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Grand Ole Opry finally calls Tillis

If fan sentiment had anything to do with it, singer and humorist Mel Tillis surely would have become a member of the Grand Ole Opry long ago.

The 74-year-old performer finally got his invitation during an appearance on the Opry stage Saturday, when friend and fellow singer "Whisperin" Bill Anderson asked him to become the show’s newest member.

"You know what? Another part of the dream has been fulfilled," Tillis said. "It’s been a long, hard road. I’ve been in the business for 52 years."

Tillis, who turned his stutter into his trademark, received a standing ovation as his daughter, fellow singer and Opry member Pam Tillis, and son Mel Jr. joined him on stage.

His formal induction will be June 9.

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Tillis, who began performing in the 1950s, has stuttered since he was a child but not when he sings. "Singing is a kind of a mechanical helper," he once told the Associated Press .

He began his career as a songwriter, penning classics such as Bobby Bare’s "Detroit City" and "Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town" sung by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. He has written more than 1,000 songs, with about 600 of them recorded by major artists, and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame in 1976.

As a recording artist, Tillis hit his stride in the ’70s. He’s had about 40 entries in the top 10 country hits, including "Good Woman Blues," "Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Southern Rain."

Tillis was the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year in 1976, and has appeared in several films including "Every Which Way But Loose" with Clint Eastwood and "Smokey and the Bandit II" with Burt Reynolds.

The Opry, established in 1925, is the longest continuously running radio show in the country. Legends such as Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline were once members of the cast, and contemporary stars including Alan Jackson and Martina McBride are part of today’s show, which airs every Friday and Saturday night.

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