A devastating news broke through the entire country music family just last Sunday, November 19. Mel Tillis, one of country music’s finest musicians and also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame passed away at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Based on the information shared by his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs, his suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.
Having spent 85 wonderful years on this earth, a huge chunk of his lifetime was shared with his fans and fellow country music lovers when he stepped into the limelight as a songwriter, performer, actor, and a publisher of music. He had been a huge icon from the late 60’s up until the early 80’s. He was also a standout for his stuttering. Instead of letting the speech impediment he had been suffering from since childhood impede him from achieving his dreams, Tillis found a way to make something light and positive about it, earning the love and respect of several supporters.
Tillis was born Lonnie Melvin Tillis on August 8, 1932, in Tampa. At a tender age, he had a strong attraction to music, which led him to learn how to play the guitar, drums, and the violin during his teen years.
Soon Tillis set foot on Nashville in 1956, in the hopes of securing a recording contract. Unfortunately, luck and opportunity were not on his side. But, when he diverted time and attention into songwriting, that was when Tillis began gaining recognition for his works. One of his earliest successes as a songwriter was when the song he co-wrote with Buck Peddy, titled, I’m Tired, helped Webb Pierce land a No.3 single in 1957.
Tillis also got signed to the Cedarwood Music publishing company as a songwriter. Among Mel Tillis’ other hits include studio albums like Stateside, Life Turned Her That, Let Me Talk to You, She’ll Be Hanging Around Somewhere, One More Time, The Arms of a Fool/Commercial Affection, Would You Want the World to End, Your Body Is An Outlaw, Southern Rains, After All This Way, Wings of My Victory, The Father’s Son, and You Ain’t Gonna Believe This. Mel Tillis also had memorable collaborations with big time country artists such as Sherry Bryce, Nancy Sinatra, Waylon Jennings, and Jerry Reed.
On the other hand, his fellow country artists took to social media to express their grief over his death. They each shared their fondest memories with the late country songwriter. Country group Alabama’s Randy Owen posted,
“Hall of Fame entertainer and songwriter—he was all in one, a great combination. He is one of our biggest heroes.”
Reba McEntire described Tillis as a “wonderful entertainer and a special friend. She then added how she will miss the artist. When Tim McGraw spoke of Mel Tillis, he said, “Man, one of the coolest guys in country music ever and an extraordinary songwriter! So glad I got the chance to hang out with him a bit early in my career. Thinking about his family.” Last but definitely not the least, Blake Shelton shared a lengthy memoir of how much he will truly miss Mel Tillis—someone who had been a great mentor to him. Shelton added that he regretted not being able to see him for a couple of years.
Indeed, it is with deep sadness and regret that the entire country industry has to bid farewell to another of its greatest talents. May your soul rest in peace. Thank you for 59 years of beautiful, captivating music.
Country Music Hall of Fame, mel tillis, Reba McEntire, tim mcgraw
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