Alan Jackson and Darrell Scott — two songwriters who have shown a fiercely independent spirit — shared top honors Monday night (Nov. 4) at the 40th annual country awards dinner hosted by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Jackson was named songwriter-artist of the year following the success of three of his original songs — “Where I Come From,” “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” and “When Somebody Loves You.”
Additionally, Jackson was presented the performing rights organization’s prestigious Golden Note award in recognition of his achievements as a songwriter, recording artist and entertainer. The award was presented by ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento and Jackson’s first manager, Marty Gamblin. Previous Golden Note recipients include Elton John, Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, Andre Previn and Garth Brooks .
In accepting the Golden Note award, Jackson noted that he and wife Denise attended their first ASCAP awards banquet in 1989. “She told me that night she was pregnant with our first child,” Jackson recalled, “and my first song had died on the charts. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that, so I was drinking a lot that night.” He added, “I came to Nashville with three chords and a sack full of songs. God looked down and for some reason he let it happen for me. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Commenting on his songwriting, Jackson told CMT News, “It’s always been the more gratifying part of my career is to be able to write songs and have people connect with them. I get a little jaded about some of the other stuff in the business, but when I write a new song and people like it, it’s very fulfilling and means a lot still today.”
Two titles tied for ASCAP’s country song of the year. ASCAP member Rivers Rutherford was honored for the Brooks & Dunn hit, “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You,” a song he wrote with Tom Shapiro. ASCAP writers Gary Baker and Frank Myers were recognized for “I’m Already There,” Lonestar’s six-week No. 1 single that they co-wrote with Lonestar lead vocalist Richie McDonald.
EMI Music Publishing was named publisher of the year for scoring the largest number of songs that made it to ASCAP’s list of most-performed titles. EMI’s list includes “Complicated,” “Downtime,” “Don’t Happen Twice,” “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” “My Next Thirty Years,” “One More Day,” “Rose Bouquet,” “Six Pack Summer,” “Two People Fell In Love,” “When I Think About Angels,” “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” “Without You” and “Wrapped Around.”
Rodney Crowell arrived at the awards show thinking that he was only going to perform in a reunion of his all-star band, the Cherry Bombs, but received the surprise gift of the ASCAP creative achievement awards in recognition of his “exceptional and ongoing contributions” as a songwriter and artist.
The Cherry Bombs’ performance was a genuine event, reuniting members of a group that began in the ‘80s as an informal spinoff of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. Such reunions can be a major disappointment musically, but it’s hard to go wrong when the band includes guitarist Vince Gill , keyboardist Tony Brown (one of Nashville’s most successful producers and label executives) and guitarists Richard Bennett and Hank Devito. In introducing bassist Michael Rhodes and drummer Eddie Bayers, Crowell noted, “They weren’t in the band during the ‘80s, but they could have been. We would have made room for them.”
The band’s three-song set of Crowell originals opened with “Stars on the Water.” After the opening riff of “Ashes by Now” (a recent hit for Lee Ann Womack ), Harris sauntered onstage to provide harmony vocals. They closed with “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,” a performance marked by spirited instrumental work by Gill and Brown.
Rascal Flatts, a trio nominated in two categories at Wednesday’s (Nov. 6) CMA Awards, performed a brief acoustic set that included “While You Love Me” and their breakthrough hit, “I’m Movin’ On.”
The evening also acknowledged a Gulf coast landmark — the Flora-Bama Lounge, an unassuming music club located on the Alabama border near Pensacola, Fla. Club owner Joe Gilchrist was recognized for his support of the region’s cultural endeavors, including the annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival.
More than 1000 industry professionals attended the ASCAP awards banquet. The evening’s theme, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” provided a comment on the continuing state of the music business. With a waterfall and palm trees, Nashville’s Opryland Hotel was transformed into a tropical environment, complete with performances by West African and Caribbean dancers and musicians.
ASCAP, a performing rights organization, collects royalties for the public performance of songs copyrighted by its member writers and publishers, then distributes payment to them based on those performances.