Growing up in Nashville, Pam Tillis was born with country music in her blood. Her father was legendary country singer-songwriter Mel Tillis. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut at the age of 8 singing "Tom Dooley," but it would take awhile for her solo career to take off.
Tillis briefly enrolled in the University of Tennessee, where she was involving with various singing troupes. She dropped out in 1976 to work for her father's publishing company. She wrote the song "The Other Side of the Morning" for Barbara Fairchild, which performed fairly well on the country charts, and she moved out to California where she founded the jazz and rock band Freelight.
But it's lonely out there in California. A few years later, she returned to her country roots in Nashville and continued thriving as a songwriter, penning songs for artists like Gloria Gaynor, Conway Twitty, Darryl & Don Ellis and Tim Ryan. Shortly after performing at the famous Bluebird Café, she was signed to Warner Bros Records for a solo career in the early '80s. While Tillis' early songs "Goodbye Highway" and "Those Memories of You" made it onto the country charts, things really took off for Tillis in the early 90s after signing with Arista Nashville.
Her first single with her new record label, "Don't Tell Me What to Do," reached number 5 on the charts. Her next album, Put Yourself in My Place, had multiple other strong performing songs like "Blue Rose Is" and "One of Those Things." Tillis continued to release hit albums in the '90s like Homeward Looking Angel, All of This Love, Sweetheart's Dance and Every Time. She regularly had singles that landed in the top 5 on the Billboard country charts like "Land of the Living" and "Spilled Perfume."
The country star is also an accomplished actor, appearing on Broadway in Smokey Joe's Café as well as various TV shows including Nashville. Tillis started her own record label, Stellar Cat Records, in 2007. She self- released multiple albums including RhineStoned, Just in Time for Christmas and a duets album with Lorrie Morgan, Dos Divas. Tillis became a member of the famed Grand Ole Opry in 2000 and inducted her own father a few years later.
In honor of her celebrated career, we've rounded up 15 of our favorite Pam Tillis songs.
15. "Spilled Perfume"
Tillis, who co-wrote "Spilled Perfume" with Dean Dillon, offers up some sage advice to a heartbroken woman on this 1994 single from her album Sweetheart's Dance.
14. "We've Tried Everything Else"
Written by Tillis, Bob DiPiero and Steve Seskin, "We've Tried Everything Else" was recorded for Tillis' third album Homeward Looking Angel.
13. "Do You Know Where Your Man Is"
Another track from Homeward Looking Angel, the barroom weeper "Do You Know Where Your Man Is" was a top 20 hit for Tillis.
12. "I Said a Prayer"
Written by Leslie Satcher, the effervescent "I Said a Prayer" was the first single from Tillis' album Every Time and reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
11. "Let That Pony Run"
Written by Gretchen Peters, the stunning "Let That Pony Run" follows a woman who starts over after she finds out her husband has been unfaithful.
10. "In Between Dances"
Written by Craig Bickhardt and Barry Alfonso, this track from Sweetheart's Dance hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
9. "When You Walk In The Room"
Tillis covered this Jackie DeShannon song for her 1994 album Sweetheart's Dance.
8. "Deep Down"
Written by Walt Aldridge and John Jarrard, this song about living with heartbreak was recorded for Tillis' 1995 album All of This Love.
7. "The River and the Highway"
Written by Gerry House and Don Schlitz, "The River and the Highway" centers on a man and a woman who are incompatible and reached No. 8 on the country charts.
6. "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial"
Written by Tillis, Bob DiPiero and Jan Buckingham, "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial" centers on a woman in love with a liar. Deception has never sounded so good.
5. "All the Good Ones Are Gone"
Being single ain't easy, as Tillis shares in this top 5 single written by Dean Dillon and Bob McDill.
4. "Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)"
The freewheeling "Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)," written by Jess Leary and Pam Tillis, is Tillis' only No. 1 hit to date.
3. "Don't Tell Me What To Do"
First recorded by Marty Stuart, this Harlan Howard and Max D. Barnes-penned hit was the first single from Tillis' album Put Yourself in My Place.
2. "Shake The Sugar Tree"
Tillis warns against taking love for granted on "Shake the Sugar Tree," a top 10 hit from Homeward Looking Angel.
1. "Maybe It Was Memphis"
Tillis' southern romance saga "Maybe It Was Memphis" is the country queen's signature song -- and for good reason. The singer's tribute to William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and steamy southern nights was the lead single from Tillis' Homeward Looking Angel and remains one of the best country ballads of the '90s.
It was first recorded by rocker Phil Seymour, though Seymour's version didn't see the light of day until 2012.
This story previously ran on Jan. 3, 2020.
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