Dwight Yoakam Receives BMI President’s Award

"Tequila," "Rocky Top" Honored

Despite the onset of bone-chilling cold, BMI soldiered on with its awards ceremonies Tuesday night (Nov. 12), during which country traditionalist Dwight Yoakam was honored with the President’s Award and “Rocky Top,” the bluegrass classic, was cited with the newly inaugurated Evergreen Award.

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The temperature, which had dropped into the mid-teens by showtime, was particularly relevant to this event since it was staged, as usual, on a broad expanse of BMI’s normally unheated parking garage. On Monday, the performing rights organization sent out a warning to invited guests to dress warmly even though special use heaters had been installed. Still the crowd came.

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Held annually to recognize BMI’s most performed songs of the past year, this gala cited “Tequila,” the Dan + Shay hit, as its song of the year and Nicolle Galyon and Ross Copperman as songwriters of the year, each of whom had co-written four of the top 2019 songs. Warner-Tamerlane Publishing was declared publisher of the year with credits on 24 of the Top 50 songs.

BMI officials Mike O’Neill and Jody Williams presided over the presentations.

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Giving a musical context to Yoakam’s award, singer Jon Pardi sang “Guitars, Cadillac,” Yoakam’s 1986 hit. Margo Price and Bob Weir essayed “Fast as You” (1993) and the Highwomen, backed by Jason Isbell on guitar, brought it all home with “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” (1993). Yoakam composed all three songs.

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“Rocky Top” was a minor hit for the Oborne Brothers (not to be confused with Brothers Osborne) in 1968, but this banjo driven story of moonshining “down in the Tennessee hills” quickly became a favorite on the bluegrass festival circuit as well as a football war cry at the University of Tennessee.

The song was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, whose son Del, would eventually rise to head BMI and who was on hand with his brother, Dane, to accept the accolade. Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, gave new wings to the song with their breakneck rendition. The newly coined Evergreen Award is designated for “those one-of-a-kind songs that have left an unforgettable imprint on our lives.”

Galyon is the first female to be named BMI Country Songwriter of the Year since Taylor Swift took the title in 2010. Galyon’s songwriting credits include Lee Brice’s “Boy,” Keith Urban’s “Coming Home,” Lady Antebellum’s “Heartbreak” and “Tequila.” Copperman, who earned the award for the third time, has written hits such as Kenny Chesney’s “Get Along,” Blake Shelton’s “I Lived It,” Justin Moore’s “Kinda Don’t Care” and Dierks Bentley’s “Woman, Amen.”

Here is a complete list of the evening’s winners.

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