November 20, 2017

Nashville is in mourning today over the passing of a very different music icon: Mel Tillis died Sunday at 85, after a long illness. Mel was a great American example of overcoming adversity to achieve tremendous success. A childhood battle with malaria left him with a stutter that other kids mocked. He turned it into a trademark and used it to become as great a comedian and comic actor as he was a singer/songwriter.

The stutter went away when he sang, and he was truly a great singer/songwriter. He once wrote that after leaving the Air Force, “I left Florida head’n for Nashville in my '49 Mercury with a busted windshield, a pregnant wife and $29 in my pocket.” From that humble start, he went on to record over 60 albums, racking up three dozen top 10 country hits, and wrote over 1,000 songs. You might not realize how many classics he wrote for other artists, including Bobby Bare’s “Detroit City,” Charley Pride’s “The Snakes Crawl At Night,” Ray Price’s “Burning Memories,” and Kenny Rogers’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.” All that, and he also gave us his daughter, Pam Tillis.

The CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame remembered Mel Tillis as someone whose warmth, humor, genuineness and joy would have been inspiring even he’d never written or sung a note. But thank God, he did write and sing so many, many notes that will live on for decades to come.


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  • Jim & Carol Neff

    11/21/2017 02:46 PM

    So sad to hear this. Our heartfelt sympathy to the Tillis Family. Mel was truly an ICON of country music. We saw him, along with Carrie & Mel Jr., in Branson, MO in October of 2008. We were fortunate enough to see him again, this time with Pam, Carrie, & Mel Jr. at the King Center here in Melbourne, FL in December of 2008. And they all remembered us from the Branson show! The pictures taken with him (and the kids) hang in our hallway. A truly gracious, wonderful family. And we will always remember the "Cannonball Run" movie. He will be sorely missed by so many......

  • Billie Billups

    11/20/2017 11:22 PM

    Mel Tillis was a talented songwriter and entertainer. I was blessed to see him perform many times over the past several years before his illness kept him from the stage. He was always so very kind and gracious during autograph sessions after performances. He once gave me a kiss on the temple and a hug when my camera wouldn't work during one of these ops. He also sang a portion of 'Big Balls in Cowtown' when my husband told him I had confiscated his copy of Mels' tribute CD of Bob Wills. I have such wonderful memories of Mel Tillis. We really lost a great performer and a great man! RIP, Mel!