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Famed country producer Billy Sherrill dies in Nashville aged 78

Published 05/08/2015

Billy Sherrill, left, receives the BMI Icon award from BMI president Del Bryant at the 2010 BMI Country Awards in Nashville (AP)
Billy Sherrill, left, receives the BMI Icon award from BMI president Del Bryant at the 2010 BMI Country Awards in Nashville (AP)

Country record producer and songwriter Billy Sherrill, who helped create the smooth "countrypolitan" sound of the 1960s and '70s, has died. He was 78.

Sherrill's son-in-law, George Lale, said he died in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sherrill's production style incorporated over-dubbing, strings and background vocals into country music to encourage crossover success for artists like Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Charlie Rich.

He produced hits like Stand By Your Man, which he co-wrote with Wynette, The Most Beautiful Girl, Behind Closed Doors, and He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Born in Phil Campbell, Alabama, the son of an evangelical preacher, Sherrill played piano and sang starting in his childhood.

He worked at Sun Records in Sam Philips' Nashville studio, and then joined the CBS record label in 1964. He won a Grammy Award for co-writing Almost Persuaded, in 1966, which was a No. 1 hit for artist David Houston.

He was instrumental in signing Wynette, Barbara Mandrell and Janie Fricke to record deals. He also worked with Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Paycheck, Elvis Costello and Ray Charles.

"Billy Sherrill was the first producer to give me a push to start my own records, as he and CBS President Bruce Lundvall talked me into signing that first contract," Fricke said.

"I was a busy backup singer and was not sure about going solo. I will hold dear those precious memories of magical studio productions with Billy, and will miss him greatly."

"He was an amazing producer of not only George but of many other artists," said Nancy Jones, George Jones' widow.

"It is a sad day saying goodbye to such a wonderful man."

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