The rain was cold, needling and incessant as celebrants scooted from their cars and scurried into Nashville’s Corsair Distillery Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 19) to honor the writers of Luke Combs’ four-week No. 1 single, “She Got the Best of Me.”
Inside, a polite but inflexible lady with an RSVP list stood at the entrance of the taproom to shoo away any and all aspiring party crashers.
On this otherwise dismal day, the distillery was featuring a “She Got the Best of Me” cocktail, comprised of Triple Smoke Whiskey, lemon, honey and ginger. Or one might choose to order, among several other liquid transports, the Rye Old Fashioned, whose active ingredients were Ryemageddon Whiskey, sugar and bitters.
Vegetable trays and bowls of mixed nuts were placed strategically along the bar for those who insisted their nourishment be chewable.
Guests mingled, hugged and back-slapped for half an hour or so until BMI’s Mason Hunter called to the stage the songwriters being spotlighted –Combs, Rob Snyder and Channing Wilson. BMI, which sponsored the party, is the performance rights organization to which all three writers belong.
Hunter noted that Snyder moved to Nashville seven years ago and met Wilson when he was working the door at a bar called “Losers.” Wilson, Hunter continued, has been commuting to Nashville for 10 years to write and perform his songs.
Combs was still in college, Hunter said, when he, Snyder and Wilson wrote “She Got the Best of Me.” That song is Combs’ fourth No. 1 as an artist and the first as songwriters for the other two.
As is BMI’s custom for its songwriters who score their first No. 1, he presented Snyder and Wilson each a Taylor acoustic guitar. “When Luke wins, everybody wins,” Hunter said. “Luke’s responsible for 10 writers getting this guitar [award].”
Hunter said he was initially impressed by the fact that Wilson was drawn to the songwriting of such masters of the form as Guy Clark and Steve Earle. He added that Wilson and Clark were able to write 20 songs together before Clark died in 2016.
Ben Vaughn, Wilson’s publisher, said Wilson commutes regularly to Nashville 158 miles from his home in Georgia. “Today is his first No. 1 party,” Vaughn said. He then presented each of the three songwriters a custom-made whiskey decanter.
Vaughn said that Wilson was so determined his children should know the evocative sound of trains that he had perfected making the noise of a train whistle. He then asked him to demonstrate. Wilson emitted such a quavering, room-shaking sound that the crowd broke into applause.
A few minutes later, as Snyder began speaking, a real train, visible from the taproom windows, wailed by and eliciting another round of laughter.
Shane Allen, senior vice president of promotion at Combs’ label, came to the stage to announce that Combs is the third most-played country artist this year and that he is the first artist since Tim McGraw to have two singles in the Top 10 at the same time.
Combs said he felt a special connection with the two other writers the first time he collaborated with them. On a lighter note, he recalled the time he and Snyder were writing together, and Snyder pulled out a device to test his blood pressure. Next, he tested Combs’ and exclaimed, “Dude, that’s way up!” The effect was unsettling. “I [expletive] you not,” Combs told the crowd, “I was in the hospital that night [because] I had a panic attack.”
Combs repeatedly referred to himself and his fellow songwriters and support team members as “underdogs,” and he choked back tears when he thanked “the many who’ve devoted their lives to me.”
After that, it was time for one last drink, and a shivering run out through the unrelenting rain.