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ASCAP Party Kicks Off CMA Week
"The Good Stuff" Wins Top Honor
"The Good Stuff" won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' (ASCAP) song of the year honors on Monday night (Nov. 3) -- a perfect theme to a star-filled awards ceremony. Numerous stars were spotted in the crowd: Kenny Chesney (of course), Terri Clark, Toby Keith, Alabama's Randy Owen, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Diamond Rio's Marty Roe, Mark Wills and Darryl Worley.

And that's not all. Also mingling: Jeff Bates, Tammy Cochran, Kellie Coffey, Earl Thomas Conley, Rodney Crowell, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Brenda Lee, Trick Pony, Chalee Tennison, Josh Turner and Phil Vassar.

But mostly it was a crowd of songwriters, who were individually honored by the performing rights organization for composing the previous year's most performed songs.

Alan Jackson, who was not present, earned his fifth songwriter-artist ASCAP award. Craig Wiseman, who wrote "The Good Stuff," was named ASCAP's songwriter of the year. His other 2002 writing credits include "American Child," "The Cowboy in Me" and "Young."

"This is a tough son of a bitch to get," Wiseman said from the stage. "Some people make it look easy."

Wiseman, who moved to Nashville in 1985, added, "When I say I love this town, this town is just buildings. So it all comes down to, I really love you guys, man."

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were remembered in a memorable video montage (complete with pyrotechnic graphics), then honored with the ASCAP Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. Wal-Mart also got props for its dedication to country music. Representing a third of the songs being honored, EMI Music Publishing won ASCAP's publisher of the year award for the seventh year since 1990. Connie Bradley, an ASCAP vice president, hosted the evening.

Although none of the songwriters except Wiseman were allowed an acceptance speech, the evening still lingered well past two hours. Dinner was late, and Ray Benson and Dierks Bentley soldiered on through some embarrassing sound gaffes. The black-tie crowd was also lectured about downloading, in a speech and a song.

But aside from all the talking, the 63 hit songs -- from "Ain't Nothin' 'Bout You" to "You Can't Hide Beautiful" -- took center stage. The sheer volume of star power at the ASCAP function proved that it all begins with a song, and that CMA week is no exception.
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