Alan Jackson, Ashley Gorley, J.D. Souther Triumphant at ASCAP Country Awards

Jackson Browne, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams Among Famous Songwriters Attending Show
View photos from the ASCAP awards presentation.

ASCAP’s official order of business at Nashville’s Ryman’s Auditorium Monday night (Oct. 19) was to honor its top country songs and songwriters of the past year. But the most exciting moments came when the performance rights society spotlighted composers of some of the most popular music of the past 40 years.

Paul Williams, whose hits include “Rainbow Connection,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” co-hosted the ceremony in his current capacity as ASCAP’s president and board chairman.

Jackson Browne (“Running on Empty,” “The Pretender,” “Take It Easy”) presented ASCAP’s Golden Note Award to J. D. Souther for having written or co-written such durables as “Faithless Love,” “New Kid in Town” and “The Best of My Love.”

Jimmy Webb (“By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston”) emerged from the audience to toast Alan Jackson as ASCAP’s top songwriter-artist. Rodney Crowell (“’Til I Gain Control Again,” “Shame on the Moon,” “An American Dream”) performed in tribute to Souther.

Late in the show, Williams tipped his hat to his songwriting brother, Mentor Williams, who looked on from a balcony seat. Mentor Williams is best known for his crossover hit, “Drift Away.”

All in all, it may have been the biggest aggregation of musical talent since George and Ira Gershwin last sat down at a piano together.

Ashley Gorley was the evening’s big winner, copping both the songwriter and song of the year trophies, the latter for “You’re Gonna Miss This” which he co-wrote with Lee Thomas Miller. (Miller is affiliated with BMI, ASCAP’s competing performance rights organization.)

EMI Music scored the top publisher prize.

At intervals throughout the ceremony, the writers of ASCAP’s top five country songs performed their winning compositions. These included Clay Mills (singing “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” ), Jackson (“Good Time” ), Tommy Karlas (“Roll With Me” ), Gorley and Miller (“You’re Gonna Miss This”) and Don Sampson (“Waitin’ on a Woman” ). Darius Rucker, Mills’ co-writer and fellow ASCAP member, was on tour and unable to take part in the celebration.

Martina McBride conferred ASCAP’s Partners in Music Award on Nashville radio personality Gerry House and his morning-drive support team, the House Foundation. Besides featuring country artists on his show, House is also a songwriter whose hits include Reba McEntire’s “Little Rock” and George Strait’s “The Big One.”

As the celebrants were settling into their seats, David Nail opened the proceedings with “Turning Home” and his current single, John Rich, John Anderson, Kenny Chesney, Mac McAnally, Trace Adkins, Kellie Pickler, Dierks Bentley, Keith Anderson, Jason Michael Carroll and Gary Allan.

During a lull in the awards presentations, ASCAP offered a remembrance of TV producer and musician Danny Petraitis, who died this year of brain cancer. He had been pivotal in producing earlier ASCAP shows.

After Williams announced Souther as the Golden Note recipient, the vocal trio Love and Theft opened the tribute with his “You’re Only Lonely,” followed by Lee Ann Womack singing “Faithless Love” and Crowell performing “New Kid in Town” (with Sarah Buxton providing harmonies).

Relying on handwritten notes, from which he read haltingly, Browne praised Souther’s songs as “literate, personal, introspective, self-searching … and spiritual.”

Souther was equally effusive when he came up to accept his honor. He credited Browne with teaching him to write songs by example. And he thanked Crowell for convincing him to move to Nashville.

Once thank-yous were done, Williams implored Souther to “sing for your supper.”

This he did, choosing the Eagles hit he had co-penned, “Best of My Love.” Without his urging, the crowd joined in on the chorus as he finished the song.

The ceremony ended at 9:15 p.m., after which the audience walked a red carpet to ASCAP’s lavish dinner and cocktail party at the AT&T Tower across the street.

The following is a list of the winning songs and songwriters for 2009:

“All I Ever Wanted” Monty Powell, Chuck Wicks, Anna Wilson

“All I Want to Do” Jennifer Nettles

“All Summer Long” Edward King, Leroy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel

“Already Gone” Jennifer Nettles

“Always the Love Songs” David Lee Murphy

“Another Try” Chris Stapleton, Jeremy Spillman

“Back When I Knew It All”
Trent Willmon

“Bob That Head” Neil Thrasher, Gary LeVox, Michael Dulaney

“Come On Over” Victoria Banks, Rachel Proctor, Jessica Simpson

“Country Boy” Alan Jackson

“Country Man” Galen Griffin, Jason Matthews

“Don’t” Jonathan Singleton

“Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” Clay Mills, Darius Rucker

“Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful” Chris Lindsey

“Down the Road”
Mac McAnally

“Every Other Weekend” Connie Harrington

“Everything Is Fine” Josh Turner

“Feel That Fire” Dierks Bentley

“Good Time” Alan Jackson

Stephen Robson

“Here Comes Goodbye” Clint Lagerberg

“Home” Michael BublĂ© (SOCAN)

“How ’Bout You Don’t” Jeremy Stover

“I Can Sleep When I’m Dead” Rivers Rutherford

“I Still Miss You” Keith Anderson, Jason Sellers

“I Told You So” Randy Travis

“I Will” Rory Lee Feek

“I’ll Walk”
Lonnie Fowler, Brent Wilson

“I’m Still a Guy” Kelley Lovelace, Brad Paisley

“It Won’t Be Like This For Long” Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, Darius Rucker

“It’s America” Brett James

“Johnny and June” Deanna Bryant

“Just a Dream” Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson (SOCAN)

“Last Call” Erin Enderlin, Shane McAnally

“Last Name” Hillary Lindsey, Luke Laird

“Learning How to Bend” James LeBlanc, Matt Warren

“Let Me”
Marc Beeson, Danny Orton

“Love Is a Beautiful Thing” Craig Wiseman

“Marry for Money” David R. Turnbull IV

“Nothin’ to Die For”
Craig Wiseman

“Put a Girl in It” Ben Hayslip

“Relentless” James LeBlanc, John Paul White

“Roll With Me” Tommy Karlas

“Shuttin’ Detroit Down” John Anderson, John Rich

“Start a Band” Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace

“That’s a Man” Steven Dale Jones, Mark D. Sanders

“Troubadour” Monty Holmes

“Trying to Stop Your Leaving” Dierks Bentley

“Waitin’ on a Woman” Don Sampson

“Where I’m From”
Joe Leathers

“You Can Let Go” Rory Lee Feek

“You’re Gonna Miss This” Ashley Gorley

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