Nashville, Tenn. — Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, country music legend Mel Tillis passed away early this morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure. Tillis was 85.
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.
The Tillis family asks for your prayers and will soon release more information regarding funeral services in Florida and Nashville.
Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida on August 8, 1932. Throughout his 60+ year career, the Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, six #1 hits (“I Ain’t Never,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Southern Rains,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” and “I Believe In You”), was named the Country Music Association’s coveted Entertainer of the Year, and was elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. 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”). Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades. In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.
Tillis also appeared in television shows such as “Hee Haw” and “Hollywood Squares,” as well as movies, including “Smokey and the Bandit 2.” He also did commercial work for Wataburger, according to the Tennessean.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Tennessean reported. His daughter, Pam Tillis, who is also a country music singer, inducted him into the Grand Ole Opry in 2007. Her rep released a statement on her official Facebook fanpage saying the death “was sudden and unexpected.”
“Pam is deeply saddened by the passing of her father, Mel Tillis, last night. It was sudden and unexpected. Pam’s father was dearly loved and one of a kind. Please take a moment and visit Official Mel Tillis and let them know how you felt about this south Florida poet that was a master songwriter, brilliant comedian and beloved father.”
Blake Shelton recalled on Twitter Sunday memories he shared of Tillis before he passed away. He said some of his “most cherished memories” are with the music legend, Fox News reports.
“Many many great memories. From fishing, to just having a beer, to him crashing my concert!” Shelton said in a series of tweets. “He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he’d gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots. He even took time to talk me through some hard times in my life on a couple phone calls.”
“He did his best to try and keep my head on straight. I looked up to Mel more than he could’ve possibly known. A talented songwriter. An incredible entertainer. And a funny funny guy. It has been a couple years since I saw him last. I deeply regret that now,” he added.
Shelton concluded the series of tweets: “What a truly devastating loss. I loved Mel. I will miss him terribly. My thoughts and prayers to all his family.”
Rest in peace brother and thanks for the memories.