There are legends still touring in America. Some do it for the money and some do it merely because they love their fans. Mel Tillis does it for the latter. After a career that spanned decades in country music, Mr. Tillis has also become an author and actor, seen in various Burt Reynolds movies because Burt is himself a big Mel Tillis fan.
Mel is very well set financially, with ranches in California, Tennessee, and Florida, yet he keeps a rugged schedule of almost 200 appearances a year. Why? Because his fans, bless them, love his act. His concerts are now about an hour or less to account for his age, unlike the two or three hour marathons he regularly did twenty years ago.. What may be lacking is time, the country legend makes up for it by involving his audience. He has a pocketful of guitar picks he hands out during his performance, and shares personal light-hearted tales of his friends and family to evoke genuine laughter.
During his latest show at a local casino here in Washington, he even left the stage and roamed among the crowd, handing out books, CDs, and DVDs, as well as the signature guitar picks. After the show, Mr Tillis came out to greet the fans, but unlike some stars, he kept away from his merchandise stand and made sure his band announced that he would be there for small talk and photos even if you bought nothing, and stayed until every fan in line had a chance to meet him.
I don’t know what kind of supplements he’s taking, if any, but they work. At 83, Mel Tillis is still a dynamo with boundless energy. His hair may be white, but he still looks the same as he did when I last met him in Nashville in 1975. He may not have as long as others in this business to go, but he’s making every minute count, and taking us along for the ride.