Jerry Salley, “Wave on Wave” Top SESAC Winners

Guests Include Joe Nichols, Rhonda Vincent, Jim Lauderdale

The parade of celebrations that make up Country Music Week ended elegantly Thursday night (Nov. 6) with SESAC, the performance rights organization, naming Jerry Salley its country songwriter of the year and “Wave on Wave” country song of the year. EMI Music Publishing won the top country publisher title. The awards banquet was held in a spacious, festively decorated tent beside SESAC’s Nashville offices.

Among the glitterati attending were artist/songwriters Joe Nichols, Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, Jim Lauderdale and Rhonda Vincent and the senior partner of Universal South Record, Tim DuBois.

Stan Webb, who’s been a SESAC songwriter for more than 20 years and who penned the Tracy Byrd hit “I’m From the Country,” was honored with the Legacy Award for his string of musical achievements. It was only the fourth time in the organization’s history that this honor has been conferred. Fresh from winning the CMA Horizon Award Wednesday’s (Nov. 5), Nichols was presented the SESAC Summit Award for “outstanding contributions to country music and the country music industry.”

Country performance activity awards were presented for “Young,” written by Naoise Sheridan, published by Multisongs and recorded by Kenny Chesney, “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” written by Salley, published by EMI/Sea Keeper, recorded by Reba McEntire; “’Til Nothing Comes Between Us,” written by Tony Marty, published by Curb Congregation/Monkids/Lil’ Strat, recorded by John Michael Montgomery; and “Wave on Wave,” written by David Neuhauser and Justin Pollard, published by Cooke’s Trust Limited/Drum Groove, recorded by Pat Green.

Americana performance activity honors went to Steve Nelson for his songs “Dancin’ Days” and “Off the Map,” on Guy Clark’s The Dark, published by Nelsounds; Kevin Welch and Claudia Scott for “June Carter (Sure Can Sing)” on Kane’s Shadows on the Ground, published by Little Duck/Glacier Park/Family Style/Universal Tunes/Spur 66; Salley’s “An Old Memory Found Its Way Back” on Vincent’s One Step Ahead, published by WBM/Extra Innings; and Charley Stefl and Brad Rogers’ “Man Can’t Live on Bread Alone” on Del McCoury’s It’s Just the Night, published by Critter City/Optional.

Also earning Americana trophies were Kane for his album, Shadows on the Ground, published by Little Duck/Glacier Park/Family Style/Universal Tunes/Spur 66; Sonny Landreth for The Roads We’re On, published by Land Line; and Lauderdale for his album with Donna the Buffalo, Wait Till Spring, published by Sky-Eye/Critter City.

Lauderdale opened the ceremonies by performing “Halfway Down,” his 1995 hit for Patty Loveless. Near the end of the presentations, Neuhauser and Pollard sang “Wave on Wave,” albeit reluctantly. Protesting that he would rather lip sync to Green’s record, Neuhauser warned the audience that he was about to demonstrate the Nashville admonition that “Singers sing and writers write.” The audience gave the uneasy duo a standing ovation.

McEntire, who’s in Los Angeles taping her WB television series, sent Salley a note congratulating him on his win. Alluding to “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” she wrote, “I loved singing it — too much fun!” Salley began his acceptance speech by thanking Brad McEwen, who signed him to SESAC in 1978. “I never met him,” he explained. “He signed me through the mail, and when I got here, he was gone.”

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