Country music legend Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning, according to a statement from his publicist.
According to the Tennessean, Tillis died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla. after nearly two years of ill health stemming from a bout of diverticulitis, for which he received surgery. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.
Mel enjoyed decades of success, having released over 60 albums and dozens of top ten singles over the years.
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In his later years, Tillis was known more for his songwriting than his own recording - 600 of his songs have been recorded by major artists ranging from Kenny Rogers to George Strait to Ricky Skaggs.
In 2007, Tillis' daughter Pam, who is also a country singer, inducted her father into the prestigious Grand Ole Opry.
Before making his way to Nashville, Tennessee, the songwriter briefly attended the University of Florida. He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners.
Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born in Tampa, Fla. on August 8, 1932. His stutter became a trademark that Tillis mined for laughs, although it disappeared when he sang.
"After a lot of years and more hurting than I like to remember, I can talk about it lightly - which eases things a bit", he wrote in "Stutterin' Boy", his 1984 autobiography. TV guest spots were frequent, including a debut acting appearance on "Love: American Style" in 1973, followed by shows like "The Dukes of Hazard", "The Tim Conway Show", and "The Love Boat".
In all, the Country Music Hall of Fame member wrote more than 1,000 songs and in 2012 received a National Medal of Arts for bringing "his unique blend of warmth and humour to the great tradition of country music".
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