Things seem to get better and better for country music songwriter Bob McDill. He has penned 30 number one country music hits, including Doug Stone's "Why Didn't I Think of That" and the hauntingly beautiful "Good Ole Boys Like Me," sung by Don Williams. Williams has frequently tapped the talents of McDill ("Amanda," "If Hollywood Don't Need You," "West Texas Woman," "Another Place, Another Time"). McDill and co-writer Dean Dillon's '90s singles-scene lament "All the Good Ones Are Gone" was a hit for Pam Tillis. The song was nominated for both a 1998 Best Country Song Grammy and a 1998 ACM Song of the Year award. It's a testimony to McDill's perseverance and his skill at choosing supportive folks that he's in such an envious position.
Born in Walden, TX (just outside of Beaumont), he began writing as a young child; his first subject was butterflies. His musical proclivities surfaced when he began to play the guitar. During family singalongs, McDill and his brother would gather around their piano-playing mother and sing gospel hymns. McDill noticed the musical commonalities of gospel and country.
In his youth, McDill wrote songs, playing in bands and folk groups. After college, he went into the Navy. While in the service, McDill corresponded with Allen Reynolds, offering him advice on songwriting. Reynolds became McDill's "rep" and got covers of his songs. The first was "The Happy Man," recorded by Perry Como (RCA, 1967). Then came "Black Sheep" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, as well as the inclusion of some of his songs on different albums. After the Navy, McDill returned to Beaumont, and in 1969 he ventured to Memphis to pursue a full-time career in the music business with the savings that he had accrued while in the service. He was hoping to sell his rock and MOR tunes, but two years later McDill was still waiting for someone to record his songs and his savings were almost depleted. As it turned out, McDill was working for a small publishing company that was bought by fellow Beaumont-transplant Jack Clement, who was moving to Nashville. Seeing dim prospects in Memphis, McDill followed Clement.
At that time, many music professionals believed that Nashville was going to become a rock & roll Mecca. McDill believed the prediction too and persisted in writing rock and pop songs, barely existing on $25 a week. That was possible only through the intervention of Clement, who arranged for McDill to live rent-free. Almost two years went by before McDill realized that he was going to starve waiting for the Nashville rock explosion, and that he'd better start writing country songs if he wanted to continue his eating habit.
McDill threw himself into country music, but it didn't click for him until he was in a friend's Cadillac and heard George Jones' "It's Been a Good Year for the Roses." It was as if a giant light bulb lit up and McDill understood what country was about. His revelation was that in order to write country music you had to love it. McDill's first country song, "Catfish John," co-written with Allen Reynolds, was a hit. Clement increased his salary to $100 a week, enabling McDill to write songs full-time. The hits flowed -- including Dave and Sugar's "The Door Is Always Open," Crystal Gayle's "I'll Do It All Over Again," Mickey Gilley's "Overnight Sensation," and Alan Jackson's "Gone Country" (nominated for a CMA 1995 Song of the Year Award) -- amid a mountain of McDill songs as album tracks. McDill has been offered many recording contracts by all the majors at one time or another, but thankfully for folks who love good country songs, McDill chose to focus on songwriting. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi