Mel Tillis, Country Entertainer and Songwriter, Dead at 85

Mel Tillis, Country Entertainer and Songwriter, Dead at 85

Tillis died at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla., early Sunday morning (Nov. 19). The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.

"He transcended country music", Louis said. He also went to No. 1 in 1980 with "Southern Rains".

In his six-decade career, the singer recorded more than 60 albums, had three dozen Top 10 singles and wrote several hit songs that are now regarded as classics, the Tennessean reported.

Additionally, Tillis had other hits such as Stateside, I Got the Hoss, Send Me Down to Tucson, Neon Rose, Sawmill and Midnight, Me and the Blues.

Among hits he wrote for others were "Detroit City" for Bobby Bare, and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", by Rogers and the First Edition.

The following year, Tillis was part of the lineup at Toby Keith's Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert, which set a concert attendance record at the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and raised about $2 million for the United Way of Central Oklahoma's relief efforts in response to the deadly 2013 tornadoes in the Shawnee, El Reno and Moore areas.

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Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida, on August 8, 1932.

Tillis had a stutter which didn't affect his singing voice.

He started performing in the early 1950s with a group called The Westerners while serving as a baker in the United States Air Force, stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

In 1956, country superstar Webb Pierce recorded "I'm exhausted", which Tillis penned with Ray Price and Buck Peddy. His last No. 1 hit came in 1980 and he only achieved modest success afterward.

Tillis also appeared in movies Every Which Way But Loose with Clint Eastwood and W.W. & The Dixie Dancekings, Cannonball Run I and II, and Smokey and the Bandit II with Burt Reynolds.

First, he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by his daughter, singer Pam Tillis, who had been an Opry member since 2000. President Barack Obama honored Tillis with the National Medal of Arts award in 2012.

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