Rest In Peace, Mel Tillis

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After earning his first charting country single with "The Violet and a Rose", Tillis established himself as a songwriter with hits like "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)", "Mental Revenge" and Peggy Lee's "Emotions".

His No. 1 songs were I Ain't Never, Good Woman Blues, Heart Healer, I Believe in You, Coca-Cola Cowboy and Southern Rains.

One of the most colorful personalities the music business has ever seen, the Country Music Hall of Fame member enjoyed success as a writer, actor, and performer, as well as a comedian during his storied career.

A spokesman for Tillis, Don Murry Grubbs, said Tillis died early Sunday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure, according to a press release from his publicist.

Tillis was also a regular personality on the big and small screens, appearing on TV shows like Hee Haw and Hollywood Squares and in films such as The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit 2.

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Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Fla. on August 8, 1932. Mel Tillis always put on a show.... 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.

Tillis was a prolific singer-songwriter who penned more than 1,000 songs and recorded more than 60 albums in a career that spanned six decades. Tillis has six children. He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners. He turned his lament into "I'm exhausted", which became a hit for Webb Pierce.

"I was so bashful and scared", he said in 2002 of his hesitancy about speaking in public, "and she said, 'If they laugh they'll be laughing with you, not against you'".

He was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to country music by President Obama in 2012.

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