Bill Phillips, a country singer known for his yearning, emotional vocals
and for his role in introducing Dolly Parton to the record-buying public,
died Monday, Aug. 23 at age 74.
Born in the western North Carolina town of Canton, Mr. Phillips first came to attention as
part of Miami, Fla. station WMIL's multi-artist jamboree. Two duets with Florida-reared
Mel Tillis reached the Top 30 of Billboard’s country singles chart in 1959
and 1960, but it was not until 1966, when Mr. Phillips recorded a song by
then-unknown Dolly Parton, that he experienced major success.
Parton was living in something akin to poverty when Mr. Phillips heard her demo of “Put
It Off Until Tomorrow,” a song she wrote with her uncle, Bill Owens. Impressed with
the composition and also with the “girl singer” on the tape, Mr. Phillips recorded
the song with Parton singing prominent harmony vocals.
The song became Mr. Phillips’ first Top 10 hit, and it launched Parton’s career. Months
after “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard country singles
chart in April of 1966, Parton secured cuts from Skeeter Davis and Hank Williams Jr.,
and she soon signed a record contract.
Mr. Phillips’ career did not ascend to Parton’s Hall of Fame heights, but he scored
three more Top 10 hits, the last being 1969’s “Little Boy Sad.” Mr. Phillips toured
as part of “Queen of Country Music” Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright’s show from 1969
through 1984, and he was also a part of Wells and Wright’s syndicated
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