Musicians React to Mel Tillis' Death

A spokesperson for Mel Tillis says he died early Sunday morning in Florida.

"Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered", he said.

Tillis appeared on several television shows, including "Hee Haw" and "Hollywood Squares".

Mel enjoyed decades of success, having released over 60 albums and dozens of top ten singles over the years. Among the hits he wrote for others were "Detroit City" for Bobby Bare; "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", by Rogers and the First Edition; and "Thoughts of a Fool" for George Strait.

Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida, he suffered a spell of malaria as a boy that left him with a chronic stutter, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Later that year, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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.

Country music legend dead: Mel Tillis dies at 85 following health battle
Musicians React to Mel Tillis' Death

He joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed as a baker in Okinawa, where he formed a band called the Westerners.

In 2007, Tillis became a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry country music show.

Shortly after leaving the Air Force in 1956, Tillis wrote I'm exhausted, which became a No. 3 hit for Webb Pierce and helped launch Tillis' career.

He penned the song Coca-Cola Cowboy for the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way but Loose back in 1979.

"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'".

"Mel Tillis was a guy who had it all: He could write, he could sing and he could entertain an audience", said Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM DJ Eddie Stubbs. He received the National Medal of Arts in 2012 from Former President Barack Obama and is a CMA Entertainer of the Year.

  • Marlene Weaver