Country Music Hall-of-Famer Mel Tillis, known for his recording career and songwriting as he was for his lifelong stutter, died early Sunday morning at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida, following a lengthy illness, a representative confirmed. He was 85.
As a songwriter, he was known for hits that included the Bobby Bare single "Detroit City," Webb Pierce's "I'm Tired" and the 1969 crossover tune for Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town." As a recording artist and performer, the affable Tillis was the CMA's Entertainer of the Year in 1976, a mainstream country-music superstar at a time when the genre was dominated by pop-leaning country and the burgeoning outlaw movement.
Tillis was the father of six children, including country hitmaker – and fellow Grand Ole Opry member – Pam Tillis, Mel "Sonny" Tillis, Jr., who co-wrote the Number One Jamie O'Neal single, "When I Think About Angels," and daughters Carrie April Tillis, Cindy Shorey, Connie Tillis and Hannah Puryear. He is also survived by six grandchildren, a great grandson, a sister and a brother, the mother of five of his children, Doris Tillis and his longtime partner, Kathy DeMonaco. Funeral arrangements in Florida and Nashville are pending.