Country Music Legend Mel Tillis Passes

Posted November 20, 2017

Tillis wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many more.

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".

Tillis died early on Sunday in an Ocala, Florida, hospital, a statement posted on Absolute Publicity's website said. The suspected cause of death was respiratory failure, he said.

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.

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The singer-songwriter had written over 60 albums through his career, having over 10 top 10 singles throughout his career.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis on August 8, 1932, "Mel" gained fame in the 1970s with a string of successful hits.

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

On Sunday morning Tillis' fellow country music stars and fans praised his contributions to the genre and offered condolences on Twitter.

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The Country Music Association named Tillis Entertainer of the Year in 1976, the Tennessean reported, and he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame that same year.

Tillis moved to Nashville from Plant City, Florida after serving in the U.S. Air Force as a baker. He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners.

"I'm just so thankful, for everything", he said when he was inducted. In February 2012, President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

Grubbs says the Tillis family will release information about funeral services in Florida and Nashville.

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