Mel Tillis dead at 85

Kelly Massey
November 20, 2017

Mel Tillis, whose career as a country singer and the writer of enduring hit songs like "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" earned him a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame and a National Medal of Arts - but who was equally well known for the stutter he employed to humorous and self-deprecating effect onstage - died Sunday in Ocala, Florida. Many of those songs were recorded by other country music stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs.

Throughout the singer's 60 plus year career, the Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, scorred six #1 hits ("I Ain't Never", "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "Southern Rains", "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", and "I Believe In You").

The American country music hitmaker passed way earlier today at Florida's Munroe Regional Medical Center. The cause of death is suspected respiratory failure. Years later, he got his first No. 1 single with "I Ain't Never", and his "Coca Cola Cowboy" was featured in the Clint Eastwood film "Every Which Way but Loose". Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades. He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria. Mel Tillis always put on a show ... He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners.

His career took off in 1956 after Webb Pierce recorded "I'm exhausted", which Tillis wrote.

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In 1976, Tillis won the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year award and was inducted in the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

"I'm just so thankful, for everything", he said when he was inducted.

"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 and WSM DJ Eddie Stubbs.

In February 2012 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts - the highest honor given to artists by the United States government - by President Barack Obama.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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