It was the most dramatic opening to a chart celebration in memory when producer Tony Brown sneaked over to a piano at ASCAP’s Nashville headquarters Monday afternoon (April 30) and, ignoring a sign that said “For Display Only,” pounded out the thunderous opening notes to Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey that opened Elvis Presley’s concerts in the ’70s.
The celebration was for songwriters Chris Stapleton and Al Anderson, who co-wrote George Strait’s latest hit, “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.” It recently peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s country songs chart.
Stapleton is a member of ASCAP, while Anderson belongs to BMI, the competing performance rights organization.
Brown, who used to play piano in Presley’s band, co-produced the song with Strait, who, as customary, absented himself from the proceedings.
Speaking for ASCAP, Mike Sistad noted that Stapleton has scored a total of 138 cuts as a writer, including one with superstar Adele. Stapleton is also the former lead singer and guitarist of the bluegrass band, the SteelDrivers.
In presenting the two writers an award from Country Radio Broadcasters, WSM-AM disc jockey Bill Cody described Stapleton’s voice as being “somewhere between Joe Cocker and Merle Haggard.”
Spotted in the crowd that nearly filled ASCAP’s reception hall were Luke Lewis, head of Strait’s label, MCA Records, and singer-songwriter Ronnie Bowman, who co-wrote with Stapleton Kenny Chesney’s 2007 hit, “Never Wanted Nothing More.”
“I’m proud to have a George Strait cut any time,” Anderson said. “And to have a [George Strait] single — that’s the Holy Grail.”
“It’s a humbling and an amazing thing to have a song cut by anybody,” he said. “I continue to be the luckiest man in the world when I wake up every morning.”