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Mel Tillis, legendary country singer and songwriter, dies at 85
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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.

Country music stars Charlie Daniels, Crystal Gayle and Blake Shelton offered their condolences on Twitter.

"He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he'd gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots," Shelton's account said. "He even took time to talk me through some hard times in my life on a couple phone calls."

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 humor to the great tradition of country music."


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