Billy Sherrill

Dublin Core


Billy Sherrill


Phil Campbell, Franklin County, Country music, R&B music, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Grand Ole Opry, Musicians Hall of fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, Alabama Music Hall of Fame


Billy Sherrill (November 5, 1936 - August 4, 2015)

If at any point during the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s you listened to a song by George Jones, Tammy Wynette, or Charlie Rich, chances are very good that song was either written, produced, or both, by Billy Sherrill. As just a songwriter alone, his influence is considerable. But when combined with his production prowess and his ability to find new talent and guide them towards music that fit their style of singing, Billy reaches legendary status in not just the country music world, but music in general and internationally. Billy Norris Sherrill was born on November 5, 1936, in the small rural town of Phil Campbell, Alabama. His father was an evangelist who Billy would often accompany on his revival tours, playing piano for the services. After playing with various jazz and blues bands in the South in his late teens to early twenties, Billy moved to Nashville in 1962, where he took on the job of managing the Nashville studios of Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. When Phillips sold those studios in 1963, Billy moved over as a producer to Epic Records, a division of Columbia Records, which, at the time, was recording mainly country artists out of its Nashville studios. Since Billy, despite having grown up in the south, had little exposure professionally to the country sound (his main areas of expertise being blues, jazz, and rock and roll), the sound that he did produce was a hybrid of country and pop, a forerunner of the “countrypolitan” sound that would soon move country music from a regional to a national and worldwide audience. It was also here at Epic that Billy became a major player in the country music scene. His first success was with David Houston, who recorded “Livin’ in a House Full of Love,” written by Billy and Glenn Sutton, in 1965. The song reached #3 on Billboard’s country chart in that same year. Houston’s next single, “Almost Persuaded,” also penned by Sherrill and Sutton, spent 9 weeks at #1 on the country charts in 1966, winning the Grammy for Best Country & Western song in 1967, the first of two that Billy would win as songwriter. It was at around this time that Billy met the singer with whom he would be most closely associated with, Tammy Wynette. Billy signed the former hairdresser to Epic after she auditioned for him, and changed her stage name from Wynette Byrd to Tammy Wynette, thinking it would be a better move for her career. From that time, she became Billy’s student and a recording artist for whom he would write some of her biggest songs, including “You’re Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” and her signature song, “Stand By Your Man.” In 1969, Wynette married George Jones, which led to a partnership between not only she and Jones, but also Billy and George. Producing such songs as “The Ceremony” (1972, written by Sherrill), “We’re Gonna Hold On” (1973), and “Golden Ring” (1976), Jones and Sherrill continued their collaboration long after George and Tammy divorced in 1975. In fact, while much of his commercial success came with Wynette, Billy’s relationship with Jones was the one that lasted the longest. Billy produced what would become Jones' signature song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” It was Jones’ first number one hit in over six years, and is the one credited with reviving a career that had begun to flounder due to issues related to his behavior and performances. During this same time period, Billy also worked with the third member of what could be called his “Blessed Triumvirate,” Charlie Rich. With songs such as “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl,” (1973), co-written by Sherrill, a lifelong collaboration was born. While not always commercially successful, the music that Charlie Rich produced under Billy is considered to be The Silver Fox's best. The pinnacle of the partnership was when Sherrill won the 1975 Grammy for Best Country Song with Charlie Rich’s recording of “A Very Special Love Song.” The list of additional artists for whom Billy produced or wrote is a veritable Who’s Who of Music. At one time or another, Billy worked with Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Andy Williams, Ray Conniff, and Elvis Costello. In 1980, Billy was named vice-president and executive producer of CBS/Nashville, retiring a few years later. Among the many awards and accolades afforded are countless CMA and AMA awards, and enshrinement in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1984), the Alabama Music Hall of Fame (1995), the Musicians Hall of Fame (2008), and the Country Music Hall of Fame (2010). Billy Sherrill died on August 4, 2015.

Watch & Listen:
"Stand By Your Man - Tammy Wynette"
"He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones"
"The Most Beautiful Girl - Charlie Rich"
"Rules of the Game - Billy Sherrill"
"Like Makin' Love - Billy Sherrill"


John Griffin, University of North Alabama


AMHOF Accessed December 2, 2016
Billy Sherrill Accessed December 2, 2016
Songs Accessed December 2, 2016
Billy Sherrill Dies Accessed December 2, 2016
Country Music HOF Accessed December 2, 2016

All images courtesy of Mr. George Lair and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, unless otherwise noted.


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey




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