Bob Dylan, Shel Silverstein and Dean Dillon were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during a Sunday night (Nov. 3) banquet highlighted by surprise performances by George Strait and Tompall Glaser . The ceremonies, conducted by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, were held at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza in Nashville.
Dylan, now on tour, sent a telegram expressing his appreciation for the honor. Silverstein, who died in May 1999, was represented at the event by his sister, Peggy Myers, and nephew, Dr. Mitch Myers.
In conjunction with the festivities, the Nashville Songwriters Association International also presented a series of songwriter achievement awards. “I’m Movin’ On,” written by Phillip White and D. Vincent Williams, was named song of the year. Troy Verges, whose compositions include “Blessed,” “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway,” “Who I Am” and “Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man,” was designated songwriter of the year.
Cited by the NSAI as “songs I wish I’d written” were “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” by Alan Jackson ; “Angry All the Time,” Bruce Robison; “Bring on the Rain,” Billy Montana, Helen Darling; “I Wanna Talk About Me,” Bobby Braddock; “I’m Movin’ On”; “I’m Tryin’,” Chris Wallin, Jeffrey Steele, Anthony Smith; “Long Time Gone,” Darrell Scott; “Ol’ Red,” Mark Sherrill, Don Goodman, James Bohon; “Riding With Private Malone,” Thom Shepherd, Wood Newton; and “The Good Stuff,” Jim Collins, Craig Wiseman.
Bobby Bare , Don Henry and Glaser sang a sampling of Silverstein’s best known music. Glaser, an original member of the ”Outlaw” movement, kicked off the medley with “Put Another Log on the Fire,” a hit for him in 1975. “We got him out of hibernation,” Bare said of the reclusive singer. Bare and Henry joined their voices on “Marie Laveau,” a No. 1 for Bare in 1974. Henry proceeded by reading Silverstein’s poem, “Hug of War,” and continued by singing segments from “The Unicorn,” “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Sylvia’s Mother” and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Then, with a conspiratorial nod, Henry and Bare rounded out the set with the withering “Nashville Is Rough on the Living (But She Really Speaks Well of the Dead).”
Acknowledging that different people perceived Silverstein differently — as a Playboy cartoonist, a writer of children’s books or as a songwriter — Bare said Silverstein’s great joy was “hanging out” with his fellow artists. He said he was always jotting down notes — on the top of menus, in the white spaces on the sports page and even on his own hand. “Sometimes,” Bare observed, “he’d write on your hand. The thought of Shel Silverstein having a career was hilarious.”
Bare said the words “dead” and “Silverstein” simply didn’t go together. “We’ve got to ask ourselves,” he concluded, “did he leave too early or have we stayed too late?”
Singer-songwriters Pat Alger, Fred Knobloch, Gary Burr, Angela Kaset, Hugh Prestwood, Gretchen Peters, Thom Schuyler, Don Henry, Roxie Dean and Don Schlitz took turns performing such Dylan evergreens as “Don’t Think Twice,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Just Like a Woman,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “You Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
In his remarks welcoming Dylan into the Hall of Fame, Schlitz praised his openness to all forms of music: “He’s never been afraid to say something different, and he’s never been afraid to say something familiar.”
Songwriter Red Lane presided over Dillon’s induction and reminisced fondly about their early writing sessions together. To illustrate highlights of Dillon’s catalog, Leslie Satcher sang “Is It Raining at Your House,” “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Homecoming ‘63” and “Set ‘Em Up Joe.” At this point, Strait walked onstage as the house stood and cheered. Strait told the crowd that it was a Dillon/Frank Dycus song — “Unwound” — that started his recording career. “I think I’ve cut like 33 Dean Dillon songs,” he noted. Then he sang his “favorite” among them, “The Chair.”
In accepting his honor, Dillon said he had hitchhiked to Nashville in 1973, encouraged to write by his high school English teacher. He thanked publisher Tom Collins for giving him his first songwriting job– at “50 bucks a week,” which, he reminded the crowd, was “a lot of money back then.” Of Strait, he remarked, “There ain’t nobody ever sung my songs like that man sings.”
Schuyler, the NSF’s newly appointed director of development, reported that the organization is still moving toward the creation of a permanent songwriters hall of fame. There are already some funds earmarked for that purpose, he said, raised from the Harlan Howard Birthday Bashes held during the ‘90s.
In addition to Lane, Schlitz, Holyfield and Braddock, other Hall of Famers who attended the ceremonies were Phil Everly, Glenn Sutton, Merle Kilgore, Wayne Carson, Roger Cook, Jerry Chesnut, Kenny O’Dell, Dickey Lee , Jerry Foster, Richard Leigh, Bill Rice, Charlie Black, Sonny Curtis , Ted Harris, Rory Bourke, Ben Peters, Curly Putman, Bill Anderson , Marijohn Wilkin and Jimmy Webb.