Country Legend Mel Tillis Dies at 85

Wendy Jensen
November 20, 2017

Country music legend Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning, according to a statement from his publicist.

Tillis passed away on 19 November 2017 in Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida.

He is said to have died from respiratory failure. Many of those songs were recorded by other country music stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs.

Tillis went on to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1976 and later that year was welcomed into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He wrote some of country music's most compelling and consequential songs, he fronted a remarkable band, and he sang with power and emotion.

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"Mel Tillis was a guy who had it all: He could write, he could sing and he could entertain an audience", said Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs.

Tributes from fellow country music stars poured in on social media, with musician and "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton describing Tillis' death as "a truly devastating loss".

During the height of his career, Tillis hosted a short-lived ABC variety show with model Susan Anton and made cameo appearances in several popular movies, including The Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, Smokey and the Bandit II and Every Which Way But Loose, which featured Coca-Cola Cowboy on its soundtrack.

Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born on August 8, 1932, in Tampa, Florida. He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria.

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Tillis moved to Nashville from Plant City, Florida after serving in the U.S. Air Force as a baker. "There's a big difference between a concert and a show".

In 2007, Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame by his daughter, singer Pam Tillis. "There will never be another Mel Tillis!".

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts. "You always felt good about being around him".

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