Country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85

Country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85

Mel Tillis, a Country Music Hall of Fame artist known for his lifelong struggle with stuttering, died Sunday in Florida at age 85.

The American country music hitmaker passed way earlier today at Florida's Munroe Regional Medical Center.

His suspected cause of death is respiratory failure, after he was battling an intestinal issue since 2016. He overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles, such as "Good Woman Blues", "Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rain".

Country music stars Charlie Daniels, Crystal Gayle and Blake Shelton offered their condolences on Twitter. "It's a way of showing people that it hasn't licked me, so it doesn't have to lick others".

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

The Country Music Hall of Famer leaves behind six children (Pam Tillis, Connie Tillis, Cindy Shorey, Sonny Tillis, Carrie April Tillis, and Hannah Puryear), six grandchildren, a great grandson, a sister (Linda Crosby) and brother (Richard Tillis), the mother of five of his children (Doris Tillis), and his longtime partner (Kathy DeMonaco). He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria.

Tillis moved to Nashville from Plant City, Florida after serving in the U.S. Air Force as a baker. 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. Feeling down one day he began singing to himself, "Oh Lord, I'm exhausted". According to his website, his career launched in 1956 when Webb Pierce recorded a song written by Tillis.

Price, Skaggs, Brenda Lee and hundreds of others would cover his songs.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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

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