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Producer Billy Sherrill dies at 78

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 – Producer Billy Sherrill, best known for his work with George Jones and Tammy Wynette and developing the smooth countrypolitan sound, died today at 78 after a short illness.

Sherrill was known for the countrypolitan sound, which was characterized by lush sounds, often strings. He was criticized for his style because it went against the basic, simple music of country.

Sherrill was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, 2 years after he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

Sherrill was born Nov. 5, 1936 in Phil Campbell, Ala. He was interested in the blues and jazz while growing up and often backed his evangelist father on piano at tent revivals. Sherrill was said not to be a fan of country. He moved to Nashville in 1962 and was hired by Sam Phillips to manage the Nashville studios of Sun Records, the home of Elvis Presley, and be producer-engineer.

A year later, Sherrill shifted to Epic to produce after Sun sold its Nashville studio. Among the acts he worked with were the Staple Singers and the Boston rock band Barry & The Remains. His first success was with the late David Houston on "Almost Persuaded" spending 9 weeks at the top of the country charts in 1965-66.

That same year, Sherrill worked with Wynette, who auditioned for him. Sherrill signed Wynette to Epic and was involved in all phases of her career from helping to change her name from Wynette Byrd to Tammy Wynette to picking songs. In 1968, the two wrote one of the famous country songs of all time, "Stand By Your Man."

In 1971, Jones signed with Epic because he wanted to record with his then wife, Wynette. Sherrill served as a producer and also was a songwriter for them.

Sherrill's also worked separately with Jones. Sherrill's biggest hit with Jones was the iconic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," although Jones questioned whether anyone would listen to the song, which many consider the greatest country song ever. Sherrill continued working with Jones throughout the 1980s, serving as producer from 1971-90.

Sherrill also worked with Charlie Rich, scoring huge hits with "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." Sherrill won a Grammy in 1975 for producing Rich's "A Very Special Love Song," which was the Best Country Song.

Sherrill also worked with Shelby Lynne, Marty Robbins, Ray Charles, Elvis Costello, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell, Janie Frickie, Moe Band, David Allen Coe and Johnny Cash.

Sherrill left Epic and Columbia in 1985 and worked as an independent producer, but retired by the early 1990s.

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Step Right Up 1970-1979: A Critical Anthology CD review - Step Right Up 1970-1979: A Critical Anthology
As retrospectives go, this new 28-track collection of George Jones' work from the 1970s is a bit of an anomaly. While most other compilations present chart-topping singles in chronological order, this single-disc set from the Australian reissue specialists at Raven Records provides an overview of Jones' total artistic output for the entire decade, regardless of chart position. This approach works well in this case because it covers songs not usually included on George Jones compilations. »»»
George Jones: Burn Your Playhouse Down, the unreleased duets CD review - George Jones: Burn Your Playhouse Down, the unreleased duets
There are few revelations in this George Jones duets collection culled primarily from "The Bradley Barn Sessions" (1993 recordings). Producers have their reasons. Perhaps the biggest surprise is when Jones is outsung by one of his duet partners, Georgette Jones, the only child of his marriage to Tammy Wynette. Georgette may have the best singing genes in history, but it is time as much as anything that pushes Dad into a subordinate role on You and Me and Time. The revelation, then, is a »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Kristofferson gives insight, but no easy answers – When they say music gets better with age, they're not always just talking about songs alone; sometimes they're also referring to the listener. When Kris Kristofferson sings, "Well, I woke up Sunday morning/With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt," to smartly open "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," he... »»»
Concert Review: No sugarcoating, Welch dishes out an experience – Gillian Welch (accompanied, as always, by master guitarist David Rawlings), celebrated her "The Harrow & The Harvest" album with a powerful night of music. She apologized many times for the utter unhappiness expressed through this album's songs, admitting it's "not the most chipper album" at one point.... »»»
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