Country Music Star Mel Tillis Has Died In Ocala Florida: He Was 85



Country music star Mel Tillis dies

Mel Tillis performs at the 2012 CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee.

Story highlights

  • The country music star wrote more than 1,000 songs in his 60-year career
  • He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2012 by President Barack Obama

(CNN)Country music legend Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning, according to a statement from his publicist. He was 85.

Tillis died at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida, after battling intestinal issues since 2016, said spokesman Don Murry Grubbs. The suspected cause of death was respiratory failure.
Tillis was a prolific singer-songwriter who penned more than 1,000 songs and recorded more than 60 albums in a career that spanned six decades. Many of those songs were recorded by other country music stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait, and Ricky Skaggs.
His commercial peak came in the 1970s when he had a string of top 10 hits, including “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer” and “Coca-Cola Cowboy.” In 2007, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Before making his way to Nashville, Tennessee, the songwriter briefly attended the University of Florida. He joined the US Air Force to serve in the Korean War and was stationed in Okinawa, where he spent his time cooking and singing on Armed Forces Radio.
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On Sunday morning Tillis’ fellow country music stars and fans praised his contributions to the genre and offered condolences on Twitter.
Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida, he suffered a spell of malaria as a boy that left him with a chronic stutter, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. His stutter became a trademark that Tillis mined for laughs, although it disappeared when he sang.
In an interview with People Magazine in 1976, Tillis said performing helped him overcome his stutter. “The more I go onstage,” he said, “and feel my independence and that power over audiences, the less I stutter.”
In 1998, he became a spokesman and honorary chairman of the Stuttering Foundation of America, according to his website.
Tillis also had something of an acting career, with small roles in a number of films such as “The Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.” He also made a TV appearance in an episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard” in the late ’70s.
In February 2012 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts — the highest honor given to artists by the US government — by President Barack Obama.

4 thoughts on “Country Music Star Mel Tillis Has Died In Ocala Florida: He Was 85

    1. Humm, to be honest with you, this is the first time that I have ever heard anyone ever say anything about him being a racist person. I have known of him for about 50 years and all I have ever heard or seen of him, it was always about how nice of a person he was. This does not mean that I am correct and you are wrong, it is not like we were first cousins that grew up together. If you would please send me some information on why you say he was a racist okay. I will read what you send me, I am a person who has no use of any kind for anyone who is racist. Racism is evil and it is total stupidity. So, please enlighten me as to why you say he was such a person. Thank you for reading their article and thank you for the kindness of your comment, I look forward to hearing more from you on this subject matter. I had always thought that he carried himself as a decent Christian man, but there is no room in Christianity for such evil as racism. If you are correct, I pity him when he meets Christ at his judgment. Thank you —ted


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