ASCAP kicked off Country Music Week on Sunday (11/6) by crowning its 2011 country kings at a swellegant banquet.
Brad Paisley was named Artist-Songwriter of the Year. “I started at Belmont University in 1993, and they encouraged me to intern,” he recalled. “Some of my favorite writers were with ASCAP, like Don Schlitz, Mike Reid, Allen Shamblin (who were there) and Alan Jackson (who was not).” And so it came to be that Brad’s first music-biz job in Nashville was as an intern at ASCAP.
This is the second time Brad has been so honored. He previously won this prize in 2004.
“It never escapes me that the reason I got here was songs,” he added. “And my favorite part of this process is sitting down with the people in this room.”
Alongside Frank Rogers and Chris DuBois, Brad was also on stage to accept Publisher of the Year for the second time in a row. It has been more than 30 years since an independent publisher like Sea Gayle finished on top at ASCAP.
“Yep, I’m proud,” said a clearly moved Tim DuBois. Chris is his son.
When Ben Hayslip won Songwriter of the Year, he said, “About six years ago, I was at a crossroads. I asked God to send me a sign. He sent me Rusty Gaston….my publisher [at This Music].
“I am completely honored,” said Ben. “I’ve learned from each and every one of you. Give a round [of applause] for every songwriter in this room tonight.” This was Ben’s first top songwriter honor.
“I’m blown away,” said Allen Shamblin when his “The House That Built Me” was named Song of the Year, completing its “trifecta” as also the ACM and CMA Song winner. “I come into this room and see so many writers….I know what you’ve been through. I love y’all.”
By far the biggest crowd pleaser of the night was the presentation of the Golden Note award for career excellence to Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Williams.
“I am overwhelmed,” said Don. “Of all the people I’ve always wanted to thank for my career, it’s always been songwriters. You are the lifeblood of the industry….I don’t deserve this award. You do. Anyway, my heartfelt thanks. And I’m so nervous, I’m about to pass out.”
The 49th ASCAP Country Music Awards presentations to 36 hit songs’ writers and publishers were sprinkled with loads of excellent performances. Dierks Bentley launched the banquet with a smoking version of his new single “Home.” He was last year’s Artist-Songwriter winner.
The top-five songs were performed by their writers at various moments during the eve. So Brett James, Tim Nichols and Chris Young sang “The Man I Want to Be.” Ben Hayslip and Josh Turner did “All Over Me.” Tony Lane and Johnny Park turned in a hearty “Roll With It.” Allen Shamblin drew a standing ovation after his tender reading of “The House That Built Me.” The real romp was The Peach Pickers doing “Gimme That Girl,” complete with a honking horn section. Fellow Georgians Ben, Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins perform under this moniker and get together every Wednesday to write country music.
The Don Williams tribute included Lee Ann Womack performing a lilting “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good.” Keith Urban and Little Big Town poured honey warmth over “We’ve Got a Good Fire Goin,’” then the ever so soulful Dave Loggins turned up the heat. Dave is the song’s composer. Don, himself, capped the segment by singing his signature songs “I Believe In You” and “Tulsa Time” and drew a standing ovation.
The Global Impact Award went to “Need You Now.” Kerry O’Neil and Carla Wallace accepted on behalf of its co-writer, Josh Kear. The Civil Wars accepted their Vanguard Award via video.
The gala was ASCAP’s first time back at the Opryland Hotel since 2004. The theme was elegant simplicity. The 800 guests were seated at black-draped tables. The centerpieces were starkly modernistic black metal “star” sculptures with white pillar candles on gold fabric squares. Opryland’s massive crystal chandeliers glittered overhead in The Tennessee Ballroom.
The attendees dressed to impress. Jennifer Nettles was in a sleek tux. Angaleena Presley wore gleaming red lipstick, dangling silvery earrings and a knee-length black sheath with a rhinestone clasp at the hip. Petite Georgia Middleman was a doll in a floor-length, form fitting jersey gown in shades of pastel that descended to black at its hem. Eric Paslay topped his look with a British racing cap. The JaneDear Girls both sported fascinators atop their arty tresses.
Bucky Covngton wore skinny black jeans and a tails-out black western shirt. Lisa Harless turned heads in a bright blue silk shift. Karen Clark was statuesque in a strapless ebony evening gown. Gary Burr’s vest was paisley-patterned black brocade, and Tim Mensy’s was electric green. Amy Kurland looked serene in a silver tunic. Jerrod Niemann wore a sporty workingman’s cap. Tony Brown had on a black leather tuxedo jacket and was squiring willowy, crimson-clad Jamie Antee, to whom he is engaged. Jewel Coburn lit up the room in a shiny red satin sheath. Liz O’Sullivan was in a shimmering white strapless, multi-tiered floor length gown. LeAnn Phelan had one of the prettiest ensembles of the evening, a silver-sequined black tunic dress with a lace motif and black thigh-high boots.
Basking in the fellowship were such fabulons as Paul Williams, Herky Williams, Steve Williams, Mentor Williams, Will Byrd and Jesse Willoughby, not to mention James Harris, Judy Harris, John Bettis, John Grady, John LoFrumento, a nattily attired David Nail, David Lee Murphy, David Ross, David Corlew, Dave Tunbull and David Ewing & Alice Randall. David Nail, by the way, was magnificent at the Peter Nappi Studio showcase (11/2) for his new CD The Sound of a Million Dreams.
Robert Ellis Orrall was escorted by his son, Jammin Orrall, whose Jeff the Brotherhood rock band is off on a European tour this week. Other music making celebs in attendance included Radney Foster, Kip Moore, Buzz Cason, Gretchen Peters, Chris Stapleton and Lynn Anderson. Schmoozing into the night were Gary Overton, Gary Nicholson, Gary Paczosa, Doug Casmus, Doug Howard & Linda Edell, Mark Ford, Marc Driskill, Mark Irwin and Dixie Owen, who is expecting a Christmas baby due on Dec. 21.
Earl Bud Lee, Suzanne Lee, Bob McDill, Dale Bobo, Ben Vaughn, Bo Thomas, Barry Coburn, Jim Photoglo, Jo Walker-Meador and power couples Rick & Janis Carnes, Eddie Bayers & Lane Brody, Steve & Ree Guyer-Buchanan and Jeff Walker & Terri Hollowell Walker worked the room. Blake Chancey’s beard has gone gray! How old does this make the rest of us?
Stuart Dill has written a just-published Nashville-themed fiction thriller called Murder on Music Row. He was there, as were Kerry Kurt Phillips, Craig Wiseman, Pete Fisher, Andrew Kintz, Drew Alexander, Kevin Lamb, Erika Wollam-Nichols, Liz Hengber, Debi Cochran, Beverly Keel, Taylor Rhodes, Wayland Holyfield, Mike Sistad, Dan Hays, Clay Mills, Kay West and Marcel.
Our first course was a mixed-greens salad with tiny pears, grape tomatoes, walnuts, shaved carrots and bacon with buttermilk dressing. The entrée was tender roast beef, spiced mashed potatoes with thin onion rings, asparagus spears and roasted Roma tomato wedges. Peanut-butter mousse, chocolate truffle and little lemon-pudding cups were presented in a tidy row for dessert.
ASCAP president and board chairman Paul Williams called it, “Our annual family picnic.”
Earlier in the day (11/6) hundreds of fans gathered in the sunshine downtown to witness the newest installations at the Music City Walk of Fame. Kix Brooks, Alan Jackson, Manuel, Bobby Jones and the late Dottie Rambo, Les Paul and Dan Miller were the honorees. Reba McEntire, who already has her star, attended in support of her buddy, Kix.