On Sunday August 8, Lonnie Melvin Tillis, better known to all of us as Mel Tillis, will be celebrating his 78th birthday. Not only is he a great performer with a number of hit records, he is also a prolific songwriter and a movie star. He also invested in music publishing companies and was a radio station owner. He was one of the first country artists to build and perform at a theater in Branson, Missouri.
While his career started in the 1950's, he enjoyed his greatest success in the 1970's, including being named the CMA Entertainer of the Year, the most coveted award in country music.
He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on June 9, 2007. His daughter Pam handled the formal induction during a televised portion of the Opry. Later that year, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, entering the hall the same year as Ralph Emery and Vince Gill.
The interesting thing about Mel Tillis is that he was part of the Opry in the 1960's. In fact, he is pictured and his biography is listed in the Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book, volume 4, edition 2, from 1969. He is not pictured in volume 3 or volume 5, however in volume 3, edition 1 from 1966, he is listed in the section of "past and present members and guests of Grand Ole Opry." But nowhere in my files and information can I find the fact that he was actually an official member and if he was, when he became a member. And, in the present Grand Ole Opry history book, his biography lists nothing about him being a previous member. And, to add a final piece to this puzzle, in the Grand Ole Opry History Book from 1969, his biography lists no information relating to him even being an Opry member at that time. It just could be that he was on the Opry so often during that time period that he was almost considered a member, or they thought he was going to be a member and it just didn't work out. This was also the period of time that Mel was part of Porter Wagoner's television show, and Mel was coming to the Opry many Saturday nights with Porter.
Regardless, we know that he did become an official member of the Opry on June 9, 2007, and to honor Mel on his birthday, here is the Opry line-up from that night.
6:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Hal Ketchum; Jim Ed Brown
7:00: Pam Tillis(host); Darryl Worley; Carolina Rain; Mel Tillis
8:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Mike Snider; Connie Smith; Riders In The Sky; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jeannie Seely; Charley Pride
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); John Conlee; Darryl Worley
10:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Mike Snider; Charley Pride
10:30: Pam Tillis(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mel Tillis; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Riders In The Sky; Jeannie Seely; Carolina Rain