Country Music Legend Mel Tillis Passes

Emilio Banks
November 20, 2017

Country music legend and Tampa native Mel Tillis died Sunday at the age of 85, according to our affiliate WKRN.

According to the Tennessean, Tillis died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla. after nearly two years of ill health stemming from a bout of diverticulitis, for which he received surgery.

He is said to have died from respiratory failure.

Through the late '50s and '60s, Tillis balanced his career as a then-minor hitmaker in his own right with bigger songwriting successes for other artists, including Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" and Bobby Bare's "Detroit City". Over the course of his long career, he wrote more than 1,000 songs, recorded more than 60 albums, had almost three dozen top-10 singles, and pegged six No. 1 hits, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "I Ain't Never", and "I Believe in You".

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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.

The Tillis family said they plan to announce funeral arrangements for Nashville and Florida soon.

The former Air Force baker - who had his heyday in the 1970s - also dipped into film and television, appearing on shows such as "Hee Haw" and movies including "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980) and "Every Which Way but Loose" (1978), alongside Clint Eastwood. Mel Tillis always put on a show ... He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria.

He was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to country music by President Obama in 2012. He dropped out of the University of Florida and instead served in the Air Force and worked on the railroad before relocating to Nashville in 1957. "You always felt good about being around him". He was also inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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