BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Country music great Dwight Yoakam was in the spotlight at this year’s BMI Awards Banquet on Music Row (11/12).
The new Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee was presented with the organization’s President’s Award at the BMI ceremony. His songs were sung by Jon Pardi (“Guitars, Cadillacs”), Bob Weir with Margo Price (“Fast As You”) and the sensational, harmonizing Highwomen backed by Jason Isbell (“A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”).
Video tributes were offered by Paige Levy, Billy Bob Thornton, Eric Church, Peter Cooper, Jim Ed Norman, Ken Burns, Emmylou Harris and Marty Stuart.
“Awards…remind me of how lucky I am to make a living doing what I love,” said Yoakam. “I wrote primarily because these were things I needed to say.
“Thank y’all and to everybody who played the songs tonight.”
Warner Chappell was another big newsmaker of the night. Its Warner-Tamerlane arm won Publisher of the Year. Astonishingly, the company published or co-published 24 of the 50 most performed BMI songs of the year. The BMI win made it a clean sweep of all three performance-rights organizations this week, since the firm also won at SESAC on Sunday and at ASCAP on Monday.
BMI’s Songwriter of the Year award was a tie between Ross Copperman and Nicolle Galyon. “I’m so thankful every day of my life,” said Ross. “And thank-you, BMI, for everything you do for us.”
Galyon’s co-written “Tequila” was named Song of the Year. She movingly recalled first coming to the BMI banquet and watching from outside as the driver for Greg Oswald. Then she attended as a “plus one” on the arm of her award-winning songwriter husband Rodney Clawson. Then she started writing songs and winning BMI awards, herself. So it was a long trip to the stage to accept Songwriter of the Year.
“Coming to this night has been a metric of how I measured my career,” said Nicolle. “I have stars in my eyes.”
So did we all. This banquet offers more celebrity spotting than any other event during Country Music Week. Bill Anderson, Abby Anderson, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Chris Young, Chris Janson, Chris Lane, Rhett Akins, Rodney Atkins, Rob Crosby, Robert Earl Keen, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Lady A’s Charles Kelley, Jake Owens, Mac Davis, Big Kenny, Dustin Lynch, Little Big Town, Clay Walker, Kelsea Ballerini & Morgan Evans, Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, John Oates, Bobby Braddock, Keith Urban, Dan + Shay, Kane Brown, Russell Dickerson, Mitchell Tenpenny, Cole Swindell, Eric Church, Scotty McCreery, Billy Burnette and Dwight’s fellow 2019 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Larry Gatlin were working the room.
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder were present as well. They offered a spirited rendition of “Rocky Top.” The Boudleaux & Felice Bryant song was given BMI’s inaugural Evergreen Award. The late tunesmiths are also being honored this year with an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Next year marks the centennial of Boudleaux’s birth.
Sons Del Bryant and Dane Bryant accepted the BMI honor with Del recalling how their parents came to write the song. Lamar Alexander, Dolly Parton and Peyton Manning offered video salutes to “Rocky Top.”
One outstanding feature of the gala was that there were an impressive 20 songwriters receiving their first BMI Awards – Riley Green, Ryan Hurd, Michael Hardy, Morgan Evans and Morgan Wallen, for starters.
The other first-time honorees were Jeff Middleton, Will Weatherly, Jason Gantt, J.P. Williams, Rob Snyder, Channing Wilson, Blake Chaffin, Brad Clawson, Phillip LaRue, Chase McGill, Erik Dylan, Lindsay Rimes, Rob Willford and Mark Holman. Also receiving his first BMI country songwriting award was Chris Stevens, although he has many big CCM hits to his credit.
There were a bluezillion songwriting greats in the room. Among them were Layng Martine Jr., Jeff Stevens, Jody Stevens, Even Stevens, Steve Dorff, Sherrie Austin & Will Rambeaux, Craig Wiseman, Bob DiPiero, Dan Couch, Jeffrey Steele, Chuck Cannon, Lee Thomas Miller, Gerry House, Liz Rose, Laura Veltz, Billy Montana, Dallas Davidson, Carson Chamberlain and Tom Douglas.
Presiding over the BMI honors were Mike O’Neill, Jody Williams, Mason Hunter and Leslie Roberts. Jody was given a hail-and-farewell tribute section, since he is leaving BMI to return to song publishing in 2020.
We dined on tender, medium-rare beef medallions served on buttery potato puree with roasted brussel sprouts and cherry tomatoes. Bottles of wine from the Kix Brooks Arrington Vineyards were offered on every table.
As always, the venue was the BMI parking garage on Music Row, transformed into a banquet venue. The décor was minimalist this year – black-on-black walls & ceiling with mirrored pillars. Fuschia spotlights surrounded the stage, as did mini klieg lights. Tables wore green or black cloths with centerpieces of hot pink roses, green hydrangea, flowering kale and exotic greenery.
Industry notables schmoozing mightily included Jerry & Connie Bradley, Clay Bradley, Steve Moore, Steve Lowery, Mike Vaden, Michael Knox, Mike Dungan, Michael Molinar, Michael Campbell, David Conrad, David Crow, David & Susanna Ross, John Ingrassia, Jim Free, Joe Chambers, Dayton Duncan, Butch Baker, Ken Levitan, Lisa Harless, Roger Sovine, Rose Drake, Kerry O’Neill, Erv Woolsey, Heath Owen, Duane Clark, Randy Talmadge and Randy Goodman.
Not to mention Autumn House-Tallant, Hank Adam Locklin, Marion Kraft, Phil Graham, Rod Essig, T.K. Kimbrell, Kos Weaver, Byron Gallimore, Tracy Gershon, Pat Higdon, Rob Beckham, Stephanie Wright, Anastasia Brown, Phyllis Stark, Bill Denny, Derek Crownover, Bobby Cudd, Cindy Watts, Perry Howard, Mary Del Scobey & Horton Frank, Jessie Willoughby, Arturo Buenahora, Brad Kennard, Leslie Fram and Kyle Young.
Did you think I was going to exit this column without mentioning the drastic weather for this stellar event? It was unseasonably, bitterly cold that night. The usual outdoor red carpet arrivals were moved into the BMI lobby.
Women sought refuge from the cement garage in the ladies room inside the BMI building. The organization had instructed them to dress warmly, but many wore lightweight evening gowns and cocktail dresses nonetheless.
Space heaters ringed the perimeter of the event space. We lucked out, since our table had one on either side and was one of the few without a window at its back. All of the tables were provided with multiple warming blankets, presumably to be shared.
Even so, as the temperature plunged below 20 degrees, a mass exodus occurred to the BMI lobby, where brandy, coffee and desserts were offered.