Dustin Lynch Celebrates Improbable Success of “Hell of a Night”

Unloved at First by Radio, Song Finally Made It to No. 1 After 44 Weeks

Informed opinion said that Dustin Lynch’s “Hell of a Night” didn’t have the staying power to become a hit. Yet there he was with the song’s three writers, standing in the same bar he’d played in when he was a nobody, beaming out at the packed house and brandishing his No. 1 trophies.

Lynch savored this particularly sweet victory Monday afternoon (Oct. 27) at the South bar near Nashville’s Music Row along with songwriters Zach Crowell, Adam Sanders and Jaron Boyer.

Guests arrived at the party through a cold gray drizzle, scurrying in from their cars at the curb or hurrying down the brick-lined sidewalk under hunched shoulders and big umbrellas.

But inside the long, narrow saloon, it was winter-warm and beach-festive. The crowd was jammed in literally wall-to-wall and bunched up against the edge of the tiny stage that stood near the back of the room.

The celebration’s sponsors were the performance rights organizations ASCAP, which represents Crowell and Sanders, and SESAC, of which Boyer is a member.

ASCAP’s Mike Sistad called the party to order and summoned all the song’s principals to the stage, including its producer, Mickey Jack Cones.

Robert Filhart, also of ASCAP, then came forward to recite Sanders’ and Crowell’s musical achievements.

He noted that Sanders is also a recording artist with two singles out and that he’s been opening shows for Cole Swindell. “Hell of a Night” is Sanders’ second No. 1, Filhart said, his first having been Swindell’s “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.”

Sistad returned to the stage to present Sanders a guitar, ASCAP’s traditional gift to songwriters who’ve scored their first No. 1. (Sistad explained that there’s not been a No. 1 party yet for “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey.”)

Filhart announced that “Hell of a Night” is Crowell’s third No. 1 and Cones’ fifth as a producer.

SESAC’s Tim Fink arose to sing Boyer’s praises, pointing out that – although this is his first No. 1 – he has also secured cuts by Jason Aldean, Joe Nichols, Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery.

Fink observed with some amusement that Boyer’s first cut was prophetic: Aldean’s “I Ain’t Ready to Quit.”

Jon Loba, executive vice president of Broken Bow Records Music Group, the company for which Lynch records, acknowledged that it had taken an agonizing 44 weeks to push “Hell of a Night” to the top of the chart.

He said that radio programmers were almost universal in their opinion that the song shouldn’t even be released as a single and held out little hope for it when it was.

However, he said that Broken Bow owner Benny Brown saw in the song the same potential he had seen in Jason Aldean’s equally slow-rising first Top 10 hit, “Hicktown.”

So Brown instructed the Broken Bow promotional team members to put all their muscle behind “Hell of a Night,” arguing that if it became a hit it would help propel Lynch to “arena act” status.

Brown stepped up to the microphone as the crowd applauded. “We want to thank Jason Aldean,” he said. “He passed on [this song].”

“This is freakin’ cool,” said Lynch, when it came his turn to speak. “This bar is the first one I played in with a band.”

Pointing toward a space near the bar’s front window where he once performed, he said, “Thank you guys for believing in me and for taking me from that corner to this one.”

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