Country music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis dead at 85


Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning in Ocala, Florida, according to his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs. He was 85.

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In his six-decade career, the singer recorded more than 60 albums, had three dozen Top 10 singles and wrote several hit songs that are now regarded as classics, the Tennessean reported.

During the 1960s, Tillis’ songs charted for several artists, with hits like “Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town),” “Mental Revenge” and “Detroit City,” becoming classics, the Tennessean reported.

As a recording artist, Tillis scored during the 1970s with two dozen Top 10 hits. Five of them topped the charts, including “Coca Cola Cowboy” in 1979.

His other No. 1 hits were “I Ain’t Never” in 1972, “Good Woman Blues”  in 1976, “Heart Healer” in 1976, “I Believe in You” in 1978. He also went to No. 1 in 1980 with “Southern Rains.”

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 appeared on several television shows, including “Hee Haw” and “Hollywood Squares.” He also appeared in films such as “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” He  did commercials for Whataburger, a fast-food restaurant chain, the Tennessean

reported.

Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born on Aug. 8, 1932, near Tampa, Fla. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported. But he used the stammer to his advantage as an entertainer.

“After a lot of years and more hurting than I like to remember, I can talk about it lightly — which eases things a bit,” he wrote in “Stutterin' Boy,” his 1984 autobiography. “It's a way of showing people that it hasn't licked me, so it doesn't have to lick others.”

In 2007, Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame by his daughter, singer Pam Tillis. Later that year, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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

In 2011, Tillis was named a National Medal of Arts recipient for his contributions to country music, the Tennessean reported. He received his award in February 2012 during a White House ceremony.


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