Mel Tillis, country music star known as 'Stutterin' Boy,' dead at 85

Nick Sanchez
November 20, 2017

Mel Tillis, a country music singer and songwriter who rose to fame in the 1960s, charting multiple top forty hits despite a lifelong stuttering problem, has died in Florida at the age of 85, Billboard and other sources are reporting.

Respiratory failure was the suspected cause, but the singer had suffered from intestinal issues since early 2016. It wasn't until 1971 that he had his own first No. 1 hit as a recording artist, with "I Ain't Never", which he followed later in the decade with the chart-toppers "Good Woman Blues", "Heart Healer", "I Believe In You", and "Coca-Cola Cowboy". He wrote some of country music's most compelling and consequential songs, he fronted a remarkable band, and he sang with power and emotion. "It's a way of showing people that it hasn't licked me, so it doesn't have to lick others".

Tillis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the National Medal of Arts in 2012. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported. He joined the US Air Force to serve in the Korean War and was stationed in Okinawa, where he spent his time cooking and singing on Armed Forces Radio.

He held a variety of odd jobs before breaking out, including being a truck driver, a strawberry picker, a firefighter on the railroad and milkman, which inspired his breakthrough song. "Exhausted of living this ol' way".

His first big hit as a songwriter was "I'm exhausted", which was recorded that same year by Webb Pierce, who went on to record several more of Tillis's compositions.

Tillis was also an actor, and appeared in several feature films.

"One of the reasons I worked it into my show is that it's my trademark", he once told The Associated Press.

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

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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