Career Highlights


Mel moves permanently to Nashville with his young family in tow in the late 1950's. Artists of the day, such as Webb Pierce and Patsy Cline took notice and began recording his songs.  “I Ain’t Never” becomes a hit for Webb; “Strange” is recorded by Patsy Cline. “Honky Tonk Song” with Columbia Records is released in 1957 and becomes his first single.   Minnie Pearl recognizes his hesitancy to speak on stage due to his stuttering.  She encourages him to “speak up and let ‘em laugh.”


Mel is becoming known for both his vocal talent and songwriting.  A fan club is launched with the motto of  “Take Tillis to the Top.”  Burl Ives, the great American folk singer takes Mel under his wings and they co-write together.  Webb Pierce continues to have hit after hit with Mel’s songs.  “WINE” becomes Mel’s highest charting song as a solo entertainer in 1965.  He consistently has several songs on the charts at once. Mel’s new label, Kapp Records, releases “STATESIDE”  in 1966. His touring band, “The Statesiders” are formed. Porter Wagoner hires him as a regular on his show.


Glen Campbell asks Mel to appear on his Goodtime Hour show. Mel’s star continues to shine and he records his first #1 hit, “I Ain’t Never.” During the 70’s,  Mel has his most prolific years as a songwriter, touring artist, and television personality. He scores 5 #1 hits in the 70’s.  He appears with Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and others.  Soon Hollywood begins casting him in movies like Cannonball Run, Every Which Way But Loose, Smokey and the Bandit II, and others.  In 1976, he wins the coveted  Entertainer of the Year, and that same year is inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Las Vegas comes calling as he debuts for the first time in 1977 at the Frontier Hotel.


Mel proves to be an astute businessman in Nashville. He buys Cedarwood Publishing in 1983 where he first worked in the 1950’s. He opens multiple companies: publishing, a retail gift shop on Music Row, and becomes a national spokesman for companies such as Whataburger, Fina, and Petro Oil to name a few. He continues to be a sought after entertainer on the road.  In 1984, along with a friend and co-producer Roy Clark, creates his first feature film, Uphill All the Way. Mel’s autobiography: Stutterin’ Boy is published in 1984. RCA Records releases his last Nashville studio album as he launches his own label, Radio Records.


In 1990 Mel begins a 12 year run as a theater owner in Branson, Mo. a booming tourist town known for it's live music venues and family entertainment. Mel’s children and grandchildren join him on stage on and off during this time. Daughter, country singer Pam, joins him for record sellout shows.  He loves showcasing his band the Statesiders, and backup singers, the Stutterettes during 2 - 3 hour shows. He continues to record with Beyond the Sunset, Father’s Son and other projects on his label, Radio Records. In 1991, he is named the spokesman for Badcock Furniture based in Florida.  In 1998, he records “Old Dogs” with Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, and Jerry Reed — a Shel Silverstein project. He becomes spokesman for The Stuttering Foundation.


At 70, returns to touring with his band the Statesiders after selling his Branson theater. Soon after, he begins to receive long due recognition for his contribution to country music. He is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Grand Ole Opry. He also receives the ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and others.  In 2009, he is inducted into the Florida Arts Hall of Fame. In 2010, his comedy album “You Ain’t Gonna Believe This" is nominated for his first Grammy. He continues to give back raising funds through painting, and a fishing tournament for the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.  In 2012, Mel is awarded a National Medal of Arts from President Obama for his contribution to the entertainment world. He performs for the final time January 3, 2016 in Laughlin, Nevada.


Please consider making a generous donation to one of the charities Mel so proudly supported.

  • Shriners Children's™

    Make your gift today to help Shriners Hospitals for Children™ provide life-changing care to children who need your help.

  • The Stuttering Foundation

    Support the Stuttering Foundation.

    Our continued work depends on your help.