Photo: Courtest

The late great Mel Tillis sings “The Arms of a Fool,” live at the Grand Ole Opry.

November 19, 2017, marks the day we lost one of the most influential artists in country music, Mel Tillis.

In addition to performing and recording, Tillis wrote more than 1,000 songs; around 600 have been recorded by a major artist. One of the most recognizable, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” topped the charts for Kenny Rogers.

Tillis got his start in the 1950s when he formed a band called The Westerners while stationed with the Air Force and working as a baker in Okinawa. He became a singing sensation in the ’70s, eventually racking up nine Top 10 hits, including “I Ain’t Never,” which reached No. 2 on Hot Country Songs, and six No.1 hits, including “Good Woman Blues,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” and “Southern Rains.”

Tillis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame in 1976; that same year, he won the Country Music Association Award for Entertainer of the Year. In 2007, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2009, the Florida-born-and-raised artist was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. For his contributions to country music, Tillis was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

To celebrate Tillis’ life and musical legacy, we’ve chosen his performance of “The Arms of a Fool” (written by Ronal McCown and recorded by Tillis in 1971) as this week’s Opry Performance of the Week. Take a look at his impressive performance during what would be his last on the Opry stage, on December 11, 2015.

For more information on Tillis, visit his website.