Stutters are a mystery.
How can a person have a stutter when talking but have no sign of it when singing? Is it because the parts of the brain for talking and singing are in different areas? Does it have something to do with the rhythm? Some reports say it may because the singer knows what words are coming (i.e. “word retrieval”).
A lot of research has been done on the topic, but nothing clearly definitive has come out. We know that when listening to or playing music, one part of the brain lights up — a different part of the brain than when we speak.
We know music helps stutterers.
One good example of this is Mushy, a student from Yorkshire whose stutter was so bad that he couldn’t even read a poem. But, once he put headphones on that had music pumping out, he was able to flow right through it.
He then gave a speech, while wearing headphones, in front of all his classmates — his peers who only knew his voice with a stutter heard him confidently talk about his experience thus far as a student.
Another good example of music helping a stutterer is the country music legend, Mel Tillis. He’s a stutter-less singer and a singing stutterer. When he was just a little child, he came down with malaria. After battling this disease, he developed a stutter.
But he didn’t shy away from music.
It all started when he learned the guitar at age 16 and won a talent contest. So he started writing songs and singing. Not long after, in the 60s and 70s, his songs became hits, some reaching the top five on the charts — he ended up signing with MCA Records in the 70s.
Let’s contrast his speech with his singing.
Here’s Tillis telling a hilarious story about three rabbits, Foot, Foot Foot, and Foot Foot Foot.
In contrast, here’s Tillis singing one of his songs. Notice he has no hint of a stutter.
Tillis attended the University of Florida, only to drop out in order to join the US Air Force as a baker. When he was stationed in Okinawa, he started a band called The Westerners. After his service, he returned to Florida where he worked for a railroad company. He eventually took a train to visit Nashville, which is where he built a confidence in his songwriting. The song that launched Tillis’ career was “I’m Tired,” which Webb Pierce recorded.
Tillis has won several awards, including a place in the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame. He also won Entertainer of the Year from the CMA. And, as you can guess from the video above, he won Comedian of the Year for a total of six years in the 70’s.