Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Member Kenny O’Dell Dies

Kenny O’Dell

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Kenny O’Dell died on Wednesday, March 28, at age 73.

O’Dell won the Best Country Song Grammy Award as well as the CMA Song of the Year award for “Behind Closed Doors,” a giant 1973 pop and country hit for Charlie Rich. He also wrote Rich’s 1972 country hit “I Take It On Home.”

In 1984, his song “Mama He’s Crazy” launched the chart-topping career of The Judds.

His songwriting catalog also includes “Lizzie and the Rainman” (Tanya Tucker, 1975), “Too Much Is Not Enough” (Billie Jo Spears, 1977), “Trouble in Paradise” (Loretta Lynn, 1974), “Never Did Like Whiskey” (Billie Jo Spears, 1976), “House of Love” (Dottie West, 1974) and “What I’ve Got in Mind” (Billie Jo Spears, 1976).

O’Dell’s “Why Don’t We Go Somewhere and Love” has been recorded by a number of artists, including Sandy Posey, Bobby Goldsboro, Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, Charlie Rich and Roy Clark.

The hit songwriter was also a recording artist. Kenny O’Dell made the pop charts in the 1960s with “Beautiful People” (1967), “Springfield Plane” (1968) and “Happy With You” (1968). He became an even bigger success in the following decade as a country singer.

He wrote six hits for himself in the 1970s. They included “You Bet Your Sweet, Sweet Love” (1974), “Soulful Woman” (1975), “My Honky Tonk Ways” (1975) and “Medicine Woman” (1979). His biggest hits as a singer- songwriter were 1978’s “Let Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin’” and 1979’s “As Long As I Can Wake Up in Your Arms.”

He was born Kenneth Gist in Oklahoma and was raised in California. He was writing songs by age 13. After graduating from high school, he launched his own record label, May Kay Records, and began recording pop singles for it. He changed his last name to O’Dell at this time.

Early songwriting successes came in 1967 with Bobby Vee’s recording of “Beautiful People” and Rose Garden’s version of his “Next Plane to London.”

O’Dell moved to Music City in 1969. He became a staff songwriter at House of Gold, the publishing company operated by Goldsboro and Bob Montgomery.

A long list of country and pop stars has since recorded his works. It includes Charley Pride, Eddy Arnold, Mac Davis, Sammi Smith, Bill Anderson, Tom Jones, Diana Ross, Ferlin Husky, Ronnie Milsap, Floyd Cramer, Cal Smith, Percy Sledge, Bobby Womack, Dolly Parton, Jody Miller, Johnny Paycheck, Glen Campbell, Tina Turner, Lynn Anderson, Janie Frickie, Sammy Davis Jr., Cristy Lane and Jan Howard.

His own albums included Beautiful People (Vegas Records, 1968), Kenny O’Dell (Capricorn Records, 1974) and Let’s Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin’ (Capricorn Records, 1978).

He was the NSAI’s Songwriter of the Year in 1984 and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996.

Kenny O’Dell was married to guitarist Corki Casey O’Dell (1936-2017), a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame due to her studio work with Duane Eddy, Al Casey and others. She passed away last May.

Visitation for Kenny O’Dell will be Saturday, 2-8 p.m. at Woodbine-Hickory Chapel, 5852 Nolensville Rd.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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