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Billy Sherrill Dies

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 | 6:08 AM

Billy sherrill is well known in this area and is a previous recipient of the Haleyville High School Alumnus of the Year Award. At one time, he played drums in the HHS Band. The following is from serveral sources.

Producer, songwriter, arranger and Country Music Hall of Famer Billy Sherrill passed away in his home late Tuesday morning at the age of 78 following a short illness, according to his daughter Catherine Lale. Mr. Sherrill's contributions to country music were numerous. He was a pioneer of the smooth "countrypolitan" sound and its lush, layered musical arrangements that drew comparisons to Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound".  He worked with artists ranging from Ray Charles to Jim and Jesse to Elvis Costello, but he is perhaps best known for producing hits like Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" (which they cowrote), Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors," Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," considered by many to be the greatest country song of all time.

Billy Norris Sherrill was born November 5, 1936 in Phil Campbell, Alabama. As a child, he took an interest in music and often accompanied his evangelist father on the piano at revivals; the knowledge of Scripture and the love of Southern Gospel he cultivated there remained with him for the rest of his life.

In 1962 Mr. Sherrill moved to Nashville after being hired by Sun Records' Sam Phillips as a producer-engineer. A year later, he began producing for Epic Records, where he worked with acts like the Staple Singers and bluegrass duo Jim and Jesse.

"Billy was a great help to us," says Jesse McReynolds. They worked with Mr. Sherrill at Epic in the mid-1960s. He encouraged Jim and Jesse to push their musical boundaries, approaching them with an armful of Chuck Berry records and the suggestion to transform those songs into a bluegrass album: "Berry Pickin' in the Country." Mr. Sherrill also brought them the song "Diesel on My Tail," telling the duo that if they recorded the song, it would be a hit, McReynolds remembers. It was one of their biggest, and their only single to become a Top 20 hit on the country charts.

Another Sherrill success came in 1966 when David Houston's recording of "Almost Persuaded," which Mr. Sherrill co-wrote with Glenn Sutton and produced, spent nine weeks atop Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. It would go on to win three Grammy Awards: Best Country and Western Song, Best Country and Western Recording and Best Country and Western Vocal Performance: Male.

"Billy Sherrill’s productions had a voice of their own that were as distinctive as the singers he worked with," said producer Buddy Cannon. "There’s never been another producer in country music whose records have such an identity... I was in awe every time I was in his presence. I’ll treasure every minute I ever got to be with him."

One of Mr. Sherrill's most notable partnerships was with Tammy Wynette. In 1966, he signed the unknown singer to Epic Records and suggested she adopt "Tammy" as her stage name. Though her debut, "Apartment #9," failed to crack the Top 40, her second single, "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" peaked at No. 3. From there, Wynette strung together a series of hits. More than three dozen of her Sherrill-produced, and frequently Sherrill-penned songs made the Top 10; 20 topped the charts. "Stand By Your Man," which they cowrote, spent three weeks at No. 1, crossed over to the pop charts, and became a career-defining song for Wynette.

Mr. Sherrill also spent 19 years producing hits for George Jones, beginning with Jones' collaborations with Wynette and including several of the Possum's now-classic songs like "The Grand Tour," "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (he reportedly had to convince Jones to record that song because the singer thought it was "too morbid").

In 1980 Mr. Sherrill became the Vice President-Executive Producer at Columbia-Epic's Nashville office. The following year he produced "Almost Blue," a country covers album released by Elvis Costello. Mr. Sherrill left five years later to work as an independent producer. Mr. Sherrill was inducted into three local Halls of Fame: the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008, and, in 2010, the Country Music Hall of Fame. At the time of his death he had been in retirement for several years.

He leaves behind his wife of 54 years, Charlene, his daughter Catherine Lale and her husband George, and two grandchildren, Samantha and Matthew. Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time.

For more info on Billy Sherrill, see http://www.cmt.com/artists/billy-sherrill/biography/

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