Legendary country music producer Billy Sherrill has passed away. “Billboard” reports that he died Tuesday following a “short illness.” He was 78. Sherrill started his career in Nashville in early 60s, and is known for his work with the late George Jones. He’s also produced music for the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello and Andy Williams. Sherrill is credited with pioneering the “Countrypolitan” sound, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Sherrill is survived by his wife of over 50 years Charlene, his daughter and two grandchildren.
Side note from Morning Guy Dann Miller: The more you dig into country music of the 1960’s and 1970’s the more you see the name Billy Sherrill. Billy Sherrill worked with more country greats than I can recall and did so at the apex of their careers: Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Charlie Rich, Barbara Mandrell, David Houston, Janie Frickie and George Jones. Jones was already a star before he worked with Billy. Sherrill’s magic with The Possum was to turn George’s life long angst into heartfelt and heart breaking songs. Sometimes we don’t know what’s good for us…as Sherrill used arm twisting and guilt to get Jones to record “He Stopped Loving Her Today” Consider most country fans believe “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Stand By Your Man” are the two best country songs ever made. Sherrill co-wrote one and produced both.
His legacy was not to make things…but to make things better. Sherrill was the beer that makes the burger better, the red wine that pairs with ribeye, he was polish to the raw diamonds that arrived in Nashville. Many a country star would call his style more grit than polish. He ruffled a few feathers, changed the way things were done and subscribed to the idea that if one or two would do…ten would be much better. Few folks made the mark on country music that Billy Sherrill did.
Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins and Billy Sherrill…if you want study classic country, they are required reading.