Kenny O'Dell

Induction Year: 1996

Birth Name: Kenneth Guy Gist Jr.

Birth Date: 06-21-1944

Place of Birth: Antlers, Oklahoma

Death Date: 03-27-2018

Place of Death: Nashville, Tennessee

Throughout his career, Kenny O'Dell has moved comfortably between country and pop music. His considerable achievements include writing one of the biggest crossover hits of the 1970s with "Behind Closed Doors" and, a decade later, a huge country hit, "Mama, He's Crazy."

Born in Oklahoma and raised in California, Kenny O'Dell started writing songs when he was 13. After graduating high school, he formed his own record label, Mar-Kay, and cut his first single, "Old Time Love." For its release, he decided to change his name from the hard-to-pronounce Gist to his mother's middle name, O'Dell.

In the early '60s, he played with twang guitar legend Duane Eddy for a while, then formed his own band, Guys and Dolls, and toured nightclubs for the next five years. In 1967, O'Dell wrote "Beautiful People," a pop hit for Bobby Vee, and "Next Plane to London," a hit for the band Rose Garden.

In 1969, he moved to Nashville, where he headed up House of Gold, Bobby Goldsboro's publishing company. Still, he found time to write songs, and soon he was scoring hits with Tanya Tucker, Dottie West, Sandy Posey and Kenny Rogers. But it was in the soulful voice of Charlie Rich that O'Dell found his most sympathetic and commercial interpreter. First came the Top 10 country hit "I Take It on Home," then one of the all-time classic country records, the Billy Sherrill-produced smash "Behind Closed Doors." A 1973 Grammy and CMA Winner for Country Song of the Year, it ranks among BMI's top 50 most-performed songs of all time.

Like his contemporaries Mickey Newbury and Kris Kristofferson, O'Dell balanced his Music Row songwriting success with his own recording career through the 1970s. Hits like "My Honky Tonk Ways," "As Long as I Can Wake Up in Your Arms" and "Let's Shake Hands and Come out Lovin'" garnered lots of airplay and took O'Dell out on the concert trail. And at the same time, his songs continued to find homes on records by a long list of country stars, including Loretta Lynn, Mac Davis, Tom Jones, Sammi Smith, Charley Pride and Eddy Arnold.

In 1984, he wrote a career-making hit for the Judds, "Mama, He's Crazy." That same year, he won the NSAI Songwriter of the Year Award.

In the years since, O'Dell has continued to write and produce. He lives in Middle Tennessee and is married to guitarist-singer Corki Ray, who played on many of Duane Eddy's early hits.

"As Long as I Can Wake Up in Your Arms"

(written with Larry Henley)

Kenny O'Dell1978 #12 country

"Beautiful People"

Bobby Vee1967 #37 pop
Kenny O'Dell1967 #38 pop
Bill Anderson & Jan Howard1972 

"Behind Closed Doors"

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

Charlie Rich1973 #1 country, #8 adult contemporary, #15 pop
Ferlin Husky1973 
Diana Ross1973 
Ronnie Milsap1974 
Floyd Cramer1974 
Cal Smith1974 
Percy Sledge1974 
Loretta Lynn1974 
Bobby Womack1976 
Dolly Parton1966 

"Everything I Am"

Charley Pride1975 

"House of Love"

Dottie West1974 #21 country
Jody Miller1975 

"I Take It on Home"

Johnny Paycheck1972 
Charlie Rich1972 #6 country
Glen Campbell1973 

"If It's Alright with You"

(written with Larry Henley)

Rose Colored Glass1971 #95 pop
Eddy Arnold1972 
Dottie West1973 #28 country, #97 pop
Tina Turner1979 

"Let's Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin'"

Kenny O'Dell1978 #9 country

"Lizzie and the Rainman"

(written with Larry Henley)

Bobby Goldsboro1972 
Tanya Tucker1975 #1 country, #37 pop
Billie Jo Spears1975 
The Cox Family1995 

"Love of My Life"

Lynn Anderson1974 
Eddy Arnold1979 

"Mama, He's Crazy"

NSAI & BMI Country Song of the Year

The Judds1984 #1 country

"My Honky Tonk Ways"

Kenny O'Dell1975 #37 country, #105 pop

"Never Did Like Whiskey"

Billie Jo Spears1976 #18 country

"Next Plane to London"

Rose Garden1967 #17 pop

"Party Shoes"

Janie Fricke1985 

"Too Much Is Not Enough"

Billie Jo Spears1977 #18 country

"Trouble in Paradise"

Loretta Lynn1974 #1 country

"What I've Got in Mind"

Billie Jo Spears1976 #5 country
Sammy Davis Jr.1982 

"Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Love"

(written with Larry Henley)

Sandy Posey1972 #51 country
Bobby Goldsboro1972 
Charlie Rich1974 
B. J. Thomas1975 
Kenny Rogers1976 
Kenny Rogers & Dottie West1978 
Roy Clark1979 

"You Got the Power"

(written with Austin Roberts)

Sammi Smith1977 
Cristy Lane1982 

Kenny O'Dell

Induction Year: 1996