Country Music Legend Mel Tillis Passes

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The late Mel Tillis, who passed away early Sunday morning (Nov. 19), had an indelible effect on country music - and one modern country star in particular.

The singer-songwriter's publicist Don Murry Grubbs confirmed the tragic news, with his suspected cause of death believed to be respiratory failure. He received the National Medal of Arts in 2012 from Former President Barack Obama and is a CMA Entertainer of the Year. Mel Tillis always put on a show ...

Mel Tillis

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2007, just four months after joining the Grand Ole Opry. After attending the University of Florida and dropping out, Tillis joined the U.S. Air Force and served in Okinawa, where his interest in music continued to burgeon and he performed on Armed Forces Radio with a country band.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis on August 8, 1932, "Mel" gained fame in the 1970s with a string of successful hits. His stutter became a trademark that Tillis mined for laughs, although it disappeared when he sang.

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As a songwriter he knocked out over 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"). His family plans to announce funeral arrangements in Nashville and Florida soon.

During the height of his career, Tillis hosted a short-lived ABC variety show with model Susan Anton and made cameo appearances in several popular movies, including The Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, Smokey and the Bandit II and Every Which Way But Loose, which featured Coca-Cola Cowboy on its soundtrack.

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