Tampa native, country music legend Mel Tillis dies at 85

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Mel Tillis_501539

FILE – This Oct. 27, 2013 file photo shows country singer Mel Tillis arriving at the ceremony for the 2013 inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Tillis is recovering in Nashville after heart surgery over the weekend. According to a statement from his daughter, Pam Tillis, the 81-year-old singer required […]

TAMPA (WFLA) — Country music legend and Tampa native Mel Tillis died Sunday at the age of 85, according to our affiliate WKRN.

According to the Associated Press, Tillis died at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala early Sunday morning. A spokesman told the AP that Tillis battled intestinal issues since 2016 and never fully recovered. Respiratory failure is the suspected cause of death.

Tillis was born in Tampa on August 8, 1932, according to his biography on the Country Music Hall of Fame website. He grew up in Pahokee, near Lake Okeechobee, and briefly attended the University of Florida.

The country music legend suffered from malaria as a child, which left him with a stutter.

He started performing in the early 50s with a group called The Westerners. According to his website, his career launched in 1956 when Webb Pierce recorded a song written by Tillis.

The singer was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in June of 2007 by his daughter, singer and songwriter Pam Tillis. In October 2007, he became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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

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