BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
The event is called the BMI Country Awards, but nowadays it has less to do with presenting accolades and more to do with being a giant par-tay.
BMI executive Clay Bradley even dubbed it such. “This is the greatest party in country music,” he said. And it is.
On Tuesday evening (Nov. 5) at BMI’s Music Row headquarters, a throng of country publishers and songwriters schmoozed continuously from 5:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., when the actual award presentations began.
The schmoozers paid attention to the awarded songwriters for roughly an hour before resuming their schmoozing until 11:00 p.m. Indeed, their noise level nearly drowned out the night’s biggest winners. The schmooze brigade then left the awards banquet and descended to the building’s lobby for desserts, more schmoozing and music by the Harold Bradley A-Team Band with Mandy Barnett. This went on into the night.
One explanation for this orgy of socializing is the fact that there is annually no greater concentration of country stars and their teams at one gala. So many hands to shake, backs to slap and contacts to be made, you know.
“Is there anyone here?” asked Bob Doyle as he arrived on the red carpet. I directed him to the cocktail-party lobby. “Just throw a rock in there: you’re bound to hit a star,” I advised.
I wasn’t kidding. Chris Young, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Brantley Gilbert, Gregg Allman, Larry Gatlin, Clay Walker, Eric Church, The Eli Young Band, Greg Bates, J.T. Hodges, Kip Moore, Will Hoge, Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett and Toby Keith merely scratched the surface of the recording celebs in attendance.
Need more proof? Nashville TV series stars Sam Palladio and Charles Esten, Kix Brooks, Dustin Lynch, The Del McCoury Band, Lee Brice, Justin Moore, Dickey Lee, Paul Overstreet, the Duck Dynasty Robertson family members, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Jansen, The Henningsens, Josh Turner, Jake Owen, Gary Allan, Rory Feek, Rascal Flatts members, Andy Gibson and Jason Aldean were there, too.
Several of them were fashion faves. Ashley Monroe was a knockout in a gown with a strapless green suede bodice, a navy leather skirt and belt, a silver jeweled cuff and matching sparkly high-heeled pumps, accessorized by her handsome new groom, Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks. Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry was in a stunning floral long-sleeved cocktail dress with white collar and cuffs.
Everyone in Little Big Town looked smashing. Karen Fairchild’s dress was of iridescent feathers. Kimberly Schlapman’s black frock featured a metallic filigreed gold center panel. Jimi Westbrook wore a stylish vest over a chocolate-hued silk shirt. Philip Sweet’s two-tone, gray-and-black jacket was one of the eve’s most handsome. Shawn Camp’s black sequined western-cut coat was a stand-out, as was Charlie Worsham’s maroon velvet jacket.
Several of the stars came to sing. To salute this year’s BMI Icon award winner Dean Dillon, lanky Luke Bryan began with a lively performance of “Down and Out.” Lee Ann Womack followed with a divinely soulful “Empty Glass.” She drew a standing ovation, as did Kenny Chesney’s version of “Holed Up in Some Honky Tonk.”
The Dillon tribute concluded with George Strait’s medley of the songwriter’s “Marina Del Ray,” “The Chair” (another s.o.) and “Here for a Good Time.” Strait has recorded 54 Dillon songs over the years. Which is, like, wow. “Congratulations, Icon!” King George exclaimed.
“When Del [Bryant] called me [to tell the Icon Award news], I started to cry, and I’ll tell you why,” said Dillon. “I live, eat, breathe and sleep songs….In the immortal words of Hank Cochran, ‘Isn’t this wonderful?’” Dean Dillon has an incredible 26 BMI songs that have been broadcast more than a million times apiece.
While we’re on the subject of the awards, themselves, Jody Williams, Del Bryant and incoming BMI president Michael O’Neill teamed up to present the Big Three. Del did the honors for the first one: The BMI Country Publisher of the Year was Sony-ATV. This is the 37th (!) time the firm has accomplished this feat.
The Songwriter of the Year was Rodney Clawson. “It’s a pleasure to sit in a room and write with the greatest songwriters in the world, every day,” said Clawson. “Thank you for believing in me. This is awesome.”
The Frances W. Preston Song of the Year went to “Wanted,” co-written by yet another singing star in attendance, Hunter Hayes, with his collaborator Troy Verges.
On either side of the Icon presentation, BMI honored its 2013 most-performed songs. The first 25 were announced before, and the second 25 were honored after.
“What an incredible year we’ve had,” said Jody. “There’s more interest in our music and our lifestyle than ever before. And the best thing is, your songs will live forever.”
Earlier, Clay Bradley dedicated the night to the late Jack Clement and George Jones, both BMI affiliates. Jody recognized new Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Bare, who received a hearty standing ovation. Jody also directed applause to new Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members Layng Martine Jr., Randy Owen and Jeffrey Steele. The last-named was another sartorial standout, wearing a purple jacket festooned with swirling pale blue and silver rhinestones.
Those three were just a drop in the bucket of the stellar singing songwriters at this extraordinary gala. Try Billy Montana, Billy Burnette, Bobby Braddock, Bobby Pinson, Bob DiPiero, Rob Crosby, Jeff Stevens, Jeff Hanna & Matraca Berg, Marcus Hummon, Mark Nesler & Jennifer Hanson, Big Al Anderson, Alex Harvey, Even Stevens, Thom Schuyler, Mac McAnally and Brittany Taylor.
You could get whiplash greeting one fabulon after another. After all, Lee Thomas Miller, Mary Miller, Dallas Davidson, David Israelite, David Malloy, David & Carolyn Corlew (the newly crowned Ms. Senior America), Jerry Crutchfield, Jerry & Connie Bradley, Steve Bogard, Steve Cropper, Steve Dean, Mayor Karl Dean, James Stroud, Jim Catino and Jim Free were all working the room.
The “room” for the awards banquet is actually the fourth floor of the BMI building’s parking garage. It was disguised with mirrors and deliberately kitsch-y, ‘50s “moderne” geometric panels of aqua, black and white. Matching tablecloths surrounded glass cubes holding pale, two-tone orchids.
Swanning through the décor were Norro Wilson, Stacie Standifer & Tim Nichols, Tim Wipperman, Scott & Sandi Spika Borchetta, Luke Laird & Beth Mason, Mike Dungan, Joe Galante, Fletcher Foster, Dennis Morgan, Eddie Perez & Trey Fanjoy, Roy Wunsch & Mary Ann McCready, Regina & Ron Stuve, Chuck Ainlay, Nancy Shapiro, Neil Portnow, Will Rambeaux, Keith Stegall, John Ozier, Dane Bryant, Dick Frank, Craig Hayes, Josh Leo, Whitney Daane, Doug Howard, Randy Scruggs, Carson Chamberlain, Hugh Prestwood, Rory Bourke, Ken Levitan and Kyle Young.
They dined on toast points with a variety of toppings, followed by the main course. Plates were loaded with sautéed collards with pork belly, whiskey ginger glazed carrots, rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes, black Angus beef filet and Coca-Cola fried chicken thighs with dressing. Mmm-mmm good.
Top Winners List:
Song of the Year–“Wanted,” written by Hunter Hayes and Troy Verges. Publishers: Happy Little Man Publishing/Songs From The Engine Room/Songs of Universal
Songwriter of the Year–Rodney Clawson. Songs penned by Clawson include: “Did It For The Girl,” “Drunk On You,” “Drink On It” and many others
Publisher of the Year–Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville
BMI Icon Award–Dean Dillon
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