Music journalist Robert K. Oermann was honored Monday, October 29 at the third annual Music Row Storytellers event, benefiting Music Health Alliance.
Storme Warren hosted the festivities, which were held at the Wellspire Center in Nashville’s Gulch area.
Several executives and artists including Larry Gatlin, music industry executive Tim DuBois, journalist and Oermann’s former Tennessean colleague Sandy Neese, and MusicRow Magazine founder David M. Ross were on hand to honor “The Notorious RKO,” as MusicRow Magazine owner/publisher Sherod Robertson described him.
As a child growing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oermann served as a clerk in his grandmother’s record store, and began to amass what would become a staggering 300,000-piece record collection.
During his 40-year career, Oermann has written for Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Esquire and TV Guide. In the 1980s he became the first country music reporter and critic for USA Today, and spent 12 years with The Tennessean. MusicRow Magazine has featured Oermann’s entertaining—and often acerbic—song reviews since its inception in 1981.
Jeannie Seely and Robertson started off the evening by sharing some of Oermann’s reviews, among them glowing early reviews of Miranda Lambert, Reba and Garth Brooks, before each had hit superstar status.
Seely said, “Having a new piece of work that you’ve spent hours on and then you hear that Robert K. Oermann has reviewed it, you go, ‘Oh, wow,’ then you go, ‘Oh, hell.’
“But you’ve always been very kind to me. It takes a lot of courage and guts to write some of those bad reviews he’s written.”
“Your single reviews can be brutal, funny, informative, poignant, all of the above,” Warren said. “Every songwriter and artist wants their song reviewed by Robert Oermann—until they don’t. But he didn’t play favorites and he was honest in every one of his reviews.”
Over the past 40 years, Oermann has authored eight books (some in collaboration with his wife Mary A. Bufwack), hosted the podcast Children of Song, and penned liner notes and bios for numerous artists. He also offers his expertise to organizations including The Recording Academy, CMA, Nashville Public Library, Leadership Music and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Among those sending in video messages of heartfelt congratulations included Charlie Daniels, Pam Tillis, UMG Nashville president/CEO Mike Dungan, KT Oslin, Chris Young, Trisha Yearwood, and Dolly Parton, who sang a special rendition of her signature hit “I Will Always Love You,” with some of the verse changed to honor Oermann.
Previous Music Row Storytellers honorees include Charlie Monk and the late Hazel Smith.
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