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Country star Mel Tillis dies

Mel Tillis, the affable longtime country star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles, has died.

A spokesman for Tillis, Don Murry Grubbs, said Tillis died early Sunday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. He was 85.

Grubbs said Tillis battled intestinal issues since 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.

Tillis, the father of country singer Pam Tillis, recorded more than 60 albums and had more than 30 top 10 country singles, including "Good Woman Blues," ''Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rain." 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.

Although his early efforts to get a record deal were rebuffed because of his stutter, he was a promising songwriter in Nashville in the 1950s and 1960s, writing tunes for Webb Pierce and Ray Price.

In all, the Country Music Hall of Fame member wrote more than 1,000 songs and in 2012 received a National Medal of Arts for bringing "his unique blend of warmth and humour to the great tradition of country music."

He also dabbled in acting, appearing in such feature films as Clint Eastwood's "Every Which Way But Loose," and the Burt Reynolds movies "Cannonball Run I and II" 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.

Tillis became a major success in the late 1960s and toured for decades, often using his stutter as a source of humour — though his stutter disappeared when he sang.

"One of the reasons I worked it into my show is that it's my trademark," he once told The Associated Press.



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