Country Singer Mel Tillis Dead at 85

Country Singer Mel Tillis Dead at 85

Country Singer Mel Tillis Dead at 85

The late Mel Tillis, who passed away early Sunday morning (Nov. 19), had an indelible effect on country music - and one modern country star in particular.

Tillis died early on Sunday in an Ocala, Florida, hospital, a statement posted on Absolute Publicity's website said.

Tillis wrote more than 1,000 songs, 600 of which have been recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers ("Ruby, Don't You Take Your Love To Town"), George Strait ("Thoughts Of A Fool") and Ricky Skaggs ("Honey, Open That Door").

His No. 1 songs were I Ain't Never, Good Woman Blues, Heart Healer, I Believe in You, Coca-Cola Cowboy and Southern Rains.

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.

Mel enjoyed decades of success, having released over 60 albums and dozens of top ten singles over the years.

Tillis was raised in Pahokee, Florida, and developed his stutter as a child while being treated for malaria.

Tillis was also a regular personality on the big and small screens, appearing on TV shows like Hee Haw and Hollywood Squares and in films such as The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit 2. "There will never be another Mel Tillis!".

"He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he'd gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots", Shelton's account said. He dropped out of the University of Florida and instead served in the Air Force and worked on the railroad before relocating to Nashville in 1957.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2007, just four months after joining the Grand Ole Opry.

Tillis got his musical start in the 1950s performing with an Air Force band while stationed in Okinawa. President Barack Obama bestowed the National Medal of Arts award upon Tillis in 2012.

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