Billy Sherrill

Billy Sherrill

Billy Sherrill (born Phil Campbell, Alabama, November 5 1936) was a record producer and arranger who is most famous for his association with a number of country artists, most notably Tammy Wynette. Sherrill and business partner Glenn Sutton are regarded as the defining influences of the countrypolitan sound, a smooth amalgamation of pop and country music that was hugely popular during the late 1960s and throughout the '70s.

Born in rural Alabama, Sherrill became initially interested in music, particularly jazz and blues, learning to play the saxophone. During his teenage years, he led a blues band, and later signed a solo record deal, though this led to little success.

In 1962, Sherrill moved to Nashville, where he was initially was hired by Sam Phillips to manage the Nashville studios of Sun Records. When Sun sold its Nashville studio the following year, Sherrill moved to Epic Records, as an in-house producer. Given his limited exposure to country music up to that point, his production incorporated many elements of pop music production. (His sound has often been described as a country equivalent to Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound".) His first success was with country artist David Houston. Houston's recording of Sherrill's and Glenn Sutton's composition "Almost Persuaded" spent nine weeks at the top of the U.S. country charts in late 1965 and into early 1966.

His association with Wynette began in 1966, when the then-unknown performer auditioned for him. He signed Wynette to Epic, and involved himself in nearly every aspect of the aspiring singer's career, helping her choose her stage name (Sherrill felt her name at the time, Wynette Byrd, would not lend itself to a successful recording career, and suggested she adopt the name "Tammy"), and helping her to develop her stage persona. In 1968, Sherrill co-wrote with Wynette, her most famous hit, "Stand By Your Man".

Another artist who benefitted greatly from his association with Sherrill was Charlie Rich. Rich had been a marginally successful performer of blues and early rock and roll, scoring a minor hit with the tune "Lonely Weekends", but it was his early 1970s work with Sherrill, particularly the "countrypolitan" hits "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" that brought Rich to national prominence.

Other artists with whom Sherrill has worked include Elvis Costello, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash, Janie Fricke, Barbara Mandrell, Ray Conniff, Bob Luman, Jim and Jesse, Jody Miller, Joe Stampley, Charlie Walker, Johnny Duncan, Barbara Fairchild, Cliff Richard ("The Minute You're Gone") and David Allan Coe.

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