Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning in Ocala, Florida, according to his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs. Many of those songs were recorded by other country music stars such as Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Ricky Skaggs. Over the course of his long career, he wrote more than 1,000 songs, recorded more than 60 albums, had almost three dozen top-10 singles, and pegged six No. 1 hits, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "I Ain't Never", and "I Believe in You".
He also won the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year, and was inducted in Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame. The suspected cause of death was respiratory failure.
Billed solo or with his band, the Statesiders, Tillis had six No. 1 country singles, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie, "Every Which Way but Loose". He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, "Mel and Susan Together", with Susan Anton.
Mel enjoyed decades of success, having released over 60 albums and dozens of top ten singles over the years.
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Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born on August 8, 1932, near Tampa, Fla. He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria. 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.
Musical from an early age, he started performing in the early 1950s with a group called The Westerners, while stationed in Okinawa and serving as a baker in the Air Force.
"I'm just so thankful, for everything", he said when he was inducted.
"Mel Tillis was a guy who had it all: He could write, he could sing and he could entertain an audience", said Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs. Four years later, he received the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to country music during a White House ceremony.