Rascal Flatts Revel Over Latest No. 1 Single, “Banjo”

Writers Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher Honored

It was five-string fever Monday afternoon (June 11) when Big Machine Records and the ASCAP and BMI performance rights organizations took over Puckett’s Grocery in downtown Nashville to celebrate Rascal Flatts’ latest No. 1 single, “Banjo.”

The song was co-written by BMI members Tony Martin and Wendell Mobley and ASCAP affiliate Neil Thrasher, all of whom joined in the revels.

Partygoers who packed the trendy restaurant and performance venue snacked on banjo-shaped iced cookies (with popsicle-stick necks) and marveled at a gigantic banjo mockup that stood stage right, looming over the proceedings.

As the crowd gathered, Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus, Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney moved from one TV crew to the next, affirming to each interviewer that they never got tired of having No. 1’s.

“Come forward!” Big Machine chief Scott Borchetta urged the onlookers as he took the stage to start the ceremonies. “This is a celebration. Come up and rub shoulders because No. 1’s are good.”

Borchetta pointed out that “Banjo” is Rascal Flatts’ third No. 1 since the trio signed to his label in 2010.

As a side note, he informed the crowd that Big Machine has reached an agreement with Clear Channel for the radio network to pay fees to the artists whose records it plays. Formerly, only songwriters and publishers collected for airplay.

“Now our artists will get paid for No. 1 records,” he said. “It’s the evolution of the revolution.”

Borchetta then relinquished the stage to ASCAP’s Mark Driskill, who spoke in honor of Thrasher, observing that the songwriter has had two other hits within the past year, Jason Aldean’s “Tattoos on This Town” and “Fly Over States.”

Rascal Flatts’ producer, Dann Huff, was called forward to be honored for the fact that “Banjo” is his 32nd No. 1 as a producer. Before he could speak, however, he was interrupted by catcalls from the Flattsmen who sat side-by-side in chairs facing the stage.

“Excuse me,” Huff said. “Can we have these guys muzzled?”

Once order was restored, Huff confessed, “I could not be more proud of this record.”

BMI’s Jody Williams reviewed the songwriting triumphs of Mobley and Martin, announcing that the former has had seven No. 1 singles and the latter 14.

He went on to praise Flatts for bringing a “freshness and progressiveness to county music” and hailed its members for their charity work on behalf of Nashville’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the pediatric surgery unit of which now bears the group’s name.

Returning to the microphone, Borchetta noted that Flatts has had at least one No. 1 every year since 2002, when it first topped the Billboard country songs chart with “These Days.”

By then it was time for the songwriters to have their say. Martin, who is the son of songwriter Glenn Martin, said he grew up around “half the members” of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He joked that the one consistent piece of advice he got from them was, “Can you bounce that ball outside?”

Mobley was equally cavalier in his remarks, telling the crowd, “Sorry to get all of you off work so early.”

Thrasher thanked his parents who sat in the audience.

Rascal Flatts wrapped things up with a few good-natured jabs.

“I was really surprised,” DeMarcus dead-panned, “when Dann came to us and said we’d only be cutting BMG songs,” a reference to Huff’s publishing affiliation.

“How in the world is this song a hit?” DeMarcus continued. “It’s a tribute to our ability that we could take a mediocre song and make it a hit.”

LeVox was a bit more temperate.

“We feel like we’re just getting started,” he said. “We’re too blessed to be stressed.”

Turning to the song of the moment, he said, “It’s one of the most fun, up-tempo songs we’ve ever done.”

Finally, he advised the crowd, “Order what you want and bill it to Big Machine.”

View photos from the No. 1 party.
Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.