Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry were among those crowding into two parties Wednesday (Nov. 30) on Nashville’s Music Row in honor of Jeffrey Steele and Chris Wallin, the songwriters responsible for Montgomery Gentry’s latest No. 1 single, “Something to Be Proud Of.”
ASCAP, Wallin’s performance rights society, held the first party at its Nashville offices. BMI, Steele’s organization, followed with its celebration two hours later.
Montgomery, wearing his distinctive black stage costume, showed up early for both events. Gentry, dressed in jeans and a white turtleneck ski sweater, breezed in just before the official festivities started.
At the ASCAP fest, host Ralph Murphy began the ceremonies by calling Wallin to the front of the room. Murphy told the crowd that a friend once advised him, “The more fun you have, the more money you’ll make. I want to bring up two of the happiest guys in this town.” With that, he beckoned Montgomery and Gentry forward.
Wallin burst into tears as he accepted the accolades. Noting his father was in the crowd, he shouted out, “I love you, Dad.” Gesturing toward Montgomery Gentry and his publisher standing nearby, he continued, “You’ve got to have good people to write for, and I’m surrounded by them.”
In response, Gentry told Wallin and Steele, “Without you all, Eddie and I wouldn’t be here today.”
Mark Wright, executive vice president of A&R at Sony Music, Montgomery Gentry’s record label, took a more whimsical tone. Nodding toward the duo, he said, “If you’ve ever seen these guys live, you believe every word they sing. Then you meet them and realize you shouldn’t have.”
Steele said that although he had written songs with Wallin before, he became really impressed with his talents after they’d come to the end of a long day of writing. Just before calling it quits, he said, he threw Wallin this line: “This getting’ up early, pullin’ double shifts/Gonna make an old man of me long before I ever get rich/But I’m tryin’.”
A few minutes later, Steele continued, Wallin was back with this followup line: “It’s been two years since we finalized/I still ain’t used to puttin’ ex in front of wife/But I’m tryin.” The result of that collaboration (which included fellow writer, Anthony Smith) became, of course, Trace Adkins’ hit, “I’m Tryin’.”
Steele later said someone called him to say that Montgomery Gentry was looking for a sequel to their hit, “My Town,” another of Steele co-writes. “Man, you can’t write that,” Steele said he responded. “It would be like writing a sequel to Jaws. It would suck. You’ve got to write something to be proud of.” At that point, he said, he hung up the phone and called Wallin.
The fruit of Steele’s composing zeal was apparent to all who passed through the doors to the BMI party. There at the entrance of the building crouched his sleek black Nissan 350Z convertible, with a license plate that read “SPEEED,” a reference to yet another of his Montgomery Gentry charttoppers.
Inside, the near capacity crowd indulged itself in a Mexican buffet and a lavishly stocked bar while TV crews set up for the formal presentation.
BMI’s host, David Preston, gathered Steele, Wallin, Wright, Montgomery Gentry and the other principals on stage. He began by pointing out that Steele not only co-wrote “Something to Be Proud Of” but also produced and published it.
The usually talkative Montgomery summarized his feelings of the moment with a brief, “God bless country music.” Still in good humor, Wright, who’s also a producer, told Steele, “We just copy your demos anyway [when we're recording your songs]. You might as well get production credit.”
Said Steele, “I’d like to take this opportunity to pitch a couple of songs to Troy and Eddie.”