Mel Tillis and the Pancake Preacher Man

Glen Campbell, Charlotte Laws and Mel Tillis at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in the 1980s.
Glen Campbell, Charlotte Laws and Mel Tillis at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in the 1980s.

Country music star Mel Tillis died on Sunday. I wish to celebrate the life of this genuine, sweet, and talented man with a funny story that occurred in Las Vegas in the early 1980s.

Mel had just concluded his second show at the Frontier Hotel and Casino, and there were ten of us in Mel’s dressing room, including a man named Don whom no one seemed to know. Mel invited everyone to join him in the coffee shop for a bite. It was 3:30 am. Just after we ordered pancakes, Don turned into Jimmy Swaggart.

“I was in Louisiana, and God told me, ‘Go see Mel Tills,’” Devout Don said. “I had a vision. I came here to tell you that you are full of sin, Mel. We are all full of sin.”

Devout Don simply would not shut up and even started to weep, “You need God, Mel. You feel like you’re backed into a corner. There is nowhere to go…”

Don was right. We did feel trapped. We had ordered our food, and there was no escaping preacher man now. Mel looked at the rest of us with an “Oh, my gosh. What are we gonna do?” expression on his face.

“The devil has you cornered, Mel. God is the great provider… I’m here to save your soul.”

The meal had turned into a bad church service. Later, Mel told me, “I thought he was a friend of someone’s. That’s why I let him come along with us to breakfast. I didn’t know he’d sneaked backstage.” We had a long laugh.

Of course, Mel, he did not need Pancake Preacher Man or anyone else, for that matter, to put him on the path to righteousness. He had a tender heart and a soul of gold. He will be missed.

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