In Memoriam: Mel Tillis (1932 – 2017)

Lonnie Melvin Tillis (August 8, 1932 – November 19, 2017) was an American country music singer and songwriter. Although he recorded songs since the late 1950s, his biggest success occurred in the 1970s, with a long list of Top 10 hits.

Tillis’ biggest hits include “I Ain’t Never”, “Good Woman Blues”, and “Coca-Cola Cowboy”. On February 13, 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to country music. He also won the Country Music Association Awards’ most coveted award, Entertainer of the Year. Additionally, he was known for his speech impediment, which didn’t affect his singing voice. His daughter is country music singer Pam Tillis.

Following his heyday in the 1970s, Tillis remained a songwriter in the 1980s, writing hits for Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis. He also wrote his autobiography called Stutterin’ Boy. (The title comes from Tillis’ speech impediment.) Tillis appeared as the television commercial spokesman for the fast-food restaurant chain Whataburger during the 1980s. Tillis continued to record and have occasional hits through the decade, with his last top-10 hit coming in 1984 and his last top-40 country hit in 1988; like most country artists of the classic era, his recording career was dented by changes in the country music industry in the early 1990s. He also built a theater in Branson, Missouri, where he performed on a regular basis until 2002. In 1998, he teamed up with Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, and Jerry Reed to form The Old Dogs. The group recorded a double album of songs penned entirely by Shel Silverstein. In July 1998, Old Dogs Volumes 1 and 2 were released on the Atlantic Records label. A companion video, as well as a Greatest Hits album (composed of previously released material by each individual artist), were also available. In the 1990s, Tillis’ daughter, Pam Tillis, became a successful country music singer in her own right, with hits like “Maybe It Was Memphis” and “Shake the Sugar Tree”.

The Grand Ole Opry inducted Mel Tillis on June 9, 2007. He was inducted into the Opry by his daughter Pam. Along with being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, it was announced on August 7 that year that Tillis, along with Ralph Emery and Vince Gill, were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tillis had been unwell since January 2016 with various illnesses. Tillis died of respiratory failure in Ocala, Florida, at the age of 85. He is survived by his six children: singer-songwriter Pam Tillis, songwriter Mel “Sonny” Tillis, Jr., Carrie April, Connie, Cindy and Hannah Tillis. – Wikipedia

RadioMax will feature the music of Mel Tillis Tuesday November 21, 2017 at 6pm.

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