Funeral service for country music legend, Lonnie Melvin (Mel) Tillis will take place at Mt. Hermon Baptist Church in Clarksville, TN on Monday, November 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM. A private burial will follow. Visitation will be held at Sykes Funeral Home from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM. . Mel passed away in his sleep on November 19, 2017 after a respiratory and intestinal illness at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, FL.
Mel was born August 8, 1932 in Tampa, Florida. He was the third child of Burma Rogers Tillis and Lonnie Lee Tillis. In his youth, he was baptized at Canal Point Baptist Church. The family eventually settled in Pahokee, Florida. At a young age, a bout of malaria left Mel with a speech impediment, stuttering. His mother encouraged him to minimize his stutter with humor. He became a natural storyteller, learned the guitar and patterned his love of music after the greats of the day; Red Foley, Bob Wills, The Carter family, and others.
Mel graduated from Pahokee High School with the goal of playing football for his beloved Florida Gators. He instead found himself serving as a baker in the Air Force, serving in Okinawa and fine tuning his talents with his first band, The Westerners.
Mel’s talent for entertaining led him to pursue a music career in Nashville. The record labels told him, they needed copyrights and thus began his songwriting career. “My songs are all blessings, they were just there.” His songwriting success led him to a 60 year journey as a singer, actor, writer and successful business man. He won every major award he could for his accomplishments in the music field: a National Medal of Arts, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and member of the Grand Ole Opry. Modeling his mentor Burl Ives, he also found time to become a 33 degree Freemason. Later in life, he penned his first novel Acting Sheriff and also began painting. His paintings have raised thousands of dollars for the Shriners Children’s Hospital. Never one to be still for long, he traveled with his beloved band, The Statesiders, until late 2015.
His proudest role was being a father. His children entertained with him at his Branson, Mo. theater for many years.
Mel is survived by brother, Richard Tillis of Bolivar, MO; sister, Linda Crosby of Chapmansboro, Tennessee; partner, Kathy Demonaco; five children: Pam, Connie, Cindy, Mel Jr., and Carrie from a first marriage to Doris; and a daughter Hannah with Judy Edwards. He also has six grandchildren and one great grandson, Ray. He is preceded in death by both parents, sister, Imogene Burdeshaw, and second wife Julia Edwards.
Mel divided his time between a farm in Ashland City, TN. and his ranch in Silver Springs, FL., where he lived the last year.
A tribute to his life will be held in January at the Ryman Auditorium.
Online condolences may be made at www.sykesfuneralhome.com