There were so many big green tractors parked around Music Row Tuesday (Sept. 29) that America’s farmlands must have felt denuded. The vehicles were there, of course, to signal the success of Jason Aldean’s single, “Big Green Tractor,” co-written by Jim Collins and David Lee Murphy.
The tune recently held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s country songs chart for four consecutive weeks. It also became the first country song to top Billboard’s all-genre Ringscan chart, eclipsing in the process such high-profile competitors as Jay Z, Mariah Carey and Black Eyed Peas.
To mark these achievements, BMI and ASCAP, the performance rights organizations, each staged a party at its Nashville headquarters. Collins is a BMI writer, while Murphy is affiliated with ASCAP. Mammoth tractors stood outside the entrances to both buildings to point revelers in the right direction.
BMI celebrated on its spacious sixth-floor balcony overlooking downtown Nashville. The tractor motif was inescapable. Uniformed waiters, who circulated through the crowd serving french fries and miniature corndogs in shot glasses, had tiny model tractors on their trays.
The bar offered a pale green concoction called a “tractortini.” Green tablecloths flapped in the cool autumn breeze, held fast by big green buckets of mums. With its emphasis on chips and dips, the buffet was a muncher’s delight — and a nutritionist’s nightmare.
“If you’re wondering who’ll become our next superstar,” said BMI vice president of writer-publisher relations Jody Williams as he called the party to order, “my money’s on Jason Aldean.”
Williams likened Aldean’s energetic producer, Michael Knox, to “a can of Red Bull with headphones” and praised him for using Aldean’s road band so artfully in recording sessions instead of relying on regular session players.
But the spotlight was on Collins. Williams noted that the Texas-born writer has scored six No. 1 songs, three of them within the last three and a-half years. In addition, he continued, Collins’ songs have racked up more than 10 million plays on radio.
Collins, who also co-wrote Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” told the crowd that Murphy came to him one day and asked, “Hey, man, you’d wouldn’t be up to writing another tractor song, would you?” As it turned out, he would.
“This has been one of the more fun songs for me,” Collins observed, explaining that Knox and Murphy had called him almost daily to update him as “Big Green” climbed the charts.
Between speeches, a cascade of plaques and trophies were presented to Aldean, his producer, the songwriters, the publishers and the promoters at Broken Bow Records, Aldean’s label.
“When I was a writer at Warner/Chappell [Music Publishing],” Aldean said, “I went to a lot of these parties for Jim Collins.” He said he always wished at the time that Collins would share some awards with him to help him furnish his generally bare apartment. “I can forgive him now,” he said, eyeing his own trove of honors.
Aldean told of playing in a “battle of the bands” in Savannah, Ga., in 1996 in a show headlined by Johnny Paycheck, Diamond Rio and Murphy. His band won, he said, and as they were packing up, he turned and saw that Murphy had pitched in to help them load their “old rusty van.”
The singer saluted his wife and young daughters who stood in the crowd watching him and thanked Collins and Murphy for “helping put [his daughters] through college.”
As soon as the BMI party wrapped up, the crowd surged across the street to ASCAP.
Connie Bradley, ASCAP’s senior vice president, reminded the throng that “Big Green Tractor” was Murphy’s fifth No. 1, for which she awarded him a plaque and an acoustic guitar.
Herky Williams, ASCAP’s assistant vice president of creative services, pointed out that Aldean is a big fan of the University of Georgia Bulldogs and read him a note of congratulation from the university’s president.
Then he presented him a gift from the Bulldogs’ head football coach, Mark Richt — a red jersey inscribed with his name and the number “1.”
Pro golfer John Daly also stepped up briefly to present Aldean a Zippo cigarette lighter.
Looking out at the crowd applauding him, Aldean said, “The first party I ever came to here was a No. 1 party for Alan Jackson. I didn’t know anyone. Now I know most of you.”
After the ASCAP presentations were made, the throng moved outside where two green tractors — a big one and a smaller one — were parked. Aldean’s wife surprised him by handing him a set of keys — to the smaller machine.View photos from the “Big Green Tractor” No. 1 parties.