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2013 Nominees for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Announced

January 1 2013

Eight songwriters and four artist/songwriters have been nominated for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees will be announced in the coming weeks, prior to the fall induction ceremony. This year’s nominees in the songwriter category are: Don Cook, Marcus Hummon, Mark James, Will Jennings, Dan Penn, John Scott Sherrill, Jeffrey Steele and Rafe Van Hoy. The nominees in the songwriter / artist category are: David Bellamy (The Bellamy Brothers), Ronnie Dunn (Brooks & Dunn), Toby Keith and Randy Owen (Alabama).

Category 1 – Songwriters


Don Kirby Cook was born in San Antonio, Texas. He was writing songs by age 12, recording his first demo by age 14 and playing various Houston coffeehouses throughout his teenage years. Three days after his graduation from the University of Texas, Don arrived in Nashville. He soon met publisher Don Gant, who signed him to a deal at Acuff-Rose Publishing. When Gant moved to Tree Publishing, Don followed. In his first year at Tree he had 11 cuts including “Cryin’ Again” a Top 3 for The Oak Ridge Boys and Don's first #1 as a songwriter, “Lady Lay Down” by John Conlee. Other hits followed in the ’80s, including “Julia” by Conway Twitty, “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again” by T. Graham Brown, “Small Town Girl” by Steve Wariner and “Somebody’s Gonna Love You” by Lee Greenwood. In the early ’90s, Don co-wrote “Brand New Man,” the first single for Brooks & Dunn, and began to produce the duo, a collaboration that yielded the co-written #1 hits “My Next Broken Heart,” “Only In America” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone,” among others.


Washington, D.C.-born Marcus Hummon has enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, recording artist, producer, studio musician, playwright and author. A diplomat’s son, Marcus spent his youth in Africa and Italy. After several years playing in various bands, he found his way to Nashville. As a songwriter, Marcus has co-written hits such as “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Ready To Run” by The Dixie Chicks, “Born To Fly” by Sara Evans, “One Of These Days” by Tim McGraw, “Only Love” by Wynonna, “The Cheap Seats” by Alabama and “Love Is The Right Place” by Bryan White. “Bless The Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts earned Marcus a 2005 Grammy for Best Country Song, as well as NSAI Song of the Year. A 2007 version by Selah w/ Melodie Crittenden, was a Top 5 Christian song and earned NSAI’s 2007 NSAI Song of the Year. Also an accomplished composer/playwright, Marcus has staged productions at the New York New Musical festival (The Warrior in 2005, The Piper in 2006) and the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Summer Workshop (The Warrior in 2005, American Duet in 2006), among others.


Mark James grew up in Houston, Texas, along with B.J. Thomas, who was the first to make his songs hits. By the late 1960s, Mark was signed as a staff songwriter to Memphis producer Chips Moman’s publishing company. Moman produced Thomas’ versions of “The Eyes Of A New York Woman” and “Hooked On A Feeling” in 1968-69, and these became Mark’s debut songwriting successes. He issued his own version of “Suspicious Minds” (also produced by Moman) on Scepter Records in 1968 before Elvis Presley made it a smash the following year using the same arrangement. These songs, as well as hits such as “Sunday Sunrise” (Brenda Lee) and “Moody Blue” (Elvis Presley) were all created by Mark as a solo writer. Mark also co-wrote the hits “It’s Only Love” (B.J. Thomas) and “One Hell Of A Woman” (Mac Davis). Mark’s biggest hit came via Willie Nelson’s 1982 recording of “Always On My Mind.” A collaboration with fellow Memphians Johnny Christopher and Wayne Carson, that song – named 1982 Song of the Year for NSAI, the ACM and the CMA – earned the writers a pair of Grammys for Best Country Song and for Best Song.


East Texas native Will Jennings is a sometime Nashvillian whose songs have always been published on Music Row. In 1971, he left a teaching job to try his hand at songwriting in Nashville. Soon, after cuts by the Addrisi Brothers, Dobie Gray and Johnny Paycheck, Will celebrated his first #1 song with “Feelin’s” by Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn. Persuaded by a co-writer to move to Los Angeles, Will began a career of crafting lyrics for a string of Pop hits: “Looks Like We Made It” by Barry Manilow, “I'll Never Love This Way Again” by Dionne Warwick, “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood and “Didn't We Almost Have It All” by Whitney Houston. In 1982, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes earned an Oscar for Best Song. In 1992, “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton earned a Grammy for Best Song. In 1998, “My Heart Will Go On”by Celine Dion earned an Oscar for Best Song and a Grammy for Best Song. Will has also remained on the Country charts with hits such as “Many A Long And Lonesome Highway” by Rodney Crowell and “Please Remember Me” by Tim McGraw. Will was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York in 2006.


As a young songwriter, Vernon, Ala., native Dan Penn tasted success in 1960 when Conway Twitty released his “Is A Bluebird Blue” as a single. In 1966, after several years in the Muscle Shoals, Ala., music scene, Dan moved to Memphis, where he formed a songwriting partnership with keyboardist Dewey Lyndon “Spooner” Oldham, who also had started off in Muscle Shoals. Together, the duo created many often-recorded R&B and Pop hits such as “I’m Your Puppet” (James & Bobby Purify), “It Tears Me Up” (Percy Sledge), “Cry Like A Baby” (the Box Tops), “Sweet Inspiration” (the Sweet Inspirations), “Out Of Left Field” (Percy Sledge), “Take Me (Just As I Am)” (Solomon Burke) and “Up Tight, Good Man” (Laura Lee). Outside the duo, Dan’s catalog includes songs such as “Do Right Woman - Do Right Man” (an R&B hit for Aretha Franklin) and the classic “The Dark End Of The Street” (an R&B hit for James Carr and a Country hit for Archie Campbell & Lorene Mann). Dan is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s “Achievers” section.


John Scott Sherrill was born in New York City but grew up north of the metropolis in Mount Kisko, N.Y. Dropping out of college, he became a Folk singer in Boston, then a performer in a hippie band that played northeastern colleges. In 1975, he decided to travel to California, stopping in Nashville en route. When his van broke down in Music City, he stayed. He scored his first hit when Johnny Lee released “When You Fall In Love” in 1982. Working with a variety of collaborators, Sherrill has seldom been off the charts since. Among his BMI-award winning songs are “Wild And Blue” (John Anderson), “Some Fools Never Learn” (Steve Wariner), “That Rock Won’t Roll” (Restless Heart), “(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes” (Highway 101), “The Church On Cumberland Road” (Shenandoah) and “No Man’s Land” (John Michael Montgomery). His “Nothin’ But The Wheel” has been recorded by Country’s Patty Loveless, the Bluegrass band Special Consensus and the Rock duo of Peter Wolf & Mick Jagger. In the late 1980s, Sherrill was a member of the Country group Billy Hill. Among his most recent successes are “How Long Gone” (Brooks & Dunn) and “Would You Go With Me” (Josh Turner).


Jeffrey Steele was born in Burbank, Calif., to a musical family. By age 17, he was performing with local groups, and playing keyboards at various gigs on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. From 1990-1996, he was the lead singer/bass player for the band Boy Howdy. After the group disbanded, Jeffrey embarked on a career as a solo artist/writer, moving to Nashville in 1994. Soon, his songs had become a staple on the Country chart: “Unbelievable” by Diamond Rio, “The Cowboy In Me” by Tim McGraw, “My Town” by Montgomery Gentry, “These Days” by Rascal Flatts, “Something To Be Proud Of”by Montgomery Gentry, “Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy, “Me And My Gang” by Rascal Flatts, “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts and “Knee Deep” by the Zac Brown Band w/ Jimmy Buffett. “What Hurts The Most” by Rascal Flatts was BMI’s 2007 Country Song of the Year. Jeffrey was BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 2003 and 2007. He was NSAI Songwriter of the Year in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He earned CMA Triple Play Awards (for three #1 songs in a year) in 2007 and 2010. In an 8-year period, Jeffrey has had more than 500 cuts, with 95 singles and sales of 50 million units.


Rafe Van Hoy was raised in Bristol, Tenn., where his postman father encouraged him to write songs from an early age. Upon high-school graduation in 1972, Rafe and his family moved to Nashville so that he could pursue a musical career. Curly Putman signed the teenager to Green Grass Music, which led to a songwriting contract with Tree International. Following his first major success in 1976 (“Golden Ring” by George Jones & Tammy Wynette), Rafe had 50 to 60 cuts a year for the next three years. Rafe’s song catalogue includes “Baby I Lied” (Deborah Allen), “Can I See You Tonight” (Tanya Tucker), “Friday Night Blues” (John Conlee), “Hurt Me Bad (In A Real Good Way)” (Patty Loveless), “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again” (T. Graham Brown), “I’m Only In It For The Love” (John Conlee), “Let’s Stop Talkin’ About It” (Janie Fricke), “Old Flames Have New Names” (Mark Chesnutt), “Somebody’s Gonna Love You” (Lee Greenwood) and “What’s Forever For” (Michael Martin Murphey). To date, Rafe has 10 million-airplay songs, three two-million airplay songs and more than a dozen Top-10 hits.

Category 2 – Songwriter/Artists


David Bellamy and his singing partner/brother, Howard, are natives of Darby, Fla. Their father was a Country musician, and they followed in his footsteps. David first tasted songwriting success in 1974 when Jim Stafford made a major hit of his “Spiders And Snakes.” The Bellamys got a recording contract the following year and burst upon the scene in 1976 with “Let Your Love Flow” (one of the few Bellamy songs David did not write); however, as the duo moved into Country music late in the decade, David began to provide the team with a steady stream of hits, topping the charts with “If I Said You Have A Beautiful Body,”“Sugar Daddy,” “Dancin’ Cowboys,” “For All The Wrong Reasons,” “Redneck Girl,” “I Need More Of You,” “Old Hippie” and “Kids Of The Baby Boom” — all written solo by David. Over the years, he has also written or co-written songs sung by Carl Perkins, Clint Black, Rod Stewart, Blake Shelton, Frankie Miller, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton and others. To date, more than 35 David Bellamy songs have been placed on the Country charts.


Ronnie Dunn was born in Texas, but Tulsa, Okla., became his hometown. He began playing guitar and performing in Country bands when he was in his teens. After winning the Marlboro Talent Search, Arista Records expressed interest in him. The label teamed him with singer-songwriter Kix Brooks, and the two worked as Brooks & Dunn from 1991-2011. The mega-duo sold millions of records and was named CMA Vocal Duo 14 times. The Brooks & Dunn hits “Neon Moon,” “Hard Workin’ Man,” “She Used To Be Mine,” “She’s Not The Cheatin’ Kind” and “Little Miss Honky Tonk” were all written solo by Ronnie, as was “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” which was named ACM Song of the Year in 1992. Ronnie was BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 1996 and 1998. Co-written Brooks & Dunn hits includesongs such as “Brand New Man,” “My Next Broken Heart” and “Believe,” which was the CMA and ACM Song of the Year in 2006. His songs have also been recorded by Reba McEntire, Shenandoah, Jennifer Hudson, Jerry Audley and Asleep At The Wheel. In 2011, Ronnie resumed his solo career as a singer-songwriter with “Cost Of Livin’.” Ronnie was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2003.


Oklahoma native Toby Keith received his first guitar at age eight. After high-school graduation, he worked in the oil fields by day and played with his band at night. In the early ’90s, one of his demo tapes found its way to producer Harold Shedd, who signed him to a deal with Mercury Records. In 1993, Toby’s solo-written debut single, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” reached #1 on the Country chart. To date, he has placed some 50 compositions on the Country charts as an artist, including “You Ain't Much Fun,“How Do You Like Me Now?!,”“You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” “Beer For My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” “American Soldier,” “A Little Too Late” and “God Love Her.” “As Good As I Once Was” was BMI’s 2006 Country Song of the Year. Among his many awards, he was BMI’s 2001 Songwriter of the Year, 2004 Writer/Artist of the Year and 2006 Songwriter of the Year. He was NSAI’s 2003, 2004, 2006 Songwriter/Artist of the Year. NSAI’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade (2000-2009), Toby was recently honored with the 2013 Songwriter Icon award by the National Music Publishers Association.


Alabama made history as the first modern star band in Country music. It was one of the first “youth appeal” acts and helped Country music gain an increasingly large share of the entertainment market. Lead singer Randy Owen, with cousins Teddy Gentry (his most frequent song collaborator) and Jeff Cook formed the group in 1969. By 1972, the band was playing professionally and beginning to write songs. With the addition of drummer Mark Herndon, the band was signed to RCA on the strength of the Owen/Gentry song “My Home’s In Alabama.” Other Randy Owen songs that comprised the cornerstone of the group’s repertoire include “Tennessee River,” “Mountain Music” and “Feels So Right.” All these were solo written, as were such landmarks as “Face To Face” and “Tar Top.” In 1988, Randy’s “Fallin’ Again” was named BMI Country Song of the Year. Randy has earned a dozen BMI awards for his songwriting. Along with the other band members, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.