Country music legend Mel Tillis dead at 85: publicist

Ruben Ruiz
November 20, 2017

Tillis died early on Sunday in an Ocala, Florida, hospital, a statement posted on Absolute Publicity's website said.

Under his own name, he cut six singles that topped the country charts, including "I Ain't Never", "Coca-Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rains". He received the National Medal of Arts in 2012 from Former President Barack Obama and is a CMA Entertainer of the Year.

"Mel Tillis spent a lifetime giving us joy and laughter and music, which is why his death brings such sadness", said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young.

Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born on August 8, 1932, near Tampa, Fla. He dropped out of the University of Florida and instead served in the Air Force and worked on the railroad before relocating to Nashville in 1957.

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), his longtime partner (Kathy DeMonaco), and many lifelong friends and fans around the world.

Country music legend dead: Mel Tillis dies at 85 following health battle

His other No. 1 hits were "I Ain't Never" in 1972, "Good Woman Blues" in 1976, "Heart Healer" in 1976, "I Believe in You" in 1978.

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 also made a TV appearance in an episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard" in the late '70s.

Tillis wrote more than 1,000 songs, with around 600 of those being recorded by major artists.

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