Rest In Peace, Mel Tillis

Country music singer Mel Tillis holds up his 2011 National Medal of the Arts after it was presented to him by President Barack Obama Monday Feb. 13 2012 in the East Room of the White House

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

Throughout the singer's 60 plus year career, the Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, scorred six #1 hits ("I Ain't Never", "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "Southern Rains", "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", and "I Believe In You").

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

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.

Respiratory failure was the suspected cause, but the singer had suffered from intestinal issues since early 2016.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis on August 8, 1932, "Mel" gained fame in the 1970s with a string of successful hits.

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In an interview with People Magazine in 1976, Tillis said performing helped him overcome his stutter. He joined the US Air Force to serve in the Korean War and was stationed in Okinawa, where he spent his time cooking and singing on Armed Forces Radio.

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.

On Sunday morning Tillis' fellow country music stars and fans praised his contributions to the genre and offered condolences on Twitter. He wrote some of country music's most compelling and consequential songs, he fronted a remarkable band, and he sang with power and emotion. According to his website, his career launched in 1956 when Webb Pierce recorded a song written by Tillis.

Crystal Gayle posted, "I'm saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, Mel Tillis".

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