Dickey Lee remembers the first time he heard one of his songs on the radio. "I
was at a drive-in movie, with a buddy of mine. We went to see some thriller or
something. I had the radio on and my song came on. Boy, it was like
The regional success of that song, "Dream Boy," written in 1955 when Lee was
fresh out of high school in Memphis, whetted his appetite for a career in
music. Despite his father telling him that he "ought to take his guitar and
throw it in the Mississippi River and get a job," Lee soon signed a deal with
Sun Records. A few more regional hits followed, then in 1962 Lee scored a #6
pop hit with the star-crossed suicide tune "Patches" (produced by Jack Clement)
on Smash Records.
But while his nascent pop career thrived with "I Saw Linda Yesterday" and
another teen tragedy hit, "Laurie," Lee slowly realized that his true love was
country music. When a song he co-wrote, "She Thinks I Still Care," became a #1
country hit for George Jones and was covered by artists like Eddy Arnold and
Faron Young, Lee took that as a sign that Nashville was his destiny. It took
him a few years to settle there, but when he did, he rode a dual career as a
hit country writer and successful country recording artist, beginning with RCA
Records in 1971.
Over the next three decades, he racked up 20 BMI Awards, as his songs were
recorded by hundreds of artists, including Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, Merle
Haggard, Brenda Lee, Don Williams, Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings, Charley
Pride, Randy Travis, James Taylor and Reba McEntire. At the same time, he
placed nearly 30 songs on the charts himself, including "Never Ending Song of
Love," "Rocky," "Angels, Roses and Rain," and "9,999,999 Tears."
In 2010, a TNT network police drama, Memphis Beat, used Lee's song of
the same title as its theme song, in a newly recorded version by Keb'
Lee remains active as a writer, a leader of music seminars and a performer,
touring with rock & roll revival shows, alongside such artists as Fabian,
Bobby Vee and the Shirelles.
Of his feelings about being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of
Fame, Lee is characteristically modest: "I don't deserve it, but I'll take it."