Blake Shelton Mourns Mel Tillis: 'I Will Miss Him Terribly'

Mel Tillis Country Music Legend Dead at 85

Mel Tillis Country Music Legend Dead at 85

Mel Tillis, a country music singer and songwriter who rose to fame in the 1960s, charting multiple top forty hits despite a lifelong stuttering problem, has died in Florida at the age of 85, Billboard and other sources are reporting. The suspected cause of death was respiratory failure, he said. He also wrote hit songs for other artists, including Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town for Kenny Rogers, Detroit City for Bobby Bare and Thoughts of a Fool for George Strait.

Tillis, the father of country singer Pam Tillis, recorded more than 60 albums and had more than 30 top 10 country singles, including "Good Woman Blues", "Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rain". It wasn't a commercial success, but the group was nominated for vocal event of the year by the Country Music Association. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported.

Tillis appeared on several television shows, including "Hee Haw" and "Hollywood Squares". After attending the University of Florida and dropping out, Tillis joined the U.S. Air Force and served in Okinawa, where his interest in music continued to burgeon and he performed on Armed Forces Radio with a country band.

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"He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he'd gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots", Shelton's account said.

Known for iconic songs like "Coca-Cola Cowboy" and "I Ain't Never", Tillis is a Country Music Hall of Famer who was awarded "Entertainer of the Year" at the 1976 CMA Awards. "The more I go onstage", he said, "and feel my independence and that power over audiences, the less I stutter".

Grubbs says the Tillis family will release information about funeral services in Florida and Nashville. He was also recognized by President Barack Obama in 2012, receiving the National Medal of Arts for his country music contributions.

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