John Legend, Luke Combs Among Those Honoring Steve Cropper at BMI Country Awards

Jesse Frasure and “In Case You Didn’t Know" Named Songwriter and Song of the Year

So buoyant were the words of praise directed toward Steve Cropper at the BMI awards show Tuesday evening (Nov. 13) that he may still be walking on air.

The fabled guitarist, songwriter and producer was the bright center of attention during a two-hour spectacular that also saw Jesse Frasure, “In Case You Didn’t Know” and Warner-Tamerlane Music declared BMI’s songwriter, song and publisher of the year, respectively.

The event was held, as usual, in the lavishly decorated sixth-floor parking garage at BMI’s Nashville headquarters. Even filled with revelers from wall to wall, the party space will still a bit chilly, owing to the subfreezing temperature outside.

Cropper was celebrated as BMI’s latest Icon, which is the performance rights organization’s highest honor. Previous Icons who sat in the audience cheering Cropper on included Bill Anderson, Bobby Braddock, Mac Davis, Bob DiPiero and John Oates.

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

Cropper’s guitar work helped turn such songs as “Soul Man” and “Hold On! I’m Comin’” into classics. And he co-wrote the immortal “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay.” Cropper first came to fame as lead guitarist for Booker T. & the MGs, a recording act that also served as the house band for Stax Records in Memphis. That band’s first and biggest hit was “Green Onions” in 1962. Besides its pop music eminence, it was No. 1 on the R&B charts for four weeks.

There were country stars aplenty on hand for the festivities, as well as a scattering of other entertainment figures. Among the glitterati were actors Dennis Quaid and Rita Wilson, TV reporter and commentator Chris Wallace, Olympian figure skater Scott Hamilton, Kane Brown, Lauren Alaina, Carly Pearce, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, the group Midland, Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett, Scotty McCreery, Charles Kelley, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Janson, Russell Dickerson, Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell.

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI
John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI
Terry Wyatt/WireImage

Most of the evening was given over to recognizing the writers and publishers of BMI’s 50 most-performed songs of the past year (See the list below.).

Instead of toasting Cropper during a single segment, the adulations came throughout the program, beginning with Mike Farris and Lucie Silvas’ stage-shaking romp through “Soul Man” and “Hold On” (with Kenny Greenberg on guitar).

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

There followed a series of video congratulations to Cropper from Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Charlie Daniels, Garth Brooks, Paul Shaffer (who said Cropper taught John Belushi how to sing “Soul Man”), Ringo Starr, Dan Akroyd (who declared, “There’d be no Blues Brothers [movie, in which he co-starred with Belushi] without Steve Cropper”) and Marty Stuart.

Singer Maggie Rose gave another lyrical nod to Cropper, telling the audience “There’s a strong chance that I was conceived during this song.” Then she blazed through “In the Midnight Hour.”

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

Next came another round of video thumbs-up to Cropper. Country singer T. G. Sheppard, who was a record promoter for Stax before emerging as a country star, marveled at Cropper’s musical impact. Deanie Parker, who did everything at Stax Records from answering phones to handling publicity, said that the harmonious working together of white and black musicians at Stax during the Civil Rights struggles, was “one of the best examples of what America could be.”

Shunning his usual grunge look, a spiffed-up Luke Combs tipped his hat to Cropper with a version of “Knock on Wood” that had him working the stage like an evangelist. It earned him a standing ovation.

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

Dubbing Cropper “an active force for over five decades and still counting,” BMI’s president and CEO, Mike O’Neill, recalled that he first met Cropper 24 years ago at a BMI event in New Orleans that also featured the great Chuck Berry. When he approached Berry and complimented him on his guitar playing, O’Neill said, Berry replied, “I’m a good guitar player, but that guy [gesturing toward Cropper], he’s great.”

O’Neill also pointed out that four of Cropper’s guitars are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington and that “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” has been performed over 11 million times, which equals a radio station playing it around the clock every day, without commercial interruptions, for 65 years.

With that, O’Neill brought John Legend to the stage to sing the song in question. The crowd stood and applauded as the ever-smooth Legend brought the classic to the end.

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI

Cropper accepted his Icon trophy with grace and good humor. He came to the stage to the tune of “Green Onions,” which he co-wrote. Alluding to that tune’s strange history, he said, “I never thought I’d be co-writer of a song that would be a commercial for adult diapers. . . . I’m not going to name the brand [Depends] because I’m still waiting for my shipment.”

After thanking his friends and supporters, he exited by saying, “Good night, Otis, wherever you are.” Otis Redding was his co-writer on “Dock,” as well as the one who first scored a hit with it. In 1968, it was No. 1 on the pop charts for four weeks.

The crowd, which had to be reminded again and again to be quiet during the awards presentations, had thinned out considerably when Frasure accepted his songwriter of the year trophy. So many of them missed seeing the video Jay-Z sent to congratulate Frasure. He and Frasure, along with Thomas Rhett, participated in a public phone conversation last year in which they discussed how music transcends differences.

After the presentations ended, guests flowed downstairs to BMI’s reception hall for drinks, coffee and desserts that would put the most succulent of Willie Wonka’s creations to shame.

Here is a list of BMI’s Top 50 country songs, their writers and publishers.

“A Girl Like You”
Rhett Akins
Jesse Frasure
Downtown MB Songs
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Telemitry Productions
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“All on Me”
Devin Dawson
Jacob Durrett
Austin Smith
Black Jeans Music
Green Goggles Music
Magic Mustang Music, Inc.
Neon Cross Music
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“All the Pretty Girls”
Nicolle Galyon
Tommy Lee James
BMG Platinum Songs US
Once In A Blue Tune
SWMBMGBMI
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Any Ol’ Barstool”
Josh Thompson
Big Music Machine
Two Laine Collections

“Ask Me How I Know”
Mitch Rossell
Me Gusta 30 Music
Rezemblance Music
Roy Rivers Publishing
Songs of Reehits

“Black”
Ross Copperman
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Rezolant Music

“Broken Halos”
Michael Henderson
Straight Six Music
Wixen Music Publishing, Inc.

“Craving You”
Julian Bunetta
Dragon Bunny Music
Music of Big Family
Words & Music

“Drinkin’ Problem”
Cameron Duddy
Kitt Cass Pub. Co.
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Every Little Thing”
busbee
Emily Shackelton
Better Boat Music
Songs of Endurance
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Every Time I Hear That Song”
Aimee Mayo
Brad Warren
Brett Warren
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Fam Love Music
Sagequinnjude Music
The Queen of Dot Dot Dot
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Fast”
Luke Bryan
Rodney Clawson
Luke Laird
Big Loud Proud Crowd
Peanut Mill Songs
Round Hill Compositions
Round Hill Works
Shirt At Work
Songs of Universal, Inc.
Sony/ATV Tree

“Five More Minutes”
Monty Criswell
Scotty McCreery
Dagum Music
Sony/ATV Tree
Spirit of Nashville One

“Fix a Drink”
Chris Janson
Buckkilla Music
ole Red Vinyl Music

“Flatliner”
Cole Swindell
Colden Rainey Music
Sony/ATV Tree

“For Her”
Kelly Archer
Sarah Buxton
Big Loud Proud Crowd
Bux Tone Music
Downtown DMP Songs
Round Hill Works
Stars and Stripes and Maple Leaf Music

“Greatest Love Story”
Brandon Lancaster
Concession 114 Music
Neon Cross Music
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Happens Like That”
Tyler Hubbard
Granger Smith
Big Loud Mountain
Climbing Windmills Music
Round Hill Works
T Hubb Publishing
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Heartache on the Dance Floor”
Bart Butler
Jon Pardi
Bill Butler Music LLC
Rancho Fiesta Publishing
Songs of Song Factory
Sony/ATV Countryside

“Hurricane”
Thomas Archer
Luke Combs
Taylor Phillips
50 Egg Music
Big Music Machine
BMG Platinum Songs US
Intune Nashville Music Publishing
Me Gusta 30 Music
Straight Dimes Publishing
TDP Publishing
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“I Could Use a Love Song”
Maren Morris
Laura Veltz
Big Music Machine
International Dog Music
Oh Denise Publishing
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“If I Told You”
Ross Copperman
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Rezolant Music

“I’ll Name the Dogs”
Josh Thompson
Big Music Machine
Two Laine Collections

“In Case You Didn’t Know”
Tyler Reeve
Trent Tomlinson
Big Mosquito Music
Big Spaces Music
Brown Hound Publishing
Kirbfinder’s Mucho Love Music
Smack of Ham Songs

“It Ain’t My Fault”
Lee Thomas Miller
The Country And Western Music
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Light It Up”
Luke Bryan
Peanut Mill Songs
Sony/ATV Tree

“Like I Loved You”
Jesse Lee
ole Purple Cape Music

“Losing Sleep”
Chris Young
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Songs of Universal, Inc.

“Make You Mine”
Ben Stennis
BMG Platinum Songs US

“Marry Me”
Jesse Frasure
Thomas Rhett
Cricket On The Line
Downtown MB Songs
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Telemitry Productions

“Meant to Be”
Tyler Hubbard
Joshua Miller
Bebe Rexha
Big Loud Mountain
BMG Platinum Songs US
Jack 10 Publishing
Kiss Me If You Can Music
Round Hill Works
Songs of the Corn
T Hubb Publishing
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“More Girls Like You”
Joshua Miller
Jack 10 Publishing
Songs of the Corn
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“No Such Thing as a Broken Heart”
Jesse Frasure
Songs of Roc Nation Music
Telemitry Rhythm House
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Outta Style”
Aaron Watson
Me Gusta 30 Music
Tunes from HTK

“Ring on Every Finger”
Jesse Frasure
Thomas Rhett
Cricket On The Line
Downtown MB Songs
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Telemitry Productions

“Round Here Buzz”
Eric Church
Luke Dick
Jeff Hyde
Emileon Songs
Little Louder Songs
Longer And Louder Music
Mammaw’s Fried Okra Music
Songs of Kobalt Music Publishing, Inc.
Sony/ATV Tree

“She’s With Me”
Ben Stennis
Dead Aim Music
Songs of Kobalt Music Publishing, Inc.
The Stennis Mightier Music

“Small Town Boy”
Rhett Akins
Kyle Fishman
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Kyle Fishman Music
Play It Again Entertainment
Round Hill Compositions
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Somebody Else Will”
Kelly Archer
Tebey Ottoh
BMG Platinum Songs US
Downtown DMP Songs
Songs For Elle
Stars and Stripes and Maple Leaf Music

“The Fighter”
busbee
Keith Urban
Maroma Music
Songs of Universal, Inc.
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“The Long Way”
Brett Eldredge
Paris Not France Music
Sony/ATV Countryside

“There’s a Girl”
Trent Harmon
Laura Veltz
Big Music Machine
Oh Denise Publishing
Trent Harmon Publishing
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Unforgettable”
Jesse Frasure
Thomas Rhett
Cricket On The Line
EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc.
Songs of Roc Nation Music
Telemitry Rhythm House
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“What Ifs”
Kane Brown
Kane Brown Music
Songs of Universal, Inc.

“When It Rains It Pours”
Luke Combs
Ray Fulcher
Jordan Walker
50 Egg Music
Big Music Machine
Extremely Combustible Music
Larkin Hill Publishing
Me Gusta 30 Music
Music of one77
On Cor Music
Paj Music Publishing Company
Songs of Kobalt Music Publishing, Inc.
Straight Dimes Publishing
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.
Works of RHA

“Yeah Boy”
Keesy Timmer
Me Gusta 30 Music
Songs of Blue Guitar

“You Broke Up With Me”
Thomas Archer
Walker Hayes
Kylie Sackley (APRA)
Bike Music
BMG Platinum Songs US
Little Extra Music
Razor & Tie Music Publishing
Songs of Kobalt Music Publishing, Inc.
Songs of SMACK
Spark In Your Pocket

“You Look Good”
busbee
Ryan Hurd
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

“Yours”
Russell Dickerson
Parker Welling
BMG Platinum Songs US
Hillbilly Science and Research Publishing
Kailey’s Dream
Music That Is Russelled
Trailerparker Music

“Yours If You Want It”
Andrew Dorff
Morendorffin Music
Songs of Universal, Inc.

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