Don Schlitz

Induction Year: 1993

Birth Name: Donald Alan Schlitz Jr.

Birth Date: 08-29-1952

Place of Birth: Durham, North Carolina

Don Schlitz's songwriting legacy begins with "The Gambler," the 1979 Kenny Rogers smash that has become a pop culture touchstone, quoted by political candidates, movie characters, talk show hosts and many others. But, while "The Gambler" was a career-making hit for both Rogers and Schlitz, the song doesn't begin to define Schlitz's impact as one of the most successful and prolific songsmiths of country music's modern era.

In addition, Schlitz is the Grammy-winning author of more than 50 Top 20 singles and more than 20 #1s, the co-inventor (with Paul Overstreet, Thom Schuyler and Fred Knobloch) of the now-popular "in-the-round" performing format and the winner of ASCAP's Country Songwriter of the Year prize for four consecutive years.

But it was "The Gambler" that launched Schlitz's songwriting career, which has been honored with three CMA Song of the Year awards, two ACM top song prizes, membership in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame and an Academy of Country Music Poet Award for lifetime achievement in songwriting.

Born in Durham, North Carolina, Schlitz spent a brief and uneventful stint at Duke University before moving to Nashville in 1973 and taking an all-night job at Vanderbilt University's computer center. In the spring of 1979, he received a letter from a Vanderbilt boss, threatening him with dismissal if he was found sleeping on the job again. By the end of that year, Rogers' version of "The Gambler" was a radio hit. It went on to popular acclaim, winning a CMA Song of the Year prize and a Grammy for best country song. A 1980 solo album, Dreamers Matinee, came and went, but by the mid-1980s Schlitz's songs were back in radio favor. With co-writer Paul Overstreet, Schlitz penned signature songs for Randy Travis, including ACM Song of the Year (and Travis' first #1) "On the Other Hand" and Grammy, CMA and ACM top country song "Forever and Ever, Amen." He and Overstreet also wrote "When You Say Nothing at All," a major hit for Keith Whitley in 1988 and for Alison Krauss in 1995.

In the 1990s collaborations with Mary Chapin Carpenter including "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" and "I Feel Lucky" helped Carpenter reach the Top 5 of the country charts. In 2001, the Adventures of Tom Sawyer musical featured words and music from Schlitz, but in the new century he's remained heavily invested in writing and performing country songs.

"40 Hour Week (For a Livin')"

(written with Dave Loggins, Lisa Silver)

Alabama1985 #1 country

"Almost Goodbye"

(written with Billy Livsey)

Mark Chesnutt1993 #1 country


(written with Brett James)

Sara Evans2005 #9 country, #69 pop

"Daddy's Come Around"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

Paul Overstreet1990 #1 country

"Deeper Than the Holler"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

Randy Travis1988 #1 country

"Forever and Ever, Amen"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

CMA & ACM Song of the Year, Grammy for Country Song of the Year

Randy Travis1987 #1 country

"Give Me Wings"

(written with Rhonda Fleming)

Michael Johnson1986 #1 country

"He Thinks He'll Keep Her"

(written with Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Mary Chapin Carpenter1993 #2 country

"Heroes and Friends"

(written with Randy Travis)

Randy Travis1991 #3 country

"I Feel Lucky"

(written with Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Mary Chapin Carpenter1992 #4 country

"I Know Where I'm Going"

(written with Craig BickHardt, Brent Maher)

The Judds1987 #1 country

"I Won't Take Less Than Your Love"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

Tanya Tucker with Paul Overstreet1987 #1 country

"If You Can Do Anything Else"

(written with Billy Livsey)

George Strait2001 #5 country, #51 pop

"Learning to Live Again"

(written with Stephanie Davis)

Garth Brooks1993 #2 country

"My Arms Stay Open All Night"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

Tanya Tucker1989 #2 country

"Old School"

(written with Howard Russell Smith)

John Conlee1985 #5 country

"On the Other Hand"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

CMA & ACM Song of the Year, NSAI Song of the Year

Randy Travis1986 #1 country

"One Promise Too Late"

(written with Dave Loggins, Lisa Silver)

Reba McEntire1987 #1 country

"Rockin' with the Rhythm of the Rain"

(written with Brent Maher)

The Judds1986 #1 country

"Strong Enough to Bend"

(written with Beth Nielsen Chapman)

Tanya Tucker1988 #1 country

"The Gambler"

CMA Song of the Year, Grammy for Best Country Song

Don Schlitz1978 #65 country
Kenny Rogers1978 #1 country, #16 pop, #3 adult contemporary

"Turn It Loose"

(written with Craig Bickhardt, Brent Maher)

The Judds1988 #1 country

"When You Say Nothing at All"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

Keith Whitley1988 #1 country
Alison Krauss1995 #3 country
Ronan Keating1999 

"You Again"

(written with Paul Overstreet)

The Forester Sisters1987 #1 country

Don Schlitz

Induction Year: 1993