Mel Tillis, a Country Music Hall of Fame artist known for his lifelong struggle with stuttering, died Sunday in Florida at age 85.
Tillis wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many more. It wasn't until 1971 that he had his own first No. 1 hit as a recording artist, with "I Ain't Never", which he followed later in the decade with the chart-toppers "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", "I Believe In You", and "Coca-Cola Cowboy".
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. According to a statement made by his publicist, the musician battled intestinal issues and reportedly suffered respiratory failure.
Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida on August 8, 1932. It wasn't a commercial success, but the group was nominated for vocal event of the year by the Country Music Association.
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Tillis got his musical start in the 1950s performing with an Air Force band while stationed in Okinawa.
In all, the Country Music Hall of Fame member wrote more than 1,000 songs and in 2012 received a National Medal of Arts for bringing "his unique blend of warmth and humor to the great tradition of country music". He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, "Mel and Susan Together", with Susan Anton.
The singer was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in June of 2007. "Please take a moment and visit Official Mel Tillis and let them know how you felt about this south Florida poet that was a master songwriter, brilliant comedian and beloved father".