Imagine a fraternity party jammed into a single minivan and you get some idea of how crowded it was Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 22) for the Jimmie Allen celebration at Nashville’s The Local saloon. CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown will recap all the action on an all-new episode airing Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 26-27) at 9 a.m. ET.
It seemed like virtually everyone who works on Music Row had converged on the popular watering hole to pay tribute to Allen and his two “Best Shot” co-writers, Josh London and JP Williams.
“Best Shot,” the first No. 1 single for all three writers, recently held the top position on Billboard’s country airplay chart for two consecutive weeks.
As the crowd gathered, the three songwriters sat patiently on stage for a series of publicity photos with various music industry figures who had played some part in their success.
The party was jointly sponsored by SESAC, the performance rights organization to which Allen and London belong, and BMI, which serves as Williams’ home base. Hosting duties were shared jointly by SESAC’s Shannan Hatch and BMI’s David Preston.
“Music was always something that just spoke to him,” Hatch said of London, who holds a degree in plant and soil sciences from the University of Kentucky and whose day job is landscaping. “I called him, and he saved my tomato plants,” she joked.
Unlike the other writers who came to Nashville for the music scene, London says he came to work there in landscaping and more or less drifted into songwriting.
Hatch said that although Allen hails from Delaware — which she admitted is a state Southerners regard as “the North” — “he’s more rooted in country music than a lot of us here in the South.”
“He’s a ray of sunshine,” she continued. “He walks into a room, and he owns it.”
Preston took a similarly light-hearted tack when he came to the stage. “It’s my birthday,” he announced to muted applause. “I know this is not about me, but I just thought I’d throw it out there.”
Preston described the three songwriters who sat to his left as “a bunch of underdogs who just persevered.” He noted that it had been a particularly uphill battle for Williams who lost his sight when he was 10.
But, said Preston, Williams faces his affliction with enormous support from his wife, Irene, and a great sense of humor. “He calls his publishing company ‘Blonde Leading Blind,’” Preston said.
Hatch then returned to the mic to urge the crowd to move forward and let people in who were standing outside in the cold. “Do we all like each other now?” she cracked as the throng readjusted.
Jon Loba, who heads Allen’s label, Stoney Creek Records, recalled “falling in love” with Allen when he first saw him showcase at The Local. He said he was even more impressed with the singer as he insisted on staying true to his own music and sticking with the team that first brought him to Loba’s attention.
“I’m a firm believer you create your own opportunities and that you do that by taking risks,” Allen said when it came his turn to speak.
He fought back tears as he recited a list of people who had offered him kindness and support along the way. “It’s been a long, long journey,” he said. “Surround yourself with people that pour into you and add to what you’re doing,” he advised.
Allen recounted meeting Williams for the first time for a co-writing session and seeing that he was blind. “I said I don’t know if anybody told you, but I’m black. So keep the black jokes to a minimum.”
Williams sat smiling at the memory.