Country music legend and Tampa native Mel Tillis died Sunday at the age of 85, according to our affiliate WKRN.
Tillis "battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered", his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs, said in a statement. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.
In his later years, Tillis was known more for his songwriting than his own recording - 600 of his songs have been recorded by major artists ranging from Kenny Rogers to George Strait to Ricky Skaggs.
Tillis went on to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1976 and later that year was welcomed into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He recorded over 60 albums and wrote over 1,000 songs during his six-decade career. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported. Mel Tillis always put on a show ...
On Sunday morning Tillis' fellow country music stars and fans praised his contributions to the genre and offered condolences on Twitter.
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The former Air Force baker - who had his heyday in the 1970s - also dipped into film and television, appearing on shows such as "Hee Haw" and movies including "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980) and "Every Which Way but Loose" (1978), alongside Clint Eastwood.
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. 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. In 2007, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"I'm just so thankful, for everything", he said when he was inducted.
In 2012, then-President Barack Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.
What do you have to say to the family of Mel Tillis?
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