Member Since 2000
When Marty Stuart brought brand new Grand Ole Opry member Pam Tillis to the stage in the summer of 2000, he welcomed her as “country music royalty.” There was truth in that.
Pam had enjoyed nearly 20 Top 10 hits by then, including six No. 1s, and had won three CMA Awards — including the coveted Female Voclalist of the Year title in 1994—as well as two Grammys. She’d first appeared at the Opry on the Ryman stage at age eight, singing “Tom Dooley” with her father Mel Tillis—one of the brightest singing stars of his generation, and composer of dozens of classic country songs.
But Pam was hardly just handed down that recognition, royalty style. When she decided that she wanted to make a career out of music herself, she was determined that it would come without riding on her famous father’s coattails.
Besides the honky tonk she’d grown up with, Pam was influenced by the music of the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, and Carole King. She experimented with pop, Broadway, soul, and jazz singing before heading home with a style that brought bits of all of those to country.
Through the 1980s, she pounded the pavement of Nashville’s Music Row, working as a back-up vocalist, jingle singer, club performer, songwriter, and demo singer before finding recording success with her first hit single, the pointed “Don’t Tell Me What to Do.” Hits that followed, from “Shake the Sugar Tree” to “Maybe It Was Memphis,” “Mi Vida Loca,” and “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial,” would help define the widening country sounds of the 1990s.
“In all of my years in the music business,” Pam says, “I’ve been very proud that I wasn’t calculated, that I really did what I felt, and what I thought was honest for me to sing. Daddy always said, ‘Never change who you are; let it come around to you.’ So when things did happen for me, it was because what I wanted to do was what people now wanted to hear.”
Pam paid tribute to Mel Tillis’ music with her acclaimed 2002 album It’s All Relative, which featured adventurous turns on Mel’s songs. The younger Tillis began her own record label, Stellar Cat Records, in 2007. Rhinestoned was her first album released from her new label while Just in Time for Christmas followed shortly after.
Famed for her versatility, Pam was one of the first women to produce her own album, and has written hits for Chaka Kahn, Conway Twitty, and Martina McBride. She has appeared as a guest actress on a number of prime-time TV series and starred in the Broadway show Smokey Joe’s Cafe in 1999.