If you know anything about the prolific songwriter Dean Dillon, you know the legendary tale of how he hitchhiked to Nashville in 1973 with nothing but a notebook of songs and $40. Since then, he’s taken that $40 pretty far. But I wanted to know about the notebook.
And when he was at the BMI Country Awards last week in Nashville, being honored as the BMI Icon, I had the chance to find out. I asked Dillon if any of the songs in that notebook had ever been cut. He said no. Then he said, “Wait a minute. Barbara Mandrell cut ’Bedroom Reunion,’ and that was from my notebook.”
Dillon has seen so much happen in the business in the last four decades, and his BMI acceptance speech was so inspiring, I’ve listened to it about 10 times. Especially the part where he addresses the state of country music. Because Dillon does it in a way — a kind and gentle way — that I’ve never thought about before.
“I hear a lot of disgruntlement going on with what’s going on in country music in today’s world,” he said. “There’s a box. And there’s some cowboys out there kicking the sides down on it right now. And stretching the boundaries. And pushing the limits. And putting new twists and turns on it. And they go out there and they play every night to these thousands and thousands of people. And they sing their songs to their generation. And that’s what it’s all about.”
I’d never thought about it quite like that — cowboys kicking the sides out of a box. That explains a lot.
But that’s not to say Dillon wouldn’t love to hear more of the old stuff.
“Hell, I wish they’d cut some traditional stuff every once in a while,” he said. “There’s still some of us old cowboys out there writing that stuff. We’ve been around the block, and I know what’s around the corner.”
Let’s hope that what’s around the corner is more open minds. Like Dillon’s.