When Billy Sherrill becomes the first producer inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in October, it will cement the legacy of one of Nashville’s most significant behind-the-scenes talents, and few people will have as much firsthand appreciation for the accomplishment as George Jones.
“Billy Sherrill is a genius,” George told The Tennessean. “He knew how to put these things together. He was behind so much of my success.”
Billy hired the musicians, ran the sessions and found the material for George — GAC’s Artist of the Month for August
— and for many other artists, including Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Paycheck and Charlie Rich.
Billy was particularly influential in George’s classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today": He directed songwriters Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman through several re-writes until they got the sad, final version; and he prodded the Possum — who kept singing it with the wrong melody — to finally deliver one solid take. George bet Billy $100 it would be a flop; instead it became one of the most-loved songs in country music history.
Among Billy’s other production credits are such classics as “Behind Closed Doors,” “Stand By Your Man,” “Take This Job And Shove It” and Willie Nelson’s duet with Ray Charles, “Seven Spanish Angels.” As smart as Billy was about production, he was also smart enough to know when it was time to hang it up.
“When you’re a record producer,” he said, “and you’ve got a George Jones session in a couple of days and you’re dreading it, then it’s time to quit.”
Billy produced a number of the tracks that appear on George’s just-released compilation, Burn Your Playhouse Down: The Unreleased Duets. His contributions include songs that feature Tammy, Jim Lauderdale, Shelby Lynne and Dolly Parton.