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Mel Tillis (1932 – 2017), Country Music Legend

Getty / Harry Langdon

Mel Tillis (1932 – 2017), Country Music Legend

Mel Tillis, Country Music legend and member of the Grand Ole Opry, has died at the age of 85, according to multiple news reports. 

He passed away early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida, according to his publicist Don Murry Grubbs. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure. 

Tillis recorded over 60 albums during his illustrious career, charting in the top ten more than 30 times. 

The country music star recorded many classic songs including “Good Woman Blues” and “I Ain’t Never.” 

Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida in 1932. He developed a stutter as a child after he had malaria. The stutter did not affect his singing voice. Tillis learned the drums and guitar growing up and won a talent contest as a teenager. 

He served in the Air Force and came back to Florida, working on his music while employed at a railroad. He eventually made his way to Nashville and had success as a songwriter. He penned hit songs for such artists as Webb Pierce and Ray Price.


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In 1958, he had his first Top 40 hit as an artist, "The Violet and a Rose." In the mid-1960s charted his first top 20 song titled “Wine” and continued to write hits for artists including Charley Pride and Waylon Jennings. 

In 1970, Tillis’s career as a country music artist took off with his song “Heart Over Mind,” which made it to number 3 on the Country charts. He put together a string of hit songs in the 1970s and early 1980s including “Heart Healer” and “Southern Rains.” 

Tillis did some acting, appearing in “The Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.” 

He later built a theater in Branson, Missouri where he would sometimes perform. 

Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He was inducted at the Hall of Fame by his daughter Pam, who is a popular Country Music artist. 

Many from the world of Country Music paid tribute to Mel Tillis on social media.

Blake Shelton, on Twitter:

“He did his best to try and keep my head on straight. I looked up to Mel more than he could've possibly known. A talented songwriter. An incredible entertainer. And a funny funny guy.”

Crystal Gayle, on Twitter:

“I'm saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, Mel Tillis. Sending my love and prayers to his family and friends. There will never be another Mel Tillis!”

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