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Mel Tillis

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Cheatham County Connection Tillis Sr. lived in Cheatham County on 350 acres of rolling fields with a seven- acre lake, several ponds, and almost two miles of frontage on Sycamore Creek. The original cabin, made of 250-year old logs, was destroyed by fire in 1988, when his wife left food cooking on the stove unattended. Tillis, who had been asleep, had to run out of the house in his underwear and then borrow clothes from a neighbor. He lost a lot of memo- rabilia in the fire -- and his dentures, he stated to a news reporter at the time. The Grand Ole Opry inducted Tillis as its newest member on June 9, 2007. In October of 2007, Tillis became a mem- ber of the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2012, Tillis received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. Tillis died on November 18, 2017, in Ocala, FL at the age of 85 and was laid to rest in Cheatham County.

Country music legend Mel Tillis , born on August 8, 1932, was known for a stutter which developed after a bout of malaria he experienced as a child. He won a talent contest at age 16; though he stuttered, he could sing without pause. He started performing in the early 50's with a group called “The Westerners” while serving as a baker in the United States Air Force, stationed in Okinawa. In 1956, Webb Pierce record- ed one of his songs titled "I'm Tired,” and it launched Tillis’ musical career. Though Tillis had more success as a songwriter, he actually recorded more than 60 albums with 36 Top 10 sin- gles, nine of them going to No. 1 on the charts. He wrote over 1,000 songs, which were recorded by country artist greats such as Kenny Rogers , Brenda Lee , Webb Pierce , Ray Price , Charlie Pride , George Strait and Ricky Skaggs . In the 1970s, Tillis appeared in movies: W.W. and the Dixie Danceking s (1975), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), and comedy westerns The Villain (1979) and Uphill

All the Way (1986), in which he starred with fellow country singer Roy Clark . In 1976, Tillis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame, and that same year, he was named Country Music Associa- tion's (CMA) Entertainer of the Year. For six years in the 70's, Tillis won Come- dian of the Year. Tillis began painting in 1998, and 1,000 limited edition signed and numbered prints of his painting Masonic America were sold with all profits going to the Scottish Rite Foundation which ben- efitted speech and hearing clinics all over the United States. From 1990 to 2002, Tillis owned and operated his own theater in Branson, MO.  He then returned to his first love - touring the country.  On September 21, 1999, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) named Tillis the Song- writer of the Decade for two decades. He was the recipient of the Golden Voice Entertainer Award in 2001.


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