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Mel Tillis Dead - Country Star Passes Away at 85

20 November 2017
Mel Tillis Dead - Country Star Passes Away at 85

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida in 1932, Tillis caught malaria as a child, leaving him with a speech impediment for which he was mocked in his youth but which he embraced as an adult, incorporating it into his performances for comic effect.

He also won the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year, and was inducted in Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners.

His first big hit as a songwriter was "I'm exhausted", which was recorded that same year by Webb Pierce, who went on to record several more of Tillis's compositions.

Tillis wrote more than 1,000 songs, 600 of which have been recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers ("Ruby, Don't You Take Your Love To Town"), George Strait ("Thoughts Of A Fool") and Ricky Skaggs ("Honey, Open That Door").

After his recording career faded in the 1980s, Tillis acquired several radio stations including KIXZ and KYTX in Amarillo, Tex., and WMML in Mobile, Ala., which he eventually sold for a sizable profit.

"Some of my most cherished memories are the times I spent with Mel Tillis", Shelton wrote on Twitter.

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. "There will never be another Mel Tillis". "There's a big difference between a concert and a show. You always felt good about being around him".