Hit Songwriter Wayne Kemp Dead at 74

Credits Include George Strait's "The Fireman," George Jones' "The Love Bug"

Wayne Kemp — the writer and co-writer of such hits as Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at a Time,” George Strait’s “The Fireman” and Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” — died Monday (March 9) at Macon County General Hospital in Lafayette, Tennessee. He was 74.

One of Kemp’s most-loved songs, which he recorded himself but never became a hit, was the delightfully goofy “Your Wife Is Cheatin’ On Us Again.” In it, one of the wife’s lovers warns the aggrieved husband, “If you don’t help me straighten her out/We ain’t gonna stay friends.”

Clarence Wayne Kemp was born June 1, 1941, in Greenwood, Arkansas. He began his musical career as a guitar player and early on backed such established artists as George Jones and Red Sovine.

Jones went to No. 6 in 1965 with Kemp’s “Love Bug,” a song Strait would cover and take into the Top 10 on the Billboard country chart in 1994. In 1968, Conway Twitty recorded Kemp’s “Image of Me” which reached No. 5.

The following year, Kemp made his debut as a recording artist on Decca Records, the label with which he would remain (through its transformation into MCA) until 1974. During his 15 years as a recording act, his highest-ranking single of the 24 he charted was “Honky Tonk Wine, “ which peaked at No. 17 in 1973.

In 1988, Ricky Van Shelton had a two-week No. 1 with Kemp’s “I’ll Leave This World Loving You.”

Kemp was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.

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