Country music legend dead: Mel Tillis dies at 85 following health battle

Kelvin Reese
November 20, 2017

Long-time country star Mel Tillis, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, passed away early this morning in Ocala, 85.

Mel - best known for hits including I Ain't Never and Good Woman Blues - had reportedly been battling an intestinal issue since previous year. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.

Tillis, a father of 6 whose stammer and self-deprecating charm endeared him to fans, recorded more than 60 albums, scored 35 top 10 singles, and saw 600 of his songs recorded by major artists during a career spanning six decades. President Barack Obama bestowed the National Medal of Arts award upon Tillis in 2012.

Meanwhile, the Grand Ole Opry took to Twitter to thank Tillis "for the songs, stories and years of incredible entertainment". Mel Tillis always put on a show ...

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Tillis, born Lonnie Melvin Tillis, grew up in Florida and developed a stutter that would stay with him throughout his life as a result of an early bout of malaria; the stutter did not affect his singing voice. In 2007, Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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. His stutter became a trademark that Tillis mined for laughs, although it disappeared when he sang.

He also appeared in films such as "Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit".

Tillis moved to Nashville from Plant City, Florida after serving in the U.S. Air Force as a baker. He also made a TV appearance in an episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard" in the late '70s. His family plans to announce funeral arrangements in Nashville and Florida soon.

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