ASCAP Honors Its Top Country Songwriters and Publishers

Alan Jackson Wins Founders Award, "Need You Now" Is Song of the Year

“You’re here because the bastards were wrong about you,” host Paul Williams told his fellow songwriters at the ASCAP Country Music Awards gala held Tuesday evening (Sept. 14) at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

The event spotlighted the writers and publishers of ASCAP’s most performed country songs of the past year.

Williams’ opening salvo was the first of several references he would make during the ceremonies to the rejections songwriters routinely face in trying to get their music heard.

In addition to having written such pop hits as “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Williams currently serves as ASCAP’s president and board chairman.

Alan Jackson was the evening’s chief winner. The performing rights organization honored him with its rarely-conferred Founders Award for his lifetime of musical achievements.

Earning the other top awards were Brett James (songwriter of the year), Dierks Bentley (songwriter-artist of the year), “Need You Now” (song of the year) and Sea Gayle Music (publisher of the year).

ASCAP gave Jessi Alexander its first Global Impact Award for writing the international hit, “The Climb,” recorded by Miley Cyrus.

There was plenty of live music to leaven the procession of award conferrals. Australian guitar prodigy Joe Robinson opened the proceedings with a crackling rendition of “Black and Gold.”

The writers (or co-writers) of the five most-played songs performed their own works, beginning with Chris Young singing his romantically leering “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song).” Lady Antebellum joined Josh Kear for a wildly-applauded rendering of “Need You Now.”

Darius Rucker, backed by co-writer and producer Frank Rogers on guitar, delivered a swaying and sunny version of “Alright.” Dierks Bentley and the Traveling McCourys romped through “Sideways,” and David Lee Murphy set hands clapping with “Big Green Tractor.”

Williams cited Connie Bradley for her 34 years of service to ASCAP, most recently as its senior vice president. He praised her particularly for encouraging budding songwriters. ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento picked up on that theme, adding, “She has personally nourished country songwriters whose songs are heard around the world.”

In recognition of Bradley’s contributions, LoFrumento announced that the main conference room at ASCAP’s Nashville office would henceforth be marked with a plaque as the Connie Bradley Board Room.

“ASCAP and its people have been a blessing in my life,” Bradley responded. She credited fabled songwriter Hal David, who sat in the audience, for giving her the push and the confidence to head the Nashville division.

Lauding Jackson for his musical “power to connect at the deepest level,” Williams introduced the first of three singers who were there to pay tribute. Chris Young began with the half-sung, half-recited “Wanted,” Jackson’s No. 3 hit from 1990.

Bentley came next, noting that Jackson had been his first “star sighting” after coming to Nashville in 1994 and that the song that he was about to sing was one of his early inspirations. With that, he offered his own haunting reading of “Midnight in Montgomery,” Jackson’s 1992 tip of the hat to Hank Williams.

Finally, Steve Earle, who had flown in especially for the occasion, took the stage to sing “Here in the Real World.” He said he first met Jackson in 1990 at the CNS Harley-Davidson dealership in Nashville and that the fact that Jackson was there to buy a Harley may have had something to do with the success of that particular song.

“Man, Steve Earle made me sound cool,” Jackson drawled when he came up to accept his accolade. He thanked Tim DuBois, who is now ASCAP’s vice president and managing executive in Nashville, for signing him to a record deal “when no one else would.”

Although he acknowledged he had accomplished much in his career, including singing for “two or three presidents” and driving a monster truck over a line of cars, he confessed, “I still feel like a guy who just plays in clubs.”

View photos from the 2010 ASCAP Country Music Awards.

Here’s a list of the most performed songs honored during ASCAP’s 2010 Country Music Awards:

“Alright” Writers: Frank Rogers, Darius Rucker

“American Honey” Writer: Hillary Lindsey

“American Saturday Night” Writers: Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace, Brad Paisley

“Backwoods” Writer: Jeremy Stover

“Barefoot and Crazy” Writer: Ben Hayslip

“Beer on the Table” Writer: Josh Thompson

“Best Days of Your Life” Writer: Kellie Pickler

“Big Green Tractor” Writer: David Lee Murphy

“Bonfire” Writer: Mike Rogers

“Consider Me Gone” Writer: Steve Diamond

“Cowboy Casanova” Writers: Mike Elizondo, Brett James

“Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” Writer: Chris Lindsey

“Fearless” Writer: Hillary Lindsey

“Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” Writer: Chris Young

“Hell on the Heart” Writer: Deric Ruttan

“Hillbilly Bone” Writer: Craig Wiseman

“History in the Making” Writers: Clay Mills, Frank Rogers, Darius Rucker

“Hurry Home” Writer: Zane Williams

“I Just Call You Mine” Writers: Jess Cates, Ty Lacy, Dennis Matkosky

“I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” Writer: Dierks Bentley

“I’ll Just Hold On”
Writer: Ben Hayslip

“I’m Alive” Writers: Kenny Chesney, Mark Tamburino

“It Happens”
Writer: Jennifer Nettles

“It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You”
Writer: Brett James

“Keep On Lovin’ You” Writers: Chris Stapleton, Trent Willmon

“A Little More Country Than That” Writers: Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress

“Living for the Night” Writer: George Strait

“Need You Now” Writer: Josh Kear

“Out Last Night” Writers: Kenny Chesney, Brett James

“Red Light” Writers: Dennis Matkosky, Jonathan Singleton

“Runaway” Writers: Rob Blackledge, Stephen Barker Liles, Canaan Smith

“Sideways” Writer: Dierks Bentley

“Sissy’s Song” Writer: Alan Jackson

“Small Town USA” Writers: Brian Maher, Jeremy Stover

“Sounds Like Life to Me” Writer: Darryl Worley

“Strange” Writers: Jason Sellers, Neil Thrasher

“Summer Nights” Writers: Brett James, Gary LeVox, Busbee

“Temporary Home” Writer: Zac Maloy

“That’s How Country Boys Roll” Writers: Billy Currington, Brett Jones

“Then” Writers: Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, Brad Paisley

“The Truth” Writer: Brett James

“Welcome to the Future” Writers: Chris DuBois, Brad Paisley

“Why Don’t We Just Dance” Writers: Darrell Brown, Jonathan Singleton

“Wild at Heart” Writers: Josh Kear, Matt Serletic

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