Producer and songwriter Billy Sherrill, best known for his work with George Jones and Tammy Wynette, died Tuesday (Aug. 4) at age 78 following a brief illness. Billy was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, elected in 2010.
The native of Alabama produced Tammy Wynette’s signature hit “Stand by Your Man” and also had a hand in co-writing it. Billy had the idea and the title for the song, which he and Tammy wrote during a break at a recording session in Nashville. Feminists at the time objected to the subject matter, but Billy staunchly defended it through the years, insisting that it was just another way of saying “I love you.”
Perhaps the most famous story surrounding Billy involved the George Jones classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” George detested the song, calling it “morbid” among other unprintable adjectives, and balked at recording it. Billy eventually convinced George otherwise and bet the singer $100 that fans would love the song. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” not only became a No. 1 hit but is now generally considered the greatest country song ever written.
And yes, George paid up.
Billy also produced Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl,” David Houston’s “Almost Persuaded” and many others. He worked with such diverse artists as Ray Charles, rocker Elvis Costello and Johnny Paycheck during his prolific career.
We at NASH Country Weekly send our condolences to Billy’s wife, Charlene, and members of his family.