Songwriters Celebrate “Jose Cuervo” Knockout

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Vast stores of tequila and limes were brought out Wednesday (Oct. 16) at Nashville’s La Paz restaurant to toast the songwriters of Tracy Byrd latest No. 1 hit, “Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo.”

BMI, the performance rights organization, hosted the party to honor composers Michael Heeney and Casey Beathard and their BMI-linked publishing companies. Also on hand for the celebration was the song’s third writer, Marla Cannon-Goodman, who is affiliated with ASCAP, a competing performance rights society.

Heeney and Beathard both wrote for Acuff-Rose Music until Sony/ATV Tree Music Publishing purchased the company and its writing staff earlier this year. “Ten Rounds” is Beathard’s first No. 1 and Heeney’s first No. 1 since 1981, when George Jones took his “Still Doin’ Time” to the top.

In a brief presentation ceremony, BMI’s Perry Howard described Heeney affectionately as “one of the old Music Row warriors.” Woody Bomar, senior vice president and general manager of creative services for Sony/ATV Tree, remarked, “In 1979, when I was trying to get out of the advertising business, Michael Heeney meant a lot to me. And he still does.”

Commenting on Sony’s acquisition of the fabled Acuff-Rose catalogs, Heeney told the crowd, “I haven’t been [at Sony] that long, but the songs are in good hands, as far as I can see.” Said Beathard of his song’s success, “This will feed the children for a long time.”

Byrd, who emerged from the crowd to stand with the writers, publishers and his record producer, Billy Joe Walker Jr., praised RCA Records’ promotional staff for staying with the song until it reached the peak. “I never dreamed I’d have another No. 1 record,” he said. “Now I just want many, many more.”

Heeney told that he got the idea and title for the song a dozen years back when he was frequenting Jimmy Kelly’s restaurant in Nashville. He said one of the other regulars there once remarked, “I went 10 rounds with Jose Cuervo last night — and I lost.” Heeney said he filed the comment away, since not many country artists were recording drinking songs at the time, and then dug it out a couple of years ago for a writing session.

Music Row is still sensitive about booze tunes. When one of the celebrants referred to “Ten Rounds” as a “drinking song,” a voice from the crowd shouted back, “It’s not a drinking song. It’s a party song.” Either way, it worked.

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