FORGOTTEN AMERICAN MUSIC MASTERS

Wilma Tilly country and western singer

WILMA TILLY
April 14, 1940-January 19, 1987

Wilma Tilly was an American country singer known for her string of 1950's Country and Western hits like, "Mama, You Don't Know Nuthin' 'Bout Love" and "Gotta Git Me a New Man 'Cause My Old Man is Broke". Born in Tennessee, in a barn on a pile of burlap bags in 1940, Miss Tilly took Nashville by storm in the 1950s with her school girl look (she was still a school girl) combined with a world-weary outlook on life that was reflected in such songs "Mama, I Got a Bad Man" and "Why Din't You Tell Me About Bad Men, Mama".

Early Years

Tilly suffered through a series of tragedies at a young age starting with the death of her beloved dog, Freckles, and ending with the deaths of every single member of her immediate and extended family within a three day period of time. These sad events led to a string of somber recordings that so depressed country music fans, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, assigned a national task force to combat what was becoming a nationwide suicide epidemic. The crisis peaked in 1955, when all 500 attendees of a Wilma Tilly concert at the Old Brown Barn in Butterfield, Georgia, made their way to the roof of the one-story auditorium with the intent of jumping to their deaths or at least significantly injuring themselves.

Married Life on the Road

Tilly married her manager, Buck "Bubba" Williams at the age of eleven and had twenty-three children and 253 grandchildren. Despite being pregnant eight straight years, Williams had Tilly on the road touring 364 days per year, performing two shows every Sunday.

Death

Wilma Tilly died in 1987 after battling thirty-seven different types of cancer.

Chris Auman

 

Originally published in RW#22, 2014

RW #22


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