Tampa native, country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85

Posted November 20, 2017

Mel Tillis, country music singer and songwriter, has died, the Country Music Hall of Fame confirmed in a statement.

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

In his six-decade career, the singer recorded more than 60 albums, had three dozen Top 10 singles and wrote several hit songs that are now regarded as classics, the Tennessean reported.

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.

Tillis began recording in the late 1950s and continued to perform through 2015, but remained best known for a string of No. 1 country hits in the late '70s, along with a succession of appearances in Hollywood movies alongside Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood that helped make him a household name even outside the country music sphere.

Tillis moved to Nashville from Plant City, Florida after serving in the U.S. Air Force as a baker. In 2007, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tillis also had something of an acting career, with small roles in a number of films such as "The Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit II". Mel Tillis always put on a show ... 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. "The more I go onstage", he said, "and feel my independence and that power over audiences, the less I stutter". In February 2012, President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

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