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Mel Tillis: Coca-Cola Cowboy

At 80, first-time author isn't done yet.

"We just stayed in Texas and Oklahoma more than anywhere else," he says. "We had that twin-fiddle dance-hall sound that people down there like, and they really gave us a great reception anywhere we went."

"I couldn't tell you how many times we played Lubbock, Amarillo, Midland, Odessa and Abilene," adds Tillis. "West Texas was mighty good to us."

He also recalls getting help from legendary Houston radio personalities like Arch Yancey and Joe Ladd.

Clint Eastwood gave Mel Tillis a cameo in his 1978 movie
Every Which Way But Loose.
Courtesy of Mel Tillis Enterprises
Clint Eastwood gave Mel Tillis a cameo in his 1978 movie Every Which Way But Loose.

"We played Dancetown U.S.A. on Airline quite a bit, and lots of the Houston disc jockeys would come by and say hello," Tillis recalls. "Houston was such a great town for country music in the '60s and '70s, and you absolutely had to get on radio in Houston to really make it."

So what will a Mel Tillis set be like when he hits the stage in The Woodlands?

"Of course, you do your big hits, the obvious things," explains Tillis, whom President Obama gave the NEA Arts and Humanities Medal earlier this year for his achievements as a singer and songwriter.

"But there are some songs that weren't huge hits that 40 years later people still request," he adds. "I get a lot of requests for 'Mental Revenge,' which was a huge hit for Waylon but not for me. And people still request 'Commercial Affection,' which I wrote when I was in the Air Force before I ever went to Nashville.

"But really, I'm just happy to sing what people want to hear," closes Tillis. "If you're an entertainer, it's an honor just to get a request for a song you've done. And you should treat it that way."

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