Country music legend Mel Tillis dead at 85: publicist

Country music legend dead: Mel Tillis dies at 85 following health battle

Tillis, 85, died at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla. According to a statement made by his publicist, the musician battled intestinal issues and reportedly suffered respiratory failure.

His commercial peak came in the 1970s when he had a string of top 10 hits, including "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer" and "Coca Cola Cowboy".

In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

Tillis 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) and his longtime partner (Kathy DeMonaco).

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He was also a member of the Grand Ole Opry - a pantheon for country music stars - and a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee.

Country singers are responding with their own sentiments. After attending the University of Florida and dropping out, Tillis joined the U.S. Air Force and served in Okinawa, where his interest in music continued to burgeon and he performed on Armed Forces Radio with a country band.

The most prominent latter-day cover of a Tillis song came when Robert Plant and Alison Krauss recorded "Stick With Me Baby" for their T Bone Burnett-produced "Raising Sand", which won a 2007 Grammy for Album of the Year.

He even entitled his 1984 autobiography, "Stutterin' Boy", a nickname conferred on him early in his career. Sending my love and prayers to his family and friends. "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". "There will never be another Mel Tillis!"

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