Mel Tillis Dead at 85

Mel Tillis Dead at 85

Mel Tillis, as famed for his recording career and songwriting as he was for his lifelong stutter, died early Sunday morning at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida, following a lengthy illness, a representative confirmed. Respiratory failure was the suspected cause, but the singer had suffered from intestinal issues since early 2016.

Tillis recorded more than 60 albums and scored 36 singles in his career spanning his 60-year career.

Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida, on August 8, 1932. His stuttering was so pervasive and obvious when he wasn't singing, he made it a part of his act and the focus of many interviews.

Mel first played publicly while in the U.S. Air Force where he formed a band called the Westerners but he didn't take it any further until well after his public service while working for the Atlantic Coast Line railroad.

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Tillis also appeared in movies Every Which Way But Loose with Clint Eastwood and W.W. & The Dixie Dancekings, Cannonball Run I and II, and Smokey and the Bandit II with Burt Reynolds.

Tillis was born in Tampa on August 8, 1932, according to his biography on the Country Music Hall of Fame website. Other Number Ones included "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", "I Believe in You", "Coca Cola Cowboy", and "Southern Rains". In a 1987 Rolling Stone interview, U2 frontman Bono said he learned the tune from his brother, noting, "I'm still fascinated by that song". In 1999, BMI named him songwriter of the decade and, in 2012, he received the National Medal of the Arts.

He underwent heart surgery in March of 2014, but bounced back to continue performing.

Tillis had six children; songwriter Mel (Sonny) Tillis Jr., singer-songwriter Pam Tillis, Carrie April Tillis, Connie Tillis, Cindy Tillis and Hannah Tillis.

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