Kenny Rogers, John Rich, Craig Wiseman Are ASCAP's Big Winners

"Before He Cheats," "If You're Going Through Hell" Tie for Top Song

John Rich and Craig Wiseman won the top songwriting awards Monday night (Oct. 15) at ASCAP's 45th annual Country Music Awards. The performing rights society again staged its celebration at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium and followed it with a sumptuous party at the AT&T building across the street.

"Before He Cheats" and "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)" shared country song of the year status. Sony/ATV Music Publishing was named top publisher.

ASCAP also honored Kenny Rogers with its Golden Note award and songwriter Don Schlitz with a career achievement trophy. Highlighting the evening were performances of the Top 5 most-performed songs by the people who wrote them. In all, ASCAP handed out awards for 54 songs.

To start the proceedings, Charlie Daniels and Gretchen Wilson strolled arm-in-arm through the audience and up onto the stage. Dressed in a blindingly white suite, a straw, broad-brimmed planter's hat and sunglasses, Daniels looked like the plantation owner in a Tennessee Williams movie. Wilson was the antithesis of redneck chic in her black, long-sleeved, form-fitting jacket and dark, bell-bottom trousers.

Having made their fashion statements, the two immediately launched into a scorching rendition of "Jackson," backed by Daniels' band. When the song was over, ASCAP senior vice president Connie Bradley, who hosted the evening, told the audience that Johnny Cash and June Carter had recorded their classic version of the song on the Ryman stage.

Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson and Bill Anderson sang the first of the Top 5 songs, "Give It Away," accompanied by Cannon's daughter, singer-songwriter Melonie Cannon. Johnson's strong lead vocals and assertive guitar picking lifted the song to a higher level of emotional torment than George Strait's hit single achieved.

During a pause in the presentations, ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento stepped in to introduce special guests in the audience, including other ASCAP dignitaries, executives from SOCAN (the Canadian performing rights organization) and Nashville's new mayor, Karl Dean.

Accompanied by a string trio, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins performed their Carrie Underwood blockbuster, "Before He Cheats," the second Top 5 song of the evening. Kear's delivery was so intense -- and the strings so deliciously foreboding -- that the audience began cheering halfway through.

The funniest segment occurred when the curtains parted to reveal what appeared to be three Brad Paisleys. One actually was Paisley. The two others -- songwriters Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller -- wore Paisley-style hats and played their guitars with Paisley-like authority. It was this unlikely trio's duty to sing the third Top 5 song, "The World," with Lovelace handling lead vocals, Miller providing harmony (although he later took a lead) and Paisley playing dutifully off to the side. Both imitators had the star's stage moves down pat. At times, it resembled a chorus line.

"Brad, how does it feel to be a sideman," Bradley asked. "I like it," said Paisley, although not with much conviction.

ASCAP executive Todd Brabec introduced the part of the program honoring Rogers. First up was Chris Stapleton, who sang a cover of Rogers' 1977 hit, "Sweet Music Man," that sounded a lot like the original. Rivers Rutherford followed with "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," from Rogers' days in the band, the First Edition. Greeted by prolonged applause and a standing ovation, Schlitz wrapped up the lyrical introduction with "The Gambler," his song that had netted Rogers a No. 1 country hit, a Grammy and the basis for a series of TV movies.

"That's the only song I know by heart," said the puckish Schlitz as the applause died away. "Kenny took that song and made it his own. And he made it more than I imagined."

Rogers' success with "The Gambler" and his personal encouragement were life changing, Schlitz said. "He gave me artistic independence for the rest of my life. Most of the time I've squandered it."

Rogers then came out to a standing ovation and accepted the Golden Note award.

"Does anyone else notice how much I looked like Don Schlitz when I was young?" he asked. He thanked the assembled songwriters for continuing to give him their best songs, even when his record sales dwindled.

Observing that next year will be his 50th year in the music business, Rogers set aside his award, seated himself on a stool beside his guitarist and sang "The Greatest," another Schlitz composition.

After the song, Rogers turned the tables by paying tribute to Schlitz and presenting him ASCAP's Creative Achievement prize. Schlitz thanked numerous friends and mentors by name and then, to lighten things up, announced that he would be playing the Bluebird Café Friday night.

Wearing gigantic sunglasses with heart-shaped lenses, Wiseman sang "Summertime," his hit for Kenny Chesney, and the fourth of ASCAP's most-performed songs. Dave Berg and Georgia Middleman offered up the final song in the series, "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)."

LoFrumento and Bradley closed the evening by announcing the major winners. Rich took the songwriter-artist of the year award for the third consecutive time. Wiseman copped the top songwriter prize, also for the third time.

Among the other artists attending were Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Phil Vassar, Kellie Pickler, Blaine Larsen and Keith Anderson.

Complete list of ASCAP's 45th annual Country Music Awards:

Songwriter of the Year: Craig Wiseman

Songwriter-Artist of the Year: John Rich

Song of the Year: (shared) "Before He Cheats"

Writers: Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins

"If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)"

Writer: Dave Berg

Publisher of the Year: Sony/ATV Music Publishing

ASCAP's Most-Performed Songs of 2007:

"8th of November"

Writer: John Rich

"A Feelin' Like That"

Writers: David Lee Murphy, Kim Tribble

"A Good Man"

Writers: Adrienne Follese, Keith Follese

"Amarillo Sky"

Writers: Bart Pursley, John Rich

"Beer in Mexico"

Writer: Kenny Chesney

"Before He Cheats"

Writers: Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins

"Bring It on Home to Me"

Writers: Greg Bieck, Tyler Hayes

"Building Bridges"

Writers: Hank DeVito, Larry Willoughby

"Don't Forget to Remember Me"

Writers: Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace

"Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)"

Writers: Kristen Hall, Robert Bret Hartley, Jennifer Nettles, Lisa Simonton

"Every Mile a Memory"

Writer: Dierks Bentley

"Every Time I Hear Your Name"

Writers: Keith Anderson, Tom Hambridge

"Feels Just Like It Should"

Writer: Brett James

"Findin' a Good Man"

Writers: Casey Koesel, Brian Maher, Jeremy Stover

"Give It Away"

Writer: Buddy Cannon

"Hillbilly Deluxe"

Writers: Brad Crisler, Craig Wiseman

"How 'Bout You"

Writer: Brandon Church

"I Can't Unlove You"

Writer: Wade Kirby

"I Don't Know What She Said"

Writer: Lane Turner

"I Got You"

Writer: Tim Owens

"I Just Came Back From a War"

Writer: Darryl Worley

"I Loved Her First"

Writers: Walt Aldridge, Elliott Park

"If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows) "

Writer: Dave Berg

"Ladies Love Country Boys"

Writer: Rivers Rutherford

"Last Day of My Life"

Writers: Tim Ryan Rouillier, Phil Vassar

"Leave the Pieces"

Writer: Billy Austin

"Life Ain't Always Beautiful"

Writer: Cyndi Thomson

"Life Is a Highway"

Writer: Tom Cochrane

"Like Red on a Rose"

Writer: Melanie Castleman

"Little Bit of Life"

Writer: Tony Mullins

"Long Trip Alone"

Writer: Dierks Bentley

"Me and My Gang"

Writer: Tony Mullins

"My Wish"

Writer: Steve Robson

"Once in a Lifetime"

Writer: John Shanks

"Red High Heels"

Writers: Chris Lindsey, Kellie Pickler

"Settle for a Slowdown"

Writer: Dierks Bentley


Writers: Jennifer Nettles, Tim Owens

"She's Everything"

Writer: Brad Paisley

"Size Matters (Someday)"

Writers: Mike Dekle, Byron Hill

"Some People Change"

Writers: Michael Dulaney, Jason Sellers, Neil Thrasher

"Something's Gotta Give"

Writers: Tony Mullins, Craig Wiseman


Writer: Danny Orton

"Stupid Boy"

Writers: Dave Berg, Deanna Bryant


Writer: Craig Wiseman

"Sunshine and Summertime"

Writer: John Rich


Writers: Frank Rogers, Chris Stapleton

"The Woman in My Life"

Writers: Julie Wood-Vassar, Phil Vassar

"The World"

Writers: Kelley Lovelace, Brad Paisley

"Want To"

Writer: Jennifer Nettles


Writer: Hillary Lindsey

"Wherever You Are"

Writer: Jeremy Stover


Writer: John Rich

"Why, Why, Why"

Writer: Billy Currington

"You Save Me"

Writer: Brett James

Latest News