Byron Gallimore Surprised With Producer of the Year Party

Byron Gallimore’s friends and associates crowded into the cavernous lobby of BMI’s Nashville office Thursday (Feb. 21) to congratulate him for his third consecutive win as Billboard’s “Hot Country Producer of the Year.”

Most of the artists Gallimore produces — including Tim McGraw , Faith Hill , Terri Clark , Phil Vassar and Jessica Andrews — were on hand for the surprise celebration. Also attending were Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride , whose publishing company Gallimore headed for 13 years, Martina McBride , Curb Records owner Mike Curb and Tennessee state representative Don Ridgeway, who used to manage Gallimore’s band, Crossfire, and who pitched his songs during the late ‘70s when Gallimore was attempting to get a toe-hold on Music Row.

Asked about the rumor that LeAnn Rimes will switch from country to pop music, Curb told that the singer will probably still record country that has pop crossover potential. Currently, she is working with producer Desmond Child. “I’m not going to push my luck [with Rimes],” Curb said with a laugh, alluding to the singer’s earlier attempt to leave his label. “I’m just glad she re-signed.”

Arriving nearly an hour into the party, Gallimore seemed genuinely surprised by the gathering. “We drove up [to the BMI entrance],” he explained, “and I said, ‘Well, they must be having a No.1 party.”

Phyllis Stark, Billboard’s Nashville bureau chief, presented Gallimore his award and announced that during his three years of holding the title, he has had 87 songs on the magazine’s charts. Stark spoke of Gallimore’s enthusiasm for his music. She recalled once discussing recording techniques with him at lunch and he becoming so animated he sketched a complete studio layout on the table covering. “You could see the passion and love for what he does,” she said. “But the best part of all was watching Byron’s face when we sat in his car later and listened to the McGraw album he’d just cut.”

BMI’s David Preston read a note of congratulation from Jo Dee Messina , another of Gallimore’s clients, who was on tour. In it, Messina reminisced about the long, exhausting hours they had worked together in the studio to achieve the sound he wanted. “There’s nothing that can slip past you,” she said. Pride called Gallimore “not only a fine producer but a fine young man.”

“I knew from the first time I worked with him,” said McGraw, “that I would always work with him.” Like other speakers, he focused on Gallimore’s exacting musical standards. “My band says he’s got ears like a fruit bat,” he said. “He doesn’t miss anything.”

“He listens to his artists and goes well beyond all the expectations I could ever dream of,” Hill said. Then, turning to Gallimore, she added, “I feel just so honored to be in your world.”

Saying he felt “very inadequate standing up here accepting anything,” Gallimore told of finally “stumbling into Nashville” after he had enough of college and playing clubs. He thanked the artists by name, his mother and other family members in attendance and Kay Smith, now vice president of A&R administration at Sony Music, who was the first industry insider to lend him a hand when he came to Nashville.

Recalling his journey from publishing to producing, Gallimore mused, “It was tough the first three or four years. But when [McGraw’s] Not a Moment Too Soon came out [in 1994], it got a lot better fast.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to