Originally appeared in the Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Posted By JAMES REANEY, SUN MEDIA
Super songwriter Mel Tillis has a whole lotta love and gratitude for this singer called Robert Plant.
Tillis just isn’t sure who the guy is. Tillis knows some of the songs that this Plant fella sings because he wrote them. One is Stick With Me Baby, a Tillis-penned tune for the Everly Brothers in the late 1950s.
“It was just recorded by a person that I’ve never of, Robert Plant,” Tillis says. “He cut a duet with Alison Krauss. He did it and last count it’s over two million albums.”
British rock superstar Plant and roots music superstar Krauss teamed on the multi-Grammy-winning Raising Sand. Tillis carefully checks the album’s title with his staff.
He doesn’t need to check where Plant found Raising Sand’s 10th track. “He heard that song in England. I’ll tell you how he heard it,” Tillis says. “That was on the back side of Temptation by the Everly Brothers … Over in England, Stick With Me Baby was the hit and he heard that over there away back when he was just a young man.”
It’s hard to believe someone with a 52-year career like Tillis and a hip daughter, Pam Tillis, in the business really hadn’t heard of the ex-Led Zep frontman.
He is, after all, the famous author of Stutterin’ Boy, hailed as a brave and funny account of his storied stutter and rise to country success, and a multiple winner of comedy awards.
“No, no, no, I hadn’t . . . that ain’t my world,” Mel Tillis insists. That is his answer when he is pressed on not knowing about Plant by a slightly skeptical interviewer who is wondering if the fabled country wit and award-winning comedian might be planting a tale.
Tillis has been tracking Plant, who’s been singing a lot of Mel’s music, it seems, “I heard him the other day with some damn guy on TV singing an old song that I wrote for Burl Ives and Lefty Frizzell called What You Going to Do, Leroy. I heard him singing that on MTV or one of them,” Tillis says.
It’s likely Tillis saw Plant with U. S. roots star Buddy Miller when it comes to doing Leroy.
“They did it real smooth, almost like the Everly Brothers . . . (with) heart and soul. They didn’t change anything,” Tillis says of one or maybe both of the Plant celebrity duets on Mel-made classics.
It is suggested that Tillis and his celebrated band, the Statesiders, might want to return Plant’s favour by covering Whole Lotta Love or Black Dog or other Led Zep classics on their current tour. The man who has written more than 1,000 songs, as many as 600 of them covered by other recording artists, laughs good-naturedly at the thought.
So it’s not likely Tillis, and the twin fiddles who drive the nine-piece Statesiders, will shift into Zep mode when the tour reaches Centennial Hall on Monday night.