NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Billy Sherrill, the producer behind country music hits including Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," died on Tuesday after a brief illness at the age of 78.
Sherrill, a Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee in 2010, was remembered as an excellent song man, by Harold Bradley, 89, the guitarist who played on numerous sessions, including "Stand By Your Man."
"He was great to work for," said Bradley, who remains active with session work and as a performer.
"He was very creative. He had a knack for picking songs and he was a great songwriter," said Bradley.
Born Nov. 5, 1936 in Phil Campbell, Alabama, Sherrill began his music career playing piano while his evangelist father conducted revivals, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He went on to perform as a rock act and participate in the Alabama R&B scene before he was brought to Nashville by music legend Sam Phillips, who was behind the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison among others.
Sherrill worked as a producer and engineer at Phillips' downtown Nashville studios, developing skills and a layered, lush sound that would transform music, it said.
"One of country's most influential producers, Billy Sherrill helped to shape the music's evolution in the 1970s and beyond," the Hall said in its biography.
He began making his mark in country music with David Houston's 1966 No. 1 country hit "Almost Persuaded." Sherrill co-wrote the song with Glenn Sutton.
It pulled off a Grammy hat trick, with Houston taking Best Country & Western Recording and Best Country & Western Vocal Performance, Male; while Sherrill and Sutton took the honors for Best Country Song.
Sherrill found a budding star in Tammy Wynette, whose so-called "Queen of Heartbreak" career he helped shape.
He produced Wynette through songs like "I Don't Wanna Play House" and, "Stand By Your Man."
With Charlie Rich, Sherrill is credited with taking the jazz, pop and R&B history of the singer and giving it a hard turn into the world of country-pop stardom.
He wrote and produced songs for a diverse array of music greats including Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Elvis Costello.
He was also one of the major forces behind Johnny Paycheck's anthem "Take This Job and Shove It," and produced Tanya Tucker's breakthrough "Delta Dawn."
Editing by Jon Herskovitz