I answered an e-mail last week from Carmen from The Falls, who asked me about Pam Tillis. And if I could do a Memory Lane piece on her, as she as her favorite growing up. Of course, she was one of mine too. Good choice, Carmen. I am very proud to say I played all of her songs on great stations all over the country.
In the 1990's, there were so many great acts on the charts it can be tough to remember all who had big success. As good as all the acts were, I'll always remember the dominance of many women in that decade. Pam Tillis was one of them, in fact, she helped lead the charge. She is the daughter of Mel Tillis, a country star in his own right from the the 60's and 70's from Plant City, Florida. Pam was involved in a horrible car accident at 16 and had to have major reconstruction surgeries. But she recovered fully, and had a great career.
She signed her first record deal in the early 1980's, but it would be years later when success would finally show up. She would go on to have only one #1 song, (which I find almost incredible as her hit list is long) as she recorded some terrific songs. But #1's are tough to get, and she was always in that general area.
The great gift that Pam Tillis gave us was an incredible voice that was filled with deep rooted passion and confident power. Her versatility was unmatched. In short, I loved hearing her sing a country song, and I still do. As far as singing ability was concerned, she was the most passionate singer in our format - period! She would sound good singing the dictionary.
Mi Vida Loca - Her Only #1 Song -
Her hits included her first big song, Don't Tell Me What To Do #5 in 1991. The album was Put Yourself In My Place, and was backed by some of Nashville's biggest names at the time, it was a big hit. The second single is a song that still haunts me, One Of Those Things #6 and Maybe It Was Memphis, #5. She was on her way for a great run that would take her through the majority of the 90's. Other big songs along the way were, Mi Vida Loca #1, Let That Pony Run #5, Shake The Sugar Tree #4, (should have been #1). Cleopatra, Queen Of Denial, and my favorite, When You Walk In The Room, a remake that was a top 2 hit as well. And there were many others.
When You Walk In The Room #2 - 1994
Tillis had a terrific quality that is tough to come by for any singer of any era, in any format. When you heard her sing, you absolutely knew it was her. Her voice cut through magnificently, and was unique enough to be incredibly identifiable when she was on the radio. Her voice never got lost within a song. A fantastic range that was enviable, and the ability to sing fun, and insanely sad songs just as well - that was her calling card. Her ballads were so powerful, you could feel the tears in her eyes - and yours. I emceed a few of her shows, and her voice was not lost on stage, she was/is the real deal.
One Of Those Things - POWERFUL Song, 1991 Haunts Me Still All These Years Later
She had great success in an era that was super competitive, and she was part of what made that decade great. I liked her singing, her style, and her song choices, as she was a great songwriter as well. She was a grownup and made grownup song choices that served her very well. Whenever I heard her sing a song, from that moment on - it was a "Pam Tillis" song, as she made every stanza her own. She had a great run, and was, and is, a remarkable talent.
She didn't just sing songs, she sang really good songs that fit her perfectly. She, in my view is the template for what a new artist can be. Sing songs that are really good, fitting, that suit you, and ones that everyone will love to hear.
If you are not old enough to really remember, she is absolutely worth a Google and YouTube search. You'll find she still performs and is still around.