Trisha Yearwood Receives ASCAP’s Voice of Music Prize From Former President Carter

Ashley Gorley, Sam Hunt Are Year's Top Songwriters, "Leave The Night On" Top Song

Looking surprisingly strong and alert for his age and medical condition, former President Jimmy Carter made an unannounced appearance Monday night (Nov. 2) at ASCAP’s annual country music awards ceremony to present Trisha Yearwood the organization’s Voice of Music trophy.

The ceremony was held at the Omni Nashville Hotel with hundreds of songwriters, publishers and artists in attendance.

Before the 91-year-old Carter came out, pop singer Justin Timberlake surprised the crowd by taking the podium to summarize Yearwood’s many achievements, not as a singer alone, but also as a ccokbook writer and TV cooking show host.

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In other business, ASCAP declared Ashley Gorley songwriter of the year (his third win), Sam Hunt songwriter-artist of the year, “Leave the Night On” song of the year and Warner-Chappell Music publisher of the year.

Over the course of the evening, the writers and publishers of ASCAP’s 46 most performed songs were given awards. Forty percent of the awarded writers were first-time winners.

“Oh, please sit down,” Timberlake scolded some particularly enthusiastic audience members when his name was announced and he strode onstage.

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Calling Yearwood “the epitome of southern charm,” he said that through her work and example “she has given young women a voice.”

He then introduced Lady Antebellum who, backed by dobro master Jerry Douglas, sang “Walkaway Joe,” Yearwood’s 1992 hit.

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Allie Brooks, Garth Brooks’ daughter and Yearwood’s stepdaughter, came next with a spirited cover of “She’s In Love With the Boy,” which was Yearwood’s breakthrough single from 1991 and her first No. 1.

Reba McEntire rounded out the musical tribute with a wistful version of “The Song Remembers When” from 1993.

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The crowd leaped up almost as one when President Carter came out, and they stood cheering him until he beckoned them to sit down. Carter is currently being treated for brain cancer.

Like Timberlake, Carter began his remarks by enumerating some of Yearwood’s more conspicuous successes.

“All of her books have been on the New York Times bestseller list,” he observed. “I can’t say the same for my own.”

Earlier in the day, Carter, Yearwood and Brooks were in Memphis hammering away on a Habitat for Humanity project.

Carter said that Yearwood “and her husband” has been connected with him through Habitat for Humanity for about 10 years and that Yearwood was one of the best workers for the house-building charity he had ever witnessed.

Yearwood cracked later that she had to be a good worker because if she wasn’t hard at the job, Carter would come by and ask her if she needed something to do.

Timberlake dropped to his knees before her and bowed three times when Yearwood came out to accept her award.

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Recalling her early days in Nashville, Yearwood told the assembled songwriters and publishers, “As a demo singer, I worked for most of the people in this room. I hear it pays better now.”

She said that as a recording artist, “The highest compliment you [songwriters] can pay me is to tell me you liked what I did with your song.”

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ASCAP’s president, Paul Williams, and singer Jerrod Niemann honored Sam Borgese, the CEO of Logan’s Roadhouse restaurants, with its Partners In Music Awards. The chain has agreed to co-sponsor with ASCAP the Music City Live! tour that will feature emerging ASCAP songwriters performing in selected Logan’s locations.

In addition, Logan’s will partner with ASCAP to promote music in local schools.

Spotted throughout the show were segments in which the writers of ASCAP’s Top 5 songs performed their hits.

Gorley, assisted by Luke Bryan, songwriters Dallas Davidson and Luke Laird, sang “Play It Again.” Gorley’s daughter joined in.

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Next Gorley and Bryan breezed through “I See You.” (“Play It Again” and “I See You” were both No. 1s for Bryan.)

Michael Carter pounded out his “Get Me Some of That,” with Thomas Rhett – who had the hit on the song – and Cole Swindell accompanying him.

Josh Kear, singing and playing solo, followed with “Drinking Class,” which was recorded by Lee Brice.

Sam Hunt and Josh Osborne concluded with a performance of “Leave the Night On,” Hunt’s first No. 1 single.

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Among the artists who presented awards or introduced award winners were Dierks Bentley, John Rich, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Kip Moore and Kelsea Ballerini.

Old Dominion opened the evening’s entertainment with “Break Up With Him.”

Here is the complete list of winners:

“19 You + Me”
Danny Orton, Daniel Smyers

“A Guy Walks Into a Bar”
Jonathan Singleton, Brad Tursi

“Ain’t Worth the Whiskey”
Adam Sanders

“Baby Be My Love Song”
Brett James

“Bartender”
Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley

“Beachin’”
Jaren Ray Johnston, Jon Mark Nite, Jimmy Robbins

“Bottoms Up”
Brett James, Justin Michael Weaver

“Burnin’ It Down”
Chris Tompkins

“Cop Car”
Zach Crowell, Matt Jenkins, Sam Hunt

“Dirt”
Chris Tompkins

“Drinking Class”
Josh Kear

“Drunk on a Plane”
Dierks Bentley, Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins

“Get Me Some of That”
Michael Carter

“Girl in a Country Song”
Taylor Dye, Maddie Marlow

“Homegrown Honey”
Charles Kelley, Darius Rucker

“I See You”
Ashley Gorley

“Just Gettin’ Started”
Chris Destefano, Ashley Gorley

“Keep Them Kisses Comin’”
Ben Hayslip

“Leave the Night On”
Sam Hunt, Josh Osborne

“Look at You”
Shannon Lawson, John Rich

“Lonely Tonight”
Brent Anderson, Ryan Hurd

“Mean to Me”
Scooter Carusoe

“My Eyes”
Josh Osborne

“Neon Light”
Mark Irwin, Josh Kear

“Perfect Storm”
Brad Paisley

“Play It Again”
Ashley Gorley

“Ready Set Roll”
Chris Destefano

“Rewind”
Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley, Eric Paslay

“River Bank”
Kelley Lovelace, Brad Paisley

“Roller Coaster”
Michael Carter

“Say You Do”
Matt Ramsey, Trevor Rosen

“See You Tonight”
Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley

“Shotgun Rider”
Hillary Lindsey

“Small Town Throwdown”
Ben Hayslip

“Smoke”
Jon Mark Nite

“Something in the Water”
Chris Destefano, Brett James

“Somewhere in My Car”
John Thomas Harding

“Sunshine & Whiskey”
Jaren Ray Johnston

“Take Your Time”
Sam Hunt, Josh Osborne

“Til It’s Gone”
David Lee Murphy

“We Are Tonight”
Marc Beeson, Sam Hunt, Josh Osborne

“Where It’s At”
Matt Jenkins, Zach Crowell

“Who I Am With You”
Jason Sellers

“Yeah”
Ashley Gorley

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