Award winning country songwriter Charles Quillen died last Friday in east Tennessee at age 84.
His biggest hits were the trio of chart-toppers he co-wrote for Ronnie Milsap—“Back on My Mind Again” (1979), “My Heart” (1980) and “I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World” (1981). The last-named was a pop-crossover success as well as a No. 1 country song.
He also co-wrote Steve Wariner’s top 10 smashes “Your Memory” (1980) and “By Now” (1981).
Charles William Quillen was born in Virginia in 1938. Following high school graduation in 1956, he served 10 years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Vietnam. After his discharge, he settled in Kingsport, Tennessee and worked at the Mead Corporation paper company.
He’d been writing songs for several years when he decided to try his luck in Nashville in 1970. The early years in Music City were lean. He began to get album cuts in 1974, then achieved major success beginning in 1978.
He co-wrote two of east Tennessee stylist Con Hunley’s biggest hits, “They Never Lost You” (1980) and “What’s New With You” (1981).
Quillen’s other chart successes included “Our Wedding Band” for Louise Mandrell and R.C. Bannon (1982), “She Used to Love Me a Lot” for David Allan Coe (1985), “I Talked a Lot About Leaving” for Larry Boone (1987), “The Jukebox Played Along” for Gene Watson (1989) and “Why Don’t That Telephone Ring” for Tracy Byrd (1993).
He returned to No. 1 in 1986 as the co-writer of John Schneider’s “What’s a Memory Like You (Doing in a Love Like This).” During his Nashville career, Charles Quillen received 12 ASCAP Awards and numerous Gold and Platinum records for his works.
His songs were recorded by such Country Music Hall of Fame members as George Strait, Conway Twitty, Charlie Louvin, Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Floyd Cramer and Charley Pride.
Among the dozens of other stars who recorded Qullen’s tunes were Blake Shelton, Moe Bandy, Wayne Newton, Sylvia, Marie Osmond, Mark Chestnutt, Jim & Jesse, Charly McClain and Ricky Van Shelton.
Always quick to praise his collaborators, Quillen called himself “blessed” to have written with such Music Row greats as Dean Dillon, Kye Fleming, Dennis Morgan, Don Pfrimmer, Conrad Pierce, John Jarrard and John Schweers.
He was known as “Downtown Charlie” to listeners of Nashville sports-talk radio programs. He was an avid Tennessee Vols fan.
Charles Quillen retired in 2005 and returned to Kingsport. He died there of an undisclosed cause on Aug. 19.
He is survived by his daughter, Allison Quillen Hurst and by his son, Joey Quillen; by two grandchildren, two sisters, a brother and several nieces nephews, cousins and extended family members.
At his request, Charles Quillen was cremated, and a memorial service will be announced at a later date. Carter Trent Funeral Home of Kingsport is serving the Quillen family.
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