Lonestar ’s smash ballad “I’m Already There” earned a BMI award for the year’s most performed country song at a star-studded Nashville ceremony on Tuesday night (Nov. 5). The band’s lead singer, Richie McDonald, co-wrote the No. 1 hit and accepted the trophy at the end of the two-hour gala event.
Other Nashville stars — including Toby Keith , Martina McBride , Brooks & Dunn , Rascal Flatts , members of Diamond Rio , Carolyn Dawn Johnson , Aaron Tippin , Mark Wills , Andy Griggs and Jeff Carson — were also on hand to honor the writers of their hits.
BMI, a performing rights organization that collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, hosted the party to recognize their 50 most performed songs. Winners included Tim McGraw ’s “The Cowboy in Me” and “Angry All the Time,” and Cyndi Thomson ’s “I Always Liked That Best.” Second-time winners were Diamond Rio’s “One More Day” and Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”
Members of the Country Music Hall of Fame attending the function were Bill Anderson , Eddy Arnold , Jo Walker-Meador , Earl Scruggs , Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires and Kitty Wells . BMI President/CEO Frances Preston, who is also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, announced the award recipients.
Preston surprised Anderson with the BMI Icon award, given to songwriters who best embody the spirit and sound of country music. Then, Steve Wariner entertained the industry crowd with a medley of Anderson’s most famous compositions, including “When Two Worlds Collide,” “Saginaw, Michigan,” “City Lights,” “Tips of My Fingers,” “Two Teardrops” and “Still.”
“I haven’t been surprised or fooled very many times in my life, but I had no idea about this,” Anderson said. “Thank you, thank you to all the wonderful artists who have recorded my songs, and the wonderful people in this room who have given me a second career as a songwriter. I’ve been so proud to see so many people come up here tonight and win awards that I’ve been lucky enough to write songs with. And to my buddy Steve Wariner, I don’t know whether to hug your neck or break it right now, but thank you. Thank you, BMI.”
BMI’s songwriter of the year honors went to Troy Verges and Tom Shapiro. Both men earned four songwriting awards at the ceremony. Shapiro helped write Brooks & Dunn’s “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You,” Joe Diffie ’s “In Another World,” Tracy Byrd ’s “Let Me Be in Love” and Mark Wills’ “Loving Every Minute.” Verges co-wrote Martina McBride’s “Blessed,” Trisha Yearwood ’s “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway,” Jessica Andrews ’ “Who I Am” and Lonestar ’s “With Me.”
The event proudly blended the black-tie formality with down-home hospitality. For example, the pianist could be heard playing a delicate version of “Rocky Top” while guests ate chocolate truffles. The event was held in the BMI parking garage, but you’d never guess it from the beautiful and elaborate decor. (Personally, I rode down the elevator with Lee Greenwood to my left and Earl Scruggs to my right. Now there’s a difference for you.)