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Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2020

November 02 2020

Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Kent Blazy, Brett James and Spooner Oldham have been elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, according to an announcement made today by Sarah Cates, chair of the organization’s board of directors.

The five new inductees-elect – who next year will join 219 of their previously named colleagues in the elite organization – will be officially inducted during the “50-51” edition of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Monday, November 1, 2021, at the Music City Center. The Class of 2020 will join the yet-to-be named Class of 2021 to celebrate the 50th and 51st anniversaries of the event, which was postponed this year because of the ongoing health crisis.

“This year marks our 50th year to welcome a new class into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. And although our year has looked different, we couldn’t be more excited to continue our commitment and core mission by announcing the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Class of 2020,” says Cates. “It’s our great honor today to welcome our class of 2020: Kent Blazy and Brett James in the songwriter category; Spooner Oldham in the veteran songwriter category, Steve Earle as our songwriter/artist and Bobbie Gentry as our veteran songwriter/artist.”

Kentucky native Kent Blazy’s songwriter credits include “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (Garth Brooks), “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til The Sun Comes Up)” (Garth Brooks) and “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” (Chris Young).

Artist/songwriter Brett James’ resume is known for “Jesus Take The Wheel” (Carrie Underwood), “When The Sun Goes Down” (Kenny Chesney & Uncle Kracker) and “Summer Nights” (Rascal Flatts).

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Spooner Oldham is the writer of R&B and Pop hits such as “I’m Your Puppet” (James & Bobby Purify), “Cry Like A Baby” (The Box Tops) and “Sweet Inspiration” (The Sweet Inspirations).

Multiple Grammy Award winner Steve Earle recorded many of his self-penned hits, including “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road” and “The Devil’s Right Hand.”

Artist/songwriter/producer Bobbie Gentry popularized many of her own compositions such as the oft-recorded smash “Ode To Billie Joe,” “Fancy” and “Mornin’ Glory.”

Inductee Biographical Information

Kent Blazy grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, playing in various local bands. By the mid-’70s, he was touring as a guitar player for Canadian legend Ian Tyson. After a first-place win in a national songwriting competition, Kent decided to make the move to Nashville. In 1982, Gary Morris sent Kent’s “Headed For A Heartache” to #5 on the Country chart. Soon after, other cuts followed with The Forester Sisters, T. Graham Brown, Donna Fargo and Moe Bandy. In 1987, Kent was introduced to new demo singer Garth Brooks. The two began writing together, and their first collaboration, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” became Brooks’ first #1 single and NSAI’s 1989 Song of the Year. Their writing partnership yielded four additional Top 5 songs with “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til The Sun Comes Up),” “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” “It’s Midnight Cinderella” and “She’s Gonna Make It.” Kent also was a co-writer on the Brooks & George Jones duet “Beer Run,” as well as on “That’s What I Get For Lovin’ You” by Diamond Rio, “My Best Days Are Ahead Of Me” by American Idol finalist Danny Gokey and “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” by Chris Young.

Midway through medical school, Oklahoma City native Brett James left college to pursue music in Nashville. After several years as an Arista/Career recording artist, he continued writing for others, scoring early cuts by Billy Ray Cyrus, Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride. In 2001, “Who I Am” by Jessica Andrews became Brett’s first #1 hit. In 2006, the chart-topping “Jesus Take The Wheel” by Carrie Underwood earned the 2006 Grammy for Best Country Song, as well as the 2005 ACM Single of the Year, the 2006 ASCAP Country Song of the Year and the 2006 NSAI Song of the Year. Now with more than 300 major-label cuts, Brett’s catalogue includes hits such as “When The Sun Goes Down” by Kenny Chesney & Uncle Kracker, “Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood, “It’s America” by Rodney Atkins, “Out Last Night” by Kenny Chesney, “Summer Nights” by Rascal Flatts, “The Man I Want To Be” by Chris Young and “Bottoms Up” by Brantley Gilbert. Brett also has a Top 5 Latin hit with “The One You Love (Todo Mi Amor)” by Paulina Rubio. Brett was named ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year in 2006 and 2010. In 2020, he released a new self-written album titled I Am Now.

Center Star, Alabama, native Dewey Lindon “Spooner” Oldham started off in Muscle Shoals as a session keyboardist before moving to Memphis in the mid-1960s. It was there that he formed a songwriting partnership with Vernon, Alabama, native Dan Penn, who also had cut his musical teeth in Muscle Shoals. As a duo, Oldham & Penn created many often-recorded R&B and Pop hits such as “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify, “It Tears Me Up” and “Out Of Left Field” by Percy Sledge, “Cry Like A Baby” by The Box Tops, “Sweet Inspiration” by The Sweet Inspirations, “I Worship The Ground You Walk On” by Jimmy Hughes, “Take Me (Just As I Am)” by Solomon Burke and “Up Tight, Good Man” by Laura Lee. Outside the duo, Spooner’s catalog includes songs such as “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” — a Country hit for both Bob Luman and Steve Wariner — and “Another Night Of Love” for Freddy Weller. In addition to songwriting, Spooner has played keyboards in sessions and on the road for artists such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Dickey Betts and many others. Spooner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the “sideman” category in 2009.

Steve Earle grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where he began playing guitar at age 11. Dropping out of school at age 16, he moved to Houston. Then in 1974, Steve moved to Nashville, where he worked blue-collar jobs by day and played music by night before landing a gig playing bass in Guy Clark’s band. Ever restless, Steve formed his own band, The Dukes, in 1982 — the same year that Johnny Lee took Steve’s self-penned “When You Fall In Love” into the Top 20. Moving on from his previous publishing- and record- deals, Steve released his first full-length album on MCA in 1986. The title track, “Guitar Town,” reached the Top 10 that year, followed by another Top 10, “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left,” the next year. In 1987, Steve’s “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied” reached #26 on the Rock chart. In 1988 – the year Patty Loveless reached #2 with Steve’s “A Little Bit In Love” – he hit #10 on the Rock chart with “Copperhead Road,” the title track of his landmark album. Other classic songs from Steve’s pen include “My Old Friend The Blues” (also recorded by T. Graham Brown, Joe Nichols, The Grascals), “Nothing But A Child” (also recorded by Nicolette Larson, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack), “The Devil’s Right Hand” (also recorded by Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Bob Seger) and Miranda Lambert’s Top 20 hit “Kerosene.”

Born Roberta Lee Streeter near Woodland, Mississippi, Bobbie Gentry was raised on her grandparents’ farm following the divorce of her parents. At age seven, she composed her first song and began teaching herself to play a variety of instruments. At 13 she moved to California to live with her mother. Following high school, Bobbie entered UCLA as a philosophy major. During that time, she began performing occasionally at nightclubs before signing with Capitol Records several years later. In 1967 Bobbie released her first single, “Mississippi Delta,” however, it was the flipside, “Ode To Billie Joe,” that became a worldwide smash. (That single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.) After the release of her follow-up “Okolona River Bottom Band,” Bobbie scored another hit single with her self-penned “Fancy” (which would also become a hit years later for Reba McEntire). Bobbie wrote and performed other hits into the mid-1970s, including “Mornin’ Glory” (a duet with Glen Campbell) and “But I Can’t Get Back.” In 1968-71, Bobbie had her own TV series on the BBC in the U.K. She later produced, choreographed, and wrote/arranged the music for her own nightclub revue in Las Vegas before retiring from show business in the early 1980s.