeks.

Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, country music legend Mel Tillis passed away at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure. Tillis was 85.

When Mel met my dad

Mel Tillis. Photo: meltillis.com

I have fond personal memories of Mel, whom I met several times over the years. One day, I took my father backstage at one of Mel’s shows and I told Mel that this was the best dad in the world as he had saved my life by donating a kidney to me. “Well,” said Mel, “I just have to meet the best dad in the world!”  He graciously visited with my dad for several minutes and dad has always remembered that meeting.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida on August 8, 1932, Mel enjoyed a 60+ year career.

The Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, six #1 hits (“I Ain’t Never,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Southern Rains,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” and “I Believe In You”), was named CMA (Country Music Association) Entertainer of the Year in 1976, and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame the same year.

Mel Tillis wrote 1,000+ songs

Mel was elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He wrote over 1,000 songs, 600 of which have been recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers (“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”), George Strait (“Thoughts Of A Fool”), and Ricky Skaggs (“Honey, Open That Door”). Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades. In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts. He is survived by his six children, including singer/songwriter Pam Tillis and songwriter Mel ‘Sonny’ Tillis, Jr.

“Mel Tillis was a guy who had it all: He could write, he could sing and he could entertain an audience, there’s a big difference between a concert and a show. Mel Tillis always put on a show….You always felt good about being around him.”

  • Eddie Stubbs, Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM DJ

“Mel Tillis spent a lifetime giving us joy and laughter and music, which is why his death brings such sadness.”

  • Kyle Young, CEO Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

 

‘Songwriting picked me,’ says Walt Aldridge

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2017 inductee talks to Country Aircheck

Walt Aldridge shared his thoughts about how he evolved from a recording engineer to a major hit writer in this interview from the Sept 25 issue of Country Aircheck, where you can find the original story. More about Aircheck at the foot of this article. Walt is a great songwriter and has always been generous with his time, sharing his experience and knowledge of the music industry and the process of songwriting.

 * * *

Walt Aldridge

Alabama native Aldridge engineered more than 200 records during his time at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and later, in Nashville. His cuts include Ronnie Milsap’s “There’s No Gettin’ Over Me,” Earl Thomas Conley’s “Holding Her And Loving You” and Tim McGraw’s “Some Things Never Change.”

I always had a fascination with making records. Writing songs allowed me to produce, play, sing on and engineer my demos. When I got started, the studio was a hallowed ground that you had to be invited to, or have a lot of money so you could rent one. So, by becoming a songwriter, it gave me the opportunity to do what I’d always been intrigued by – making music.

Rick Hall (right) signs Duane Allman as session guitarist at Fame, 1968. Photo: Getty Images

I remember walking into Fame and seeing the records hanging on the wall, thinking, “This looks like the set list for the band you were in, in sixth grade,” with “Mustang Sally,” “Land Of A Thousand Dances” – all these great soul records. Knowing you’re sitting where Duane Allman sat to play a guitar part on a Wilson Pickett record challenges you to dig deep and do your very best.

Rick Hall was my first my boss and mentor. Rick has always preached the preeminence of the song. Some of my favorite recordings are not technically or vocally the best, but they always connect and hit a nerve. Very often, you’ll have a fantastic singer with a great band and engineer, but if the song doesn’t hit that nerve with people, it doesn’t matter.

Songwriting picked me as opposed to me picking it. Tommy Brasfield was a writer in Nashville who was more experienced. He heard some of my songs and said, “You have a lot of ability, but I think I could help you frame your music more towards the radio.” If I ever did anything right, it was being open to that, rather than saying, “I like my music the way it is and I don’t need your help.”

No Getting Over Me

So Tommy and I started writing and eventually we wrote “No Gettin’ Over Me,” which was my first hit. That was back in the golden age of crossover, so it was a No. 1 Country record, a Top 5 Pop and No. 1 Adult Contemporary. After that hit I said, “Okay, it looks like I’m a songwriter – and a country songwriter, for that matter.”

My writing equipment is a guitar, a laptop and some kind of caffeine. I like to start in the morning when I’m fresh. But I’ve written all different ways.

“Power through writer’s block”

When I have writer’s block, I power through. So much of what we do is crafting, is a learned instinct. The old saying that sometimes inspiration comes after perspiration is very true. And you don’t know when the muse is going to visit.

Marty Stuart playing Hank’s guitar

One time I was writing with Marty Stuart and we were stuck. He said, “Why don’t we just swap guitars and see if that jogs anything loose?” I said, “Boy, this is a really cool old Martin guitar. What’s the story?” He said, “Well it was Hank’s guitar.” I said, “Hank Jr.?” He said, “No, that was Hank Sr.’s guitar.” I was holding the Holy Grail of guitars. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” could have been written on this guitar. So, I don’t know whether it’s imagined or whether there’s real energy coming from the wood and the wire. But different guitars inspire different moods and words.

I wish I’d written “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Every line in it is absolutely perfect. Couldn’t have been better.

A song’s demo is a critical part of it. You’re not only writing the lyric and melody, you’re often writing the guitar intro lick that’s going to be a hook. You’re writing the production, somewhat. On “Holding Her And Loving You,” we just didn’t get it on the demo. But somehow, Earl Thomas Conley and his producer Nelson Larkin were able to hear through the demo and imagine it. When they played us the record, it sounded like a hit. When you heard Earl sing it, you believed it.

“Write to express yourself”

You don’t write songs for the money or the gold records. You write because you want to express yourself in some way that you’re unable to express yourself otherwise. Getting this induction means my colleagues who have written some of my favorite songs – people whose opinions I value the most – are willing to say, “Hey man, you did good.” It’s quite a club to be voted into. I’m deeply honored.

~~~

Again, my thanks to Lon Helton and all at Country Aircheck for allowing me to reprint this article. I recommend that you visit this link to the Sept 25 edition of Country Aircheck to read the original article and see why Country Aircheck is a ‘must read’ for anyone involved in Country radio and the music industry. – Preshias.

Billboard charts adding YouTube plays?

Rights owners not happy with YouTube revenue

Billboard is rightly recognized as the Authority when it comes to music charts, and now it looks like the magazine could be adding YouTube plays into the way they calculate their charts.

Several online news sources, including hyperbot.com, are reporting that Billboard is, at the very least, ‘considering’ blending YouTube plays into their ‘spins + plays’ calculation. And this could possibly include user-generated clips rather than simply official-posted music.  However, as of today, it does not seem that Billboard and representatives of the major record labels have settled on what (if any) YouTube play data should be included in the charts.

YouTube’s ‘meagre payments’

The music industry is not exactly YouTube’s number one fan due to the meagre payments the online video giant pays out to recording artists, record labels and the owners of the songs’ copyrights.

In a report published by the GoDigital Media Group, a case is made for advertising-supported platforms such as YouTube paying a fixed CPM (cost per thousand views or streams) to rights holders. The report points out that Spotify pays approximately 75% more than YouTube for its advertising-supported model and 515% more for paid streaming.

Because labels (and many artists) feel they’re getting stiffed by YouTube, they don’t see much of a benefit in counting YouTube plays in the charts. Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music, is apparently working hard to convince Billboard Editor John Amato that it’s a good idea despite rights owners’ reluctance, according to this posting at hyperbot.com.

The birth of Billboard

Billboard’s first issue, November 1, 1894

Billboard might seem like an odd name for magazine that publishes music charts, but there is a reason.  The publication first appeared in 1894 and covered the advertising and bill-posting industry: in other words, ‘outdoor’ advertising or billboards. With the growing popularity of phonographs and coin-operated juke boxes, Billboard began to cover the music industry and published its first ‘hit parade’ chart in January 1936.

Now, in addition to the Hot 100 and the Billboard 200, the magazine includes numerous ‘genre’ charts, including Country, R&B, Latin, Gospel/Christian, Rock, Dance and Electronic. Billboard has modified or updated the way it compiles its charts over the years to reflect new music delivery platforms.

LOCASH receive BMI’s Million-Air Award

“You Gonna Fly” for Keith Urban passes one million spins mark

Kudos to my friends LOCASH (Preston Brust and Chris Lucas) who received the prestigious BMI Million-Air Award from David Preston, BMI’s Senior Director, Writer-Publisher Relations. The Award recognizes the achievement of one million-plus spins on the radio.  They received the award in a laid-back ceremony on the BMI rooftop patio, Tuesday May 23.  Although they are successful recording artists in their own right, in this case Preston and Chris received the award as songwriters (along with ASCAP writer Jaren Johnston) for writing the song “You Gonna Fly” recorded by Keith Urban.

BMI’s David Preston presents Award to LOCASH. Photo: Preshias Harris

The BMI “Million-Air” Award is given to songwriters, composers, and publishers whose songs accumulate to over one million U.S. broadcast performances.  The designation has been bestowed upon many of BMI’s iconic songwriters, including Sir Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Isaac Hayes and Roy Orbison. One million continuous performances of a song of the average length of 3 minutes represents 5.7 years of continuous airplay.  Continue reading “LOCASH receive BMI’s Million-Air Award”

Zach Stone brings heat to Country Radio Seminar

New EP, ‘Ashes,’ out now

Zach Stone with Ryan McCall (WGLR)

Texas native Zach Stone, dubbed Country Music’s “Fresh Face” of 2017, made the rounds at Country Radio Seminar (CRS) last week and was acknowledged by many as a captivating newcomer to the annual event. The Belmont graduate and former “Best of The Best” made introductions, shaking hands with radio personalities and conducting interviews throughout the course of the seminar.

Zach Stone performs at SOUTH for Spotlight 615

A featured artist at the Spotlight 615 Showcase, Zach performed before a packed house at SOUTH on Friday evening, February 27.

Baseball dreams turn to music

Zach Stone with Phillip Gibbons (WGSQ – The Giant)
Photo Credits: Randy Shaffer © 2017

The former Team USA member destined to play Major League baseball turned down the “pitch” to pursue his music career. Since hitting Nashville just a few short years ago, the young, dynamic showman and road warrior has already canvased 32 states to stake his claim as a must-see entertainer.

Zach partnered with Music Row’s most accredited A-list songwriters to lay the groundwork for his sophomore EP, titled ASHES; the six-song recording project [produced by Rex Schnelle (Brooks & Dunn/Trace Adkins)] was released late last year and is available via all major digital retail outlets.

For more on Zach Stone, visit www.zachstonecountry.com.

New “Garth Brooks Channel” on Sirius XM

Historic ‘first’ concert at the Ryman Auditorium

Garth at SiriusXM's studio at the Bridgestone Arena
Garth at SiriusXM’s studio at the Bridgestone Arena

Garth Brooks took a short break from his three year “Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood” to launch his new channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.  He kicked it off with a press conference September 8, at Sirius XM’s studios at Bridgestone Arena on Broadway in Nashville, in front of an ‘invitation only’ group of print and broadcast media, before performing a concert at the Ryman Auditorium.

Garth started out by saying, “I got to step inside the [Ryman] yesterday. That’s a cool place, man. Feels good. Don’t know if I deserve to be there but it treated me like welcome. It welcomed the band and everybody. I hope it knows its heart and soul, because you might have said it in front of as big a country fan [as me], but you’ll never say it in front of a bigger one.”

He went on to describe how it would feel, walking on to that historic stage with his guitar for his first ever concert at the Ryman. It’s amazing to think this was to be a ‘first’ for Garth.

“The only time I got to stand on the Ryman stage was at Loretta Lynn’s Lifetime Achievement Presentation and I had to stand in for Conway on “Cold As Ashes,” said Garth.

Representing ‘those who’ve been before’

I asked Garth to compare the difference between two milestones in his career, playing Central Park and playing at the Ryman. Garth said, “Probably feeling the same good anxiety, good fear, all those good things. Central Park was cool for its size and stuff. I wanted to represent Country music, I wanted to represent the flag of Country music, your family and God the best you can. Everybody is in their seats. Tonight you think about, this ain’t a million people, there has been about a hundred names that played that house that – you – want  – to – represent…” (He slows he speech down with emotion as he finished the sentence.)

He continued, “To represent those people who have been there before. The biggest thing between this and Central Park is just that the Central Park show was representing Country music as it was. Here [Ryman], I think we’re trying to represent Country as it is, as it was and of course – as always like a family moving together – hopefully for the future of it.”

Like a homecoming

All throughout the press conference he would turn every few minutes and look out the window at the Ryman Auditorium with evident emotion in his voice and his eyes welling up, referring to the Ryman as “The House”. This seemed almost like a homecoming, just to listen to his sincerity and honestly as he spoke his thoughts and heartfelt emotions.

He was asked what song he was going to start the concert with and he said that he couldn’t even tell us what song he was going to start off with or end with, and assured those present that he was being totally upfront with the media.

Garth fields questions at the SiriusXM press briefing
Garth fields questions at the SiriusXM press briefing

Immediately following the press briefing, Garth crossed the street to Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium for a soundcheck preceding his performance at the special concert in front of invited guests.  The concert aired live on the Garth Channel, SiriusXM channel 55 and via SiriusXM apps on smartphones and other connected devices.

His appearance marked the first time in Garth’s career that he has put on a full concert at the Ryman Auditorium, known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.”

Additionally, Garth recently launched Inside Studio G, a weekly Facebook Live series that will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the making of his next album. It airs every Monday on Garth’s Facebook page at 7:00 PM EDT.

The final leg of his and Trisha’s North American Tour resumes on Monday, September 12.

More information at Garth’s Facebook page and www.siriusxm.com

NOTE: Due to limited space, some quotes were shortened to fit accordingly.

 

Rising stars play for 95.1 The Goober in KY

Goober 95A great day in Bowling Green, KY – despite the wet weather! I was there Thursday May 26 with five of ‘my’ artists to help WGGC-FM The Goober with their New Faces of Country showcase at the Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball game. Blane Howard, Cameron Lanz, Elvie Shane, Jessie Goergen (Jessie G) and Justin T. Dukes all performed. There was a rain delay during the game and the show moved inside, but everyone had a great time. Thank you everyone at 95.1 The Goober. Follow The Goober on Facebook here.