Jimmy Buffett, Barbara Mandrell and Gretchen Wilson were among those paying tribute Sunday night (Oct. 14) to the newest inductees of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame — Bob DiPiero, Flatt & Scruggs, Mac McAnally, Dottie Rambo and Hank Williams Jr.
In addition to the induction ceremony, the dinner at the Renaissance Nashville hotel included the announcement of the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s annual songwriting achievement awards. Alan Jackson and newcomer Taylor Swift tied for the songwriter-artist of the year prize.
NSAI song of the year honors went to “Bless the Broken Road,” written by Bobby E. Boyd, Marcus Hummon and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member Jeff Hanna. The Rascals Flatts hit was also recorded by contemporary Christian act Selah with Melodie Crittenden on a duets album. Dave Berg was named songwriter of the year for co-writing several hits during the past year, including Emerson Drive’s “Moments” and Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy.”
Amy Kurland, owner of Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, inducted DiPiero. Fellow songwriters Craig Wiseman, Tony Mullins and Jeffrey Steele performed a medley of hits DiPiero has co-written, including the Oak Ridge Boys’ “American Made,” Faith Hill’s “Take Me As I Am” and George Strait “Blue Clear Sky.” Neal McCoy performed his No. 1 hit, “Wink,” BMI’s 1995 country song of the year, written by DiPiero and Tom Shapiro.
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were inducted by Marty Stuart, who was just 13 when he became a member of Flatt’s band, the Nashville Grass. Joining Scruggs for the induction were Flatt’s widow, Gladys Flatt, and granddaughter Tammy Brumfield. The Del McCoury Band performed several of Flatt & Scruggs’ classics before Stuart joined them on the duo’s most famous song, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”
In inducting McAnally, Buffett noted, “Mac writes like he’s the love child of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. His music is the background music of my life.” McAnally, a longtime member of Buffett’s Coral Reefers band, told the crowd, “I historically hold myself in low regard, but for this one night, I’ll put that aside and trust that you all know what you’re doing.” Steve Wariner performed an acoustic medley of several of McAnally’s most popular compositions, including Alabama’s “Old Flame” and Kenny Chesney’s “Back Where I Come From,” before Sawyer Brown vocalist Mark Miller and keyboardist Hobie Hubbard reunited with one of their former bandmates, guitarist Duncan Cameron, to perform “All These Years,” their 1992 hit written by McAnally.
Dottie Rambo, a gospel music legend who has written more than 2,500 songs, was inducted by Mandrell, who told her, “You are such an inspiration to me.” Rambo’s granddaughter, Destiny Rambo McGuire, performed several selections, including “We Shall Behold Him” and “I Go to the Rock.” Rambo told the group, “Thank you to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for even thinking of a little girl from Kentucky. I love my music, but I love the Lord better than my life and my breath.”
Hank Williams Jr.’s daughter, Holly Williams, said, “It’s a surprise that I’m inducting my dad tonight. I’m a songwriter myself. It’s my passion, and I am a true fan of my dad.” She performed three of his songs — “Feelin’ Better,” “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” and “Blues Man” — before Gretchen Wilson sang “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down.” The inductee noted, “I’m from the old school. I know a lot of you are saying that these awards don’t mean anything to old Hank, but this one is special. I need this, thank you, and I need y’all.”
The NSAI’s professional songwriters division also singled out several songs and their writers for an annual honor informally referred to as “The Songs I Wish I’d Written.” In addition to “Bless the Broken Road,” other honorees include Berg’s “Moments” (co-written with Annie and Sam Tate) and “Stupid Boy” (co-written with Sarah Buxton and Deanna Bryant). Other songs and writers on the list include “Before He Cheats” (Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins), “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” (Casey Beathard, Ed Hill), “Give It Away” (Bill Anderson, Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson), “Good Directions” (Luke Bryan, Rachel Thibodeau), “I Loved Her First” (Walt Aldridge, Elliott Park), “One Wing in the Fire” (Bobby Pinson, Trent Tomlinson), “The Seashores of Old Mexico” (Merle Haggard) and “Would You Go With Me” (Shawn Camp, John Scott Sherrill).