FLOYD TILLMAN RIP @ 88
troubadour Floyd Tillman shared more than a sub genre with Shotgun Willie
Nelson in a career spanning seven decades.
But unlike Willie who flogged embryonic 'Family Bible' for $50 to a Houston music school owner Paul Buskirk for a meal in the fifties, Floyd's song boomeranged when the copyright expired."He offered me $200 for it and I held out for $300," Tillman revealed long before he died of leukemia at 88 on August 30 at his home near Houston.'Finally got the thing back 28 years later in 1966. Made me more money the year I got it back than for the whole time I sold it, too."
Tillman's song was a country hit for western swing master Cliff Bruner and pop chart topper for Bing Crosby.
It was also cut by Gene Autry, Bob Wills, Ray Charles, Diana Ross & The Supremes. Tillman bought back the rights 35 years before Davis, two time Louisiana Governor, actor and writer of 'You Are My Sunshine,' expired recently after turning 100. So when Floyd died last month his family retained the rights to his huge catalogue.
FLOYD, WILLIE AND PAUL
It was just 12 months after the death of Buskirk, who taught Willie guitar and died at 78 in 2002 in Nacogdoches, East Texas.
That was after a career playing with artists diverse as Lefty Frizzell, Roy Acuff, Ray Price, Eddie Arnold and Tex Ritter.Buskirk had earlier revealed he once had dinner with Nelson, now 70, who didn't have enough money to pay his tab. With barbecue sauce dripping down his chin, Willie leaned across the table and began to sing to Buskirk. Buskirk said he paid for Nelson's meal and promised him $50 for rights to the song - 'Family Bible.'Ironically, Willie recorded one of Tillman's early classics 'This Cold War With You.'
And it was Nelson who said 'Hell, I'm no outlaw. You want to talk about outlaws, look at someone like Floyd Tillman. Now, there's an outlaw for you.'' But Willie was just one of many Tillman clients who enabled him to scale down his live shows while soaking up writing royalties.
They included artists diverse as John Prine, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Rays - Price and Charles - Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell and pop acts Diana Ross, Ella Fitzgerald, Marie Osmond, Perry Como, Dean Martin and Vic Damone. Nelson said that after he met Tillman in the '50s they became fast friends. "I was asking him about some of his songs one day, and I told him I really liked one called 'I'll Keep On Loving You.' I thought it would take a real special woman to inspire such a sweet love song and Floyd told me he actually wrote it about his car."
TILLMAN MOVED TO TEXAS IN A COVERED WAGON
Tillman, youngest of 11 children born to a share farming family in Ryan, Oklahoma, on December 8, 1914, moved across the Red River shortly afterwards to Post, Texas, with his parents and siblings in two covered wagons.
It was that Panhandle town named after a cereal magnate who started a cotton mill in 1900, that Floyd was reared on the music of Vernon Dalhart and Jimmie Rodgers on a wind-up phonograph.After losing a dollar a day job as a 15-year-old Western Union messenger boy during the depression in 1929 he played mandolin and guitar in a family band at Post near Lubbock - birthplace of protege Buddy Holly and former home of kindred spirits Roy Orbison and Buddy Knox.
He emulated Rodgers by riding freight trains to Houston and later San Antonio where he joined the recently deceased Adolph Hofner's western swing band in 1935.After stints with the 'Mark Clark Orchestra' and fiddler Leon 'Pappy' Selph's 'Blue Ridge Playboys' in 1936 he began singing and playing electric guitar - unique then in country music.His guitar playing was jazz tinged and he sang behind the beat and stretched out lyrics - a method later practiced by Willie and Lefty.
The Blue Ridge Playboys landed a show on KXYD in Houston and included pianist Moon Mullican and Hawaiian guitarist Ted Daffan who later wrote classics - 'Truck Driver's Blues' (1939), 'Born To Lose,' 'Headin' Down The Wrong Highway,' 'Blue Steel Blues,' 'No Letter Today' and 'Worried Mind.' Tillman also began writing songs - 'Rhythm In The Air' and 'A Precious Memory' - and recorded solo projects from 1939 with Decca.
He also wrote 'It Makes No Difference Now' - a 1939 pop hit for Bing Crosby shortly before Connie Boswell scored with Tillman tune 'I'll Keep On Loving You.' But by the time 'They Took The Stars Out Of Heaven' surfaced in 1941 he had been drafted as a radio operator.'Stars' topped charts and was followed by 'G.I. Blues' and 'Each Night At Nine'.
WAR ON THE HOME FRONT
After the war Tillman moved back to Houston where he fronted a band featuring then wife Margarete Hardis who sang under the name of Little Marge.
1945 was also the year Tillman met fourth wife Frances who married and divorced the same man twice but didn't wed Floyd until 15 years later.
So when Frances died in 1997 Floyd turned back the clock and remarried Little Marge - Margarete Hartis Tillman.But Little Marge died in 200, almost 50 years after he moved to Columbia and charted with a cover of Jerry Irby's 'Drivin' Nails In My Coffin' and his original 'I Love You So Much It Hurts' in 1948 and 'Please Pass Me By' in 1949.'
I Love You So Much It Hurts' was a hit for the Mills Brothers and two other pop acts and helped generate a healthy royalty bank.
PIONEER OF ADULTERY AND CHEATING SONGS
When he heard a woman's phone conversation in a diner about illicit love after a 1949 gig in San Antonio he wrote the first known cheating hit 'Slipping Around.'"Honey, you call me tomorrow," the woman told the voice at the end of the line, "if a man answers, hang up."
Adultery was taboo in country music but Tillman took a punt."I thought 'oh, she's slipping around.' I had never heard the expression at the time so I guess I made it up. I thought it might not be a bad idea for a song so I wrote it down on a napkin and stuck it in my pocket. Dug it out the next day and finished the whole song."
Tillman's #5 hit sold 500,000 and was followed by million selling covers by Margaret Whiting and western singer Jimmy Wakely which topped pop and country charts for three and 17 weeks respectively.
Although a verse of the song was toned down by TV show 'Lucky Stripe Hit Parade' Tillman chanced his voice on a sequel 'I'll Never Slip Around' which peaked at #6.The offending verse - "you're tied up with someone else and I'm all tied up too."
But it was 'This Cold War With You', utilising the U.S.-U.S.S.R. cold war as a love metaphor, which stood the test of time when a hit much later for Shotgun Willie.
Tillman stayed with Columbia until 1954 and re-recorded his best known hits in 1957 for RCA before his 1960 Liberty single 'It Just Tears Me Up' was a #30 country hit.
The singer, buoyed by royalties, recorded albums for Cimmaron, Musicor, Allegro and Crazy Cajun - the Texan label of Huey Meaux who released the embryonic discs by Texan Tornadoes Freddy Fender and the late Doug Sahm.Meaux, still doing time on child porn and dope charges, was Floyd's last record stop before he cut 'Floyd Tillman And Friends' for the Gilley's cowboy bar label.
Tillman was joined on the 1984 disc by pedal steel guitarist Herb Remington and fiddler Johnny Gimble and singers Merle Haggard, Johnny Lee, Ernest Tubb, Nelson and mine host Mickey Gilley.
TILLMAN FINDS NEW MOBILE HOME
When Tillman was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame that year he was living with wife Frances in a mobile home on the edge of Texas capital Austin.
They used it as an office, residence and recording studio for three weeks each month as well as their other home 35 miles away at Spicewood near Nelson's Country Club, golf course and recording studio at Pedernales.
The couple also lived on boats up and down the Texas coastline and once owned an aeroplane.Tillman moved to Marble Falls several years ago but shifted to the Houston suburb of Bacliff to be near his doctors after he was diagnosed.Survivors include two sons Larry Tillman of Bacliff and Donald Tillman of League City.
But Houston was Tillman's tarmac to honky tonk heaven where he will be re-united with many peers. For those left behind a new Justin Trevino album, 'The Influence' on 'Heart Of Texas Records,' is scheduled for release in November.
The disc includes duets with friends, including Johnny Bush, Dolly Parton, Mel Tillis, Hank Thompson, Darrell McCall, Gene Watson, Frankie Miller, Connie Smith, Jones, Nelson, Haggard and Leona Williams, one of the Hag's four ex-wives.Tillman recorded his vocals for the 14 songs during three sessions in San Marcos - musicians include Johnny Gimble, Dave Kirby, Floyd Domino, Smile Reynolds, Levi Mullen, Trevino and Dickey Overby.
Tillman outlived his wives and survivors include two sons - Larry Tillman of Bacliff and Donald Tillman of League City.