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Mel Tillis, a Country Music Hall of Fame artist known for his lifelong struggle with stuttering, died Sunday in Florida at age 85.

Through the late '50s and '60s, Tillis balanced his career as a then-minor hitmaker in his own right with bigger songwriting successes for other artists, including Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" and Bobby Bare's "Detroit City".

Throughout the singer's 60 plus year career, the Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, scorred six #1 hits ("I Ain't Never", "Coca-Cola Cowboy", "Southern Rains", "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", and "I Believe In You").

His daughter is country music singer Pam Tillis.

Rolling Stone reports that he passed away on Sunday (November 19) after a lengthy illness at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida.

He also dabbled in acting, appearing in such feature films as Clint Eastwood's "Every Which Way But Loose", and the Burt Reynolds movies "Cannonball Run I and II" and "Smokey and the Bandit II".

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Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis on August 8, 1932, "Mel" gained fame in the 1970s with a string of successful hits. He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, "Mel and Susan Together", with Susan Anton.

Tributes from fellow country music stars poured in on social media, with musician and "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton describing Tillis' death as "a truly devastating loss". He developed the stutter as a child after a bout with malaria. He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners.

Shortly after leaving the Air Force in 1956, Tillis wrote I'm exhausted, which became a No. 3 hit for Webb Pierce and helped launch Tillis' career.

"I'm just so thankful, for everything", he said when he was inducted.

Grubbs says the Tillis family will release information about funeral services in Florida and Nashville. He received the National Medal of Arts in 2012 from Former President Barack Obama and is a CMA Entertainer of the Year.


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