In light of all the attention given Mel Tillis' infamous speech impediment -- he even named his autobiography Stutterin' Boy -- the polished, sincere vocal delivery and songwriting skills that first earned him fame were often lost in the shuffle; nonetheless, throughout the course of his many decades in country music, Tillis remained one of Nashville's most enduring personalities. Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, FL, on August 8, 1932, it is believed that his stuttering was the result of a bout with malaria at the age of three. As a child, he learned guitar, and in high school studied both the violin and the drums. At the age of 16, he first performed publicly at a local talent show, and after graduation he entered the military. While stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he formed a group called the Westerners, which played local clubs.