COUNTRY GREAT FLOYD TILLMAN
Floyd Tillman, a Country Music Hall of Famer whose deep, plaintive drawl, honky-tonk guitar style and classic compositions kept him a much-admired musical force for decades, died last month at his home in Bacliff.
Mr. Tillman, 88, had leukemia.
He began singing and playing stringed instruments as a teen-ager in the Texas Panhandle, and was influenced by a variety of pop, western swing and traditional country melodies as he rambled around in the 1930s.
After he established himself with such crossover hits as "It Makes No Difference Now" and "They Took the Stars Out of Heaven", Floyd broke new ground in post-World War II music, notably with "Slippin' Around". Considered daring for its blithe approach to adultery, the song became a million-selling duet in 1949 for Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely - and also a top country recording for Ernest Tubb.
Mr. Tillman once told author Dorothy Horstman that he got the idea for the song while sitting at 3 a.m. at an all-night diner in west Texas.
"There was a telephone nearby, and a lady was talking on it," he said. "I couldn't help but overhear the conversation. She said, 'Now, honey, you call me, and if a man answers, hang up.' I thought, 'Poor girl, she's just like me ... slipping around.' "
He wrote a follow-up, "I'll Never Slip Around Again."
Mr. Tillman's last hit song was "It Just Tears Me Up" in 1960, but he never stopped performing. Most recently, he was finishing a soon-to-be-released album called "Floyd Tillman -- The Influence", on which he sang duets of his songs with Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Willie Nelson.
Nelson, in particular, cited Floyd Tillman as a chief influence as a singer and songwriter. As an early champion of the electric guitar in honky-tonk pop, he also was revered by early rock 'n' rollers, having influenced the playing styles of Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Mr. Tillman was the youngest of 11 children born to a sharecropping family in Ryan, Okla. He was 3 months old when his family moved to Post, in Texas.
He learned banjo and mandolin, and by age 18 was playing in the popular German-Czech swing band of Adolph and Emil Hofner in San Antonio. He also played in a Houston dance band.
Bandleader-fiddler Leon "Pappy" Selph recruited Mr. Tillman as lead singer for the Blue Ridge Playboys, which included pianist Moon Mullican and steel guitarist Ted Daffan.
Mr. Tillman and Selph made their songwriting mark in 1938 with "It Makes No Difference Now". First recorded by future Louisiana Gov. Jimmie Davis, the tune, which the duo sold for $300, also became a hit for Gene Autry, Bob Wills and, notably, Bing Crosby. Ray Charles and Diana Ross also did versions.
His other hit songs included "I Love You So Much It Hurts", "This Cold War With You" and "I Gotta Have My Baby Back".
He was inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame in 1984.
His marriage to Margarete Hartis Tillman, who once sang under the name Little Marge, ended in divorce. They remarried in recent years, and she died in 2001.
His second wife, Frances Woods Tillman, died in 1997. Survivors include two sons from the first marriage, Larry Tillman of Bacliff and Donald Tillman of League City.