Mel Tillis Dead - Country Star Passes Away at 85

Mel Tillis arriving at the ceremony for the 2013 inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville Tenn

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. Over the course of his long career, he wrote more than 1,000 songs, recorded more than 60 albums, had almost three dozen top-10 singles, and pegged six No. 1 hits, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "I Ain't Never", and "I Believe in You".

Rolling Stone reports that he passed away on Sunday (November 19) after a lengthy illness at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. The suspected cause of death was respiratory failure, he said.

Tillis was also a regular personality on the big and small screens, appearing on TV shows like Hee Haw and Hollywood Squares and in films such as The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit 2.

He recorded over 60 albums and wrote over 1,000 songs during his six-decade career.

"You know what? Another part of the dream has been fulfilled", he said at the time. He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria.


Tillis got his musical start in the 1950s performing with an Air Force band while stationed in Okinawa.

He held a variety of odd jobs before breaking out, including being a truck driver, a strawberry picker, a firefighter on the railroad and milkman, which inspired his breakthrough song. "Exhausted of living this ol' way".

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.

Country singers are responding with their own sentiments.

"One of the reasons I worked it into my show is that it's my trademark", he once told The Associated Press.

"I was so bashful and scared", he said in 2002 of his hesitancy about speaking in public, "and she said, 'If they laugh they'll be laughing with you, not against you'".

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