Jamboree signs Mel Tillis, Tracy Lawrence added to Jamboree

Country music legend Mel Tillis and Tracy Lawrence have been added to the 2009 Oregon Jamboree lineup.

Tillis has been in the music and entertainment business for more than 50 years, working concerts all over the 50 states, Canada, England and other countries with his band, the Statesiders.

He started performing in the early 1950s with a group called The Westerners while serving as a baker in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Okinawa. In 1956, Webb Pierce recorded “I’m Tired,” penned by Tillis, launching his musical career.

Tillis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame and was the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 1976. For six years in the 1970s, he won Comedian of the Year. In 1999, Broadcast Music, Inc., named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades. He also won the 2001 Golden Voice Entertainer Award and the Golden ROPE Songwriter Award.

Tillis is a member of the Grand Ol’ Opry and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

He has written more than 1,000 songs, and approximately 600 have been recorded by major artists, including “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” by Kenny Rogers; “Detroit City,” by Bobby Bare; “Emotions,” by Brenda Lee; and “Thoughts of a Fool,” by George Strait.

“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” received a special citation from BMI for 3 million broadcast performances.

He has recorded more than 60 albums and had 36 Top Ten singles with nine reaching number one, including, “Good Woman Blues,” “Coca Cola Cowboy” and “Southern Rain.”

He has appeared on numerous television shows and appear in numerous films, such as “Every Which Way But Loose,” with Clint Eastwood; “Cannonball Run” and its sequel; and “Smokey and the Bandit II” with Burt Reynolds.

Among his most recent recordings, released in 1998, was “Old Dogs,” with Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed. It received a nomination for the 1999 Vocal Event of the Year by the CMA.

Lawrence released his most recent album, “For the Love” in 2007, scoring a number-hit with the lead-off single, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”

He recorded the album on his own Rocky Comfort Records, a venture that gives him a new platform.

“I feel like I’m starting fresh,” he said. “I have a lot more freedom to do some of the things I think are important to me and to build something of substance over the next several years. My fans will benefit as well. We don’t have the same overhead that major recording companies do, and we can distribute my music in such a way at retail that I still make a living and my fans can purchase my music at the best possible price.”

As a first step along that new career path, the album is firmly planted on Lawrence’s love and appreciation for classic country, he said. “I think this record is a little more retro. There’s a lot more traditional country on this record and some things reflective of my own early success.”

He has posted more number-one Billboard country singles than greats like Glen Campbell, Keith Whitley, Ernest Tubb, Wynonna Judd or Barbara Mandrell. He has posted more Top Five hits than Shania Twain, Faith Hill or The Judds and more Top 10 hits than Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Rich, John Michael Montgomery or Dwight Yoakam.

He hit the national spotlight in 1991 at age 23, the product of a rough-and-tumble childhood in Foreman, Ark. A self-described “hellion,” he found release in performing, playing jamborees at 15 and honky tonks at 17.

He moved to Nashville in 1990 in a 10-year-old Toyota Corolla with 250,00 miles on it, expired tags, no insurance and three cylinders. A live appearance on a Kentucky radio station and a showcase at Bluebird Café led to signing with Atlantic in 1991.

His debut album, “Sticks and Stones,” had four Top 10 country hits. His second album, “Alibis,” spawned four number-one hits, including “Can’t Break It to My Heart,” “My Second Home” and “If the Good Die Young.” His hits also include the trademark “Better Man, Better Off,” and “Renegades, Rebels and Rogues,” from the soundtrack of “Maverick,” starring Mel Gibson.

Lawrence will perform in the 6:30 p.m. time slot on Saturday, Aug. 1, ahead of headliner LeAnn Rimes.

Tillis will perform at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug., 2, ahead of Jake Owen at 4:15 p.m. and headliner Montgomery Gentry at 6:30 p.m. and following Kristy Lee Cook at noon.

The Jamboree’s announce-ment rounds out the Sunday schedule. The second and third performances on Saturday remain to be announced. The first and second performances on Friday, July 31, also remain unannounced. Tim McGraw will headline on July 31.

The Oregon Jamboree is an annual three-day country music and camping festival held in Sweet Home. It is owned and produced by the Sweet Home Economic Development Group. Proceeds are used to fund local community and economic development projects. Some 600 volunteers help run the festival.

For more information, to purchase tickets or to volunteer, call the Jamboree office at 367-8800.