Country music legend dead: Mel Tillis dies at 85 following health battle

Danny Woods
November 20, 2017

Mel Tillis, a country music singer and songwriter who rose to fame in the 1960s, charting multiple top forty hits despite a lifelong stuttering problem, has died in Florida at the age of 85, Billboard and other sources are reporting. The Country Music Hall of Famer had battled intestinal issues ever since he was hospitalized in 2016 after undergoing colon surgery, and he never fully recovered.

A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, Tillis recorded more than 60 albums and penned a string of hits for stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs.

The singer-songwriter's publicist Don Murry Grubbs confirmed the tragic news, with his suspected cause of death believed to be respiratory failure.

Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida on August 8, 1932. His stutter became a trademark that Tillis mined for laughs, although it disappeared when he sang.

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Among the many honors bestowed on Tillis, President Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 2012.

He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners. Tillis eventually moved to Nashville and began writing songs full-time, most notably for Webb Pierce.

Tillis was also an actor, and appeared in several feature films. Besides being a successful recording artist, Tillis performed at the Grand Ole Opry and made frequent television appearances, as well as playing small roles in movies such as Smokey and the Bandit II and The Cannonball Run.

Some of the music legend's biggest songs included I Ain't Never, Good Woman Blues, and Coca-Cola Cowboy.

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