Country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85

Country music legend dead: Mel Tillis dies at 85 following health battle

Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning in Ocala, Florida, according to his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs.

In his later years, Tillis was known more for his songwriting than his own recording - 600 of his songs have been recorded by major artists ranging from Kenny Rogers to George Strait to 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".

He also won the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year, and was inducted in Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

The American country music hitmaker passed way earlier today at Florida's Munroe Regional Medical Center.

His suspected cause of death is respiratory failure, after he was battling an intestinal issue since 2016.

Tillis also had something of an acting career, with small roles in a number of films such as "The Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit II". He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, "Mel and Susan Together", with Susan Anton.

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"You know what? Another part of the dream has been fulfilled", he said at the time.

Tillis was raised in Pahokee, Florida, and developed his stutter as a child while being treated for malaria.

He joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed as a baker in Okinawa, where he formed a band called the Westerners. Feeling down one day he began singing to himself, "Oh Lord, I'm exhausted".

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.

He said that when he was in the Air Force as a flight leader, he marched airmen right into a wall.

"I'm just so thankful, for everything", he said when he was inducted. "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".

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