Best known as Garth Brooks’ producer, Allen Reynolds was recognized by his peers Sunday night (Oct. 1) for another of his musical talents — songwriting.
Brooks performed a medley of Reynolds’ classics and welcomed him into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during a formal ceremony at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel in Nashville.
Mac Davis, Billy Edd Wheeler and Randy Goodrum also were inducted into the prestigious songwriters’ club. Presented by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation in association with the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the 31st annual dinner and induction ceremony was hosted by NSF Chairman Wayland Holyfield and attended by some 600 music industry professionals.
The dinner kicked off a week of gala events surrounding the 34th Annual Country Music Association Awards show, which airs live from the Grand Ole Opry House at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday (Oct. 4) on CBS.
Reynolds has produced all of Brooks’ country albums — though not the Chris Gaines pop project — which together have sold more copies than those of any other artist in country music history. Reynolds’ publishing company, Forerunner Music, contributed the No. 1 songs “The Thunder Rolls,” “Unanswered Prayers” and “That Summer” to Brooks’ catalog.
Brooks admitted he was surprised to learn how much Reynolds has contributed as a songwriter.
“Until they called me up to do this guy’s [songs], I had no idea all the stuff this guy has done,” Brooks said before he honored Reynolds in song. “Allen is the last guy who is going to tell you what he’s done. He’s the last guy who is going to ring his own bell.”
With an acoustic guitar, Brooks performed “Wrong Road Again,” “Somebody Loves You” and “Ready for the Times to Get Better,” Top 10 country songs Reynolds penned for Crystal Gayle in the 1970s. The country superstar rounded out the medley with “Dreaming My Dreams With You,” recorded by Waylon Jennings, Alison Krauss, Collin Raye and the Cowboy Junkies, and “I Saw Linda Yesterday” and “Five O’Clock World,” 1960s pop hits for Dickey Lee and The Vogues, respectively. Lee presided over Reynolds’ induction.
“Organizations are only as classy as the people who make them up,” Brooks said to Reynolds. “This place just stepped up a notch. Congratulations.”
The NSAI’s motto is “It all begins with a song.” No one believes that more than Reynolds.
“I came to town as a songwriter,” he said, “and that is where my heart has always been. My proudest achievements have been the songs I’ve had successes with. Songwriting is the foundation. As a producer, my hardest work is looking for songs. The hardest part is done before I even step into the studio. Once you’ve got the right songs — good material — the rest falls into place.”
Winners were chosen from three divisions: those who established themselves before 1970, those who came to prominence from 1970-1980 and artist/songwriters who made their mark prior to 1980.
Reynolds tied with Wheeler in the pre-1970 field.
Although a critically respected recording artist in his own right, Wheeler’s royalties have come largely from recordings of his songs by others, the notable exception being “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back,” his most successful single, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard country charts in 1964.
Jerry Chesnut, a 1996 inductee, presented Wheeler’s award. Lari White and Chuck Cannon performed the duet “Jackson,” a Wheeler composition that went to No. 2 on the country chart for Johnny Cash and June Carter and to No. 14 on the pop chart for Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood in 1967. Curtis Wright serenaded Wheeler with “Coward of the County,” a Kenny Rogers smash co-written by Wheeler and Roger Bowling.
Inducted in the artist/songwriter category, Davis traveled to Music City from Los Angeles with his wife and two young sons in tow. Before topping the pop charts in 1972 with the million-seller “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” Davis was collecting royalties from songs he wrote for Elvis Presley: “In the Ghetto,” “Memories,” “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “Little Less Conversation.” Hall of Fame member Norro Wilson welcomed Davis aboard, pointing out that Davis’ varied career has covered not only songwriting and recording but also acting for TV, film and Broadway.
Davis found it meaningful that he was recognized for his songwriting talents.
“I’ve always said, ‘I’m just a songwriter who got lucky,'” he said. “I sing and entertain, but they’re never going to put ‘actor’ or anything else on my tombstone. They’re going to put ‘songwriter’ on there. So, this is a huge honor. This is a special night for me.”
Former Lonestar member John Rich, who now records as a solo artist, honored Davis in song, performing “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” “In the Ghetto” and “I Believe in Music.” Bobby Goldsboro was on hand to perform his Davis-penned hit, “Watching Scotty Grow,” a wistful tune about parenting that just missed cracking the pop Top 10 in 1971.
Presenting Goodrum with his citation in the 1970-80 division, Holyfield read the Arkansas native a letter of congratulations from President Clinton, a saxophonist who performed with Goodrum in a high school jazz combo. “Songwriters hold a special place in our lives and in our hearts,” said the letter. “I applaud you for your commitment to enriching our lives and making good music.”
The prolific tunesmith’s best-known songs include Steve Perry’s “Oh, Sherrie” and “Foolish Heart,” DeBarge’s “Who’s Holding Donna Now” and a string of Anne Murray hits: “You Needed Me,” “Now and Forever (You and Me)” and “Broken Hearted Me.”
Michael Johnson performed Goodrum’s “Bluer Than Blue,” a Top 20 pop hit for Johnson in 1978. Sharon Vaughn paid tribute with a medley of Goodrum classics that included “A Lesson in Leavin’,” a No. 1 country hit in 1980 for Dottie West and a No. 2 hit for Jo Dee Messina last year.
Twenty Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame members were on hand to induct the newcomers. With these latest additions, there are now 139 members in the writers’ hall.