Bobby Karl Works The Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony

Pictured (L-R): Buddy Cannon representing NaSHOF inductee Vern Gosdin; NaSHOF inductees Tim Nichols, Walt Aldridge and Jim McBride; Gentry Blackwell representing his father NaSHOF inductee Dewayne Blackwell and NaSHOF executive director Mark Ford.

This year’s Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony was jumbo in every way.

A sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 filled the ballroom in the Music City Center on Monday evening (Oct. 23). Giant stars like Luke Bryan, Lee Ann Womack, Earl Thomas Conley and Alan Jackson were featured. The evening saluted a whopping five inductees – Jim McBride, Dewayne Blackwell, Walt Aldridge, Tim Nichols and the late Vern Gosdin. More than 25 current Hall of Fame members attended, adding to the evening’s luster.

These included (alphabetically) Tony Arata, Aaron Barker, Gary Burr, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Jerry Chesnut, Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis, Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Jerry Foster, Wayland Holyfield, Mark James, Dickey Lee, Layng Martine Jr., Mac McAnally, Dennis Morgan, Bob Morrison, Roger Murrah, Paul Overstreet, Gretchen Peters, Mark D. Sanders, Thom Schuyler, Jeffrey Steele, Even Stevens, Ray Stevens and Craig Wiseman.

The crowd was so large, I only saw 18 of them. Event organizers assured us that the rest were on hand, plus such Hall of Fame relatives as Rita Allison, Sherry Bond, Melanie Howard, Lisa Sutton (check out her late mom Lynn Anderson’s new Country Music Hall of Fame display), Holly Williams, Erin Everly, Hilary Williams and Patti Everly.

“Welcome to Nashville songwriting’s biggest night,” said the Hall of Fame’s executive director Mark Ford. He noted the deaths of the Hall’s Norro Wilson and Curly Putman during the past year and proudly pointed out that all three of Sunday’s Country Music Hall of Fame inductees were already members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame – Jerry Reed, Don Schlitz and Alan Jackson.

Mac McAnally inducted Walt Aldridge, saying, “He can do everything there is to do in our business,” including producing, publishing, singing, arranging and teaching in addition to songwriting. “He’s a role model,” added Mac. “I’m grateful to know him.”

Pictured (L-R): Tim Wipperman CEO and Founding Partner, Rezonant Music; Hillary Lindsey; Kos Weaver, BMG EVP/Nashville. Photo: Bev Moser

Walt was saluted in song by James LeBlanc doing Walt’s 2002 Travis Tritt hit “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde.” Earl Thomas Conley sang Walt’s “Holding Her and Loving You,” which in 1983 became Earl’s biggest hit.

“About six years ago, I decided to move back to Muscle Shoals [abruptly ending his Nashville songwriting],” said Walt in accepting. “I walked away in mid-sentence, without a punctuation mark. Tonight, you not only gave me a ‘period,’ you gave me an ‘exclamation point.’”

Buddy Cannon inducted his friend, neighbor and songwriting collaborator, the late Vern Gosdin (1934-2009). “It was really exciting hearing that voice singing songs that we had created in my living room,” recalled Buddy. “Vern was a great, unique songwriter.”

A video was screened of Vern Gosdin singing 1988’s “Chiseled in Stone” on the Opry stage. It stunned the crowd and stilled the very breathing in the room.

Luke Bryan had to follow that. He gamely ran through 1988’s toe-tapping honky tonker “Set ‘Em Up Joe.”

“That brought back a lot of memories,” said Buddy. “I’d like to accept this on Vern’s behalf.”

Pictured (L-R): NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Year Luke Bryan receiving his award from NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison, NSAI Director of Operations Jennifer Turnbow and NSAI President Lee Thomas Miller. Photo: Bev Moser

Jerry Salley inducted Jim McBride. Which is fitting, since they are both among the nicest and most generous-hearted people on the planet. “He has traveled down a road that was always leading him here tonight,” said Jerry of his friend Jim. “His songs have appeared on more than 70 million records.”

Jim McBride’s songs have been recorded by Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Alabama, Patty Loveless, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Travis, Charley Pride, Toby Keith, Diamond Rio, Reba McEntire, Lonestar, John Anderson, Aaron Tippin, Mark Chesnutt, Johnny Paycheck, Trace Adkins and Keith Whitley, among many others.

The Lonesome River Band turned in a superb bluegrass arrangement of Jim’s 1987 Waylon Jennings hit “Rose in Paradise.” Alan Jackson recalled that he was a complete unknown and Jim was an established writer when Jim kindly agreed to collaborate with him.

“The songs that Jim and I wrote helped me get down the road to last night [his Country Music Hall of Fame induction],” said the superstar. He and some of his Strayhorns band members then sang a medley of “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow,” “Someday,” “Chattahoochie” and the 1994 stone-country ballad “Hole in the Wall.”

Addressing the many Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame honorees, living and dead, Jim said, “Thank you for keeping this roller coaster rollin’ so that I might take a ride. Thank God for blessing me far beyond anything I ever deserved. I’ve never been more honored or proud to be a songwriter than on the greatest night of my career.”

Rusty Gaston inducted Tim Nichols, saying, “Tim’s best songs sound like they’ve always been around.” Lee Ann Womack serenaded the honoree with “I’m Over You,” which was originally popularized by Keith Whitley in 1990. Dustin Lynch did a mash-up of his 2012 hit “Cowboys and Angels” with 2004’s Tim McGraw smash “Live Like You Were Dying.”

“Wow…I’m just trying to hold it together up here,” said Tim. “This evening, I have been abundantly blessed. I’ve never been happier in my whole life. Thank you so much!”

Ashley Gorley. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser

Ken Paulson inducted Dewayne Blackwell, noting that the veteran tunesmith’s pop writing career included the standard “Mr. Blue,” originated by The Fleetwoods in 1959 and that it was Dewayne’s first recorded tune. Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee, The Ventures, The Everly Brothers, Pat Boone, Bobby Vinton, Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs and Gary Lewis & The Playboys all recorded his early songs.

Dewayne’s second songwriting career was in country music and included such hits as David Frizzell’s “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino” (1982), Sammy Kershaw’s “Yard Sale” (1992), Conway Twitty’s “Saturday Night Special” (1988), Frizzell’s “A Million Light Beers Ago” (1983) and Marty Robbins’s “Honkytonk Man” (1982).

The harmonizing trio The Bundys performed a beautifully arranged version of “Mr. Blue.” Then Craig Campbell led the audience in a sing-along of Dewayne’s giant 1990 Garth Brooks hit “Friends in Low Places.”

Dewayne Blackwell is 81 and was not well enough to travel to Nashville for the ceremony from his home in Mexico. Son Gentry Blackwell accepted on his behalf.

“I know a lot of you were looking forward to seeing him,” said Gentry. “A lot of you know him. He’s very honored. I want to thank you for my father for the honor and the privilege of being in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.”

The evening began with The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) awards. Bart Herbison, Lee Thomas Miller and Jennifer Turnbow presided.

Pictured (L-R): Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey and Steven Lee Olsen, writers of NSAI Song of the Year “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser

This year’s “10 songs I wish I’d written,” as voted on by the membership, were 1. “Better Man” by non-attending Taylor Swift; 2.“Body Like a Back Road” by Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally, Zach Crowell and an absent Sam Hunt; 3. “Different for Girls” by Shane with J.T. Harding; 4. “Dirt on My Boots” by Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure and an absent Rhett Akins and 5. “Drinkin’ Problem” by Shane and Josh with the non-attending members of Midland. Also 6. “H.O.L.Y.” by busbee, Nate Cyphert and William Larsen; 7. “Kill a Word” by Jeff Hyde, Luke Dick and non-attending Eric Church; 8. “Peter Pan” by Kelsea Ballerini, Jesse Lee and an absent Forest Glen Whitehead; 9. “Vice” by Josh, Shane and non-attendee Miranda Lambert and 10. “80s Mercedes” by busbee and Maren Morris.

Luke Bryan was named the NSAI’s Artist-Songwriter of the Year. “What an unbelievable room to be in,” he said. “It’s inspiring. For all you young writers out there, take this night as fuel. What an honor.”

Ashley Gorley picked up his third NSAI Songwriter of the Year prize. He said, “I want to thank NSAI for all that they do. I want to thank you guys for being the ‘first stop’ in town for aspiring songwriters.”

“Blue Ain’t Your Color” became yet another organization’s Song of the Year for cowriters Steven Lee Olsen, Clint Lagerberg and Hillary Lindsey. Hillary has now tied Kris Kristofferson as the writer with the most NSAI Song of the Year prizes.

“This award is so extremely special because it’s voted on by your peers,” she said. “It’s The One award. Your friendship means so much to me. This is a community that doesn’t exist anyplace but here.” The three writers sang “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” harmonizing beautifully.

The 1,000+ attendees included such creative folks as Marcus Hummon, Levi Hummon, Tim DuBois, Chris DuBois, Steve Bogard, Steve O’Brien, Bob Regan, Bobby Tomberlin, David Malloy, Dave Pomeroy, Bernie Nelson, Liz Hengber, Rory Feek, Jan Howard, Brandon Rickman, Buddy Kalb, Doug Johnson, Barry Walsh, Webb Wilder, Bill Lloyd, Frank Liddell, Justin Duke, Georgia Middleman, Scott Hendricks and Mark Alan Springer.

We dined on salads, beef medallions, cheesy potatoes, prawns, squash and chocolate desserts. The wine flowed freely.

Making merry were Pat Collins, Pat Higdon, Patrick Clifford, Mike Hollandsworth, Mike Dungan, Mike Vaden, Becky Harris, Judy Harris, Preshias Harris, John Esposito, John Stein, Bob Doyle, Bobby Brantley, Dale Bobo, Jason Morris & Jewel Coburn, Terry Wakefield, Allison Jones, Martha Moore, Walter Campbell, Linda Edell Howard, Stacy Widelitz, Carla Wallace, Sherrill Blackmon, Lisa Harless, Tim Wipperman, Dennis Banka, Bill Cody, Ben Vaughn, B.J. Hill and Amy Kurland.

Let’s do it again next year.

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