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.