As a writer, Mel Tillis has crafted some of the format's most memorable songs, such as "Detroit City" for Bobby Bare and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" for Kenny Rogers. As an artist, he placed 77 singles on the singles chart between 1958 and 1989. Billboard recently caught up with the Hall of Famer, who was definitely in a reflective mood, as he gets ready to release a new novel later this year. His first book, "Stutterin' Boy," was a best seller in 1984.
Looking outside his office over the Nashville skyline, the singer remarked how the years have flown by since he first charted with 1958's "The Violet And A Rose" for Columbia. "It makes me feel like I am getting old. I've been in the business for 57 years. At that time, Nashville had the Grand Ole Opry, two little recording studio – RCA Studio B and the Quonset Hut. I cut a lot of things at both places over the years. Also at Sound Stage too. There's a lot of memories there."
The singer recalled his first trip to Music City. "I came up to Nashville wanting to be a singer. I was just out of the Air Force, and was 25 years old. I got me a job with the railroad in Tampa, Florida with the Atlantic Coastline. I would use my railroad pass to come to Nashville. I went to knock on the doors around town – and there were only a few to knock on in those days. One of those was Acuff Rose. I auditioned for Wesley Rose, and he said 'You're a pretty good singer. Do you write songs?' I told him I didn't, and he said I needed to. He also said 'You probably need a gimmick.' I looked at him and said 'Ain't my stuttering enough?"