Kenny Chesney has had a lot of high points in his career, but one of the sweetest came Wednesday afternoon (May 9) when Nashville's music community gathered to honor him not just for recording but also for writing a No. 1 song -- "Beer in Mexico."
Photo Credit: Marilu White
Co-sponsored by ASCAP, Chesney's performing rights organization, and the Country Music Association, the celebration was held in Owen Bradley Park on Music Row.
Chesney arrived early for the party to make the obligatory media rounds. Wearing gray pants, a white T-shirt and a navy blue baseball cap inscribed "Worry B. Gone," the superstar moved obligingly from one TV crew to the next, answering essentially the same questions as though he was hearing them for the first time.
Owen Bradley Park is named for the producer of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb and other musical legends. A bronze statute of Bradley seated at a piano graces the tiny green strip of land. The area was packed for Chesney's party. Guests -- including the singer-songwriter's mother and sister -- were treated to a buffet of Mexican food set up on a table alongside one of the park's brick sidewalks.
ASCAP's Connie Bradley called the party to order and recited a brief history of Chesney's musical achievements, including his current status as the CMA's entertainer of the year. Bradley pointed out that this was his 13th No. 1 single. She also noted that he had written "I Go Back," which, she complained, had stalled at the No. 2 spot [in 2004] for eight weeks before slipping back down the chart.
Bradley then called various music industry representatives forward to present Chesney mementoes of the occasion. Tammy Genovese, the CMA's chief operating officer, lauded him for the "dignity" he had brought to country music.
Troy Tomlinson, head of Sony/ATV Music Publishing in Nashville, remarked, "As Kenny's publisher, it's the hardest thing in the world to get him to record one of his own songs."
Joe Galante, chairman of Sony BMG Nashville, which includes Chesney's label, BNA Records, said, "When [Kenny] first came to town, writing was the key to him. ... Why the hell did it take you so long? You've been living this [lifestyle] for years."
"This song is especially special to me," Chesney told the crowd. He recalled how he had written it after picking up Sammy Hagar's guitar early one morning [while he was sitting beside the rocker's swimming pool] in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and watching the sun come up. "I feel like I'm a songwriter first," he observed.
Then it was time to resume partying. "I really appreciate everybody coming," Chesney concluded. "Let's have a margarita." And a great many in the crowd did just that.