Mel Tillis, Country Music Hall of Famer, Dies at 85

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Nashville, Tenn. (November 19, 2017) - Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, country music legend Mel Tillis passed away early this morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Many of those songs were recorded by other country music stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs.

Under his own name, he cut six singles that topped the country charts, including "I Ain't Never", "Coca-Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rains".

Tillis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the National Medal of Arts in 2012.

Mel Tillis

Tillis' publicist, Don Murry Grubbs, told Tennessean that the "Coca Cola Cowboy" singer never fully recovered from diverticulitis surgery in January 2016 and spent a month in the intensive care unit battling sepsis. He also appeared in films such as "Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit".

Tributes from fellow country music stars poured in on social media, with musician and "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton describing Tillis' death as "a truly devastating loss".

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida, he suffered a spell of malaria as a boy that left him with a chronic stutter, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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He recorded over 60 albums and wrote over 1,000 songs during his six-decade career. He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, "Mel and Susan Together", with Susan Anton.

He joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed as a baker in Okinawa, where he formed a band called the Westerners. "The more I go onstage", he said, "and feel my independence and that power over audiences, the less I stutter".

The Tillis family asks for your prayers and will soon release more information regarding funeral services in Florida and Nashville.

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