Kenny Chesney was out of town and wasn’t there to cheer Jim Collins and Marty Dodson on. But dozens of their Music Row friends and associates gathered in a small reception area at BMI’s Nashville headquarters Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 11) to salute the two songwriters for penning Chesney’s No. 1 single, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven.”
The song was Dodson’s first No. 1 and Collins’ fifth.
In his formal introduction of the songwriters, BMI’s Jody Williams revealed that Dodson, who has a degree in psychology, once worked as a youth minister and that Collins had played bass on Robert John’s 1979 pop hit, “Sad Eyes.”
Collins, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas, was a solo recording artist from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, including a brief stint with Arista Records. None of his own singles, however, came close to topping the charts. He also co-wrote the Chesney smashes “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and “The Good Stuff.” When Collins’ high school in Nacogdoches honored him as a “distinguished alumnus,” Williams told the revelers, the school band played “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”
Williams noted that Chesney and the Wailers (Bob Marley’s former band who also sang on the record) had performed “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” on last year’s Country Music Association awards show. He added that Little Richard, during a recent stop in Nashville, declared that “Everybody” was now one of his favorite songs.
Dan Hill, president of Cal IV Entertainment, Collins’ publishing company, confessed that “Everybody” had been pitched to George Strait before it made its way to Chesney, clearly suggesting that the usually song-savvy Strait had missed the boat on this one.
Mike Sebastian, whose Blacktop Music Group is Dodson’s publishing home, said he figured Chesney and his producer, Buddy Cannon, were running out of wall space for their No. 1 trophies and plaques. So he presented Cannon with two Pawley Island hammocks, each with an engraved plate to mark the occasion.
Collins thanked Dodson for coming up with the idea for the song. He said he’s become so associated with writing hits for Chesney that when word spreads that the singer is back in the studio recording, other hopeful co-writers besiege him with calls that begin, “Hey, man, I’ve got this great idea.”
As customary for BMI-affiliated songwriters who’ve scored their first No. 1, Williams presented Dodson with a new Takamine acoustic guitar, later pointing out that Collins had used his BMI guitar in co-writing “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven.”
Dodson told Cannon that, like most songwriters, he worried if the recorded version of his song would be as good as the original demo. “You went way past what was on the demo,” he said with evident relief.
Just before Williams called the party to order, Dodson’s representatives stacked copies of albums containing 20 of his demos on the guests’ tables. The cover of the album promised “Big Time Cash.” On Music Row, the song-pitching never stops.