"I felt pretty good when I got here," Jason Aldean said, "until I found out that everyone had more No. 1's than I did."
The occasion for Aldean's wry lament was a party held Wednesday (April 16) to honor Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, the writers of the singer's most recent chart-topper, "When She Says Baby."
Jointly sponsored by performance rights organizations BMI and ASCAP, the celebration was staged at a Nashville watering hole called the Pour House.
Aldean walked in unobtrusively after the party was well underway, wearing jeans, a blue Costa del Mar T-shirt and a baseball cap turned backward and pulled down to his eyebrows.
His longtime producer, Michael Knox, stood leaning at the bar, drinking in compliments from a succession of partygoers who streamed by to congratulate him.
BMI's associate director, Leslie Roberts, called the party to order to begin handing out awards. She spoke first on behalf of Akins, a BMI member, and noted that "When She Says Baby" is his 17th No. 1.
"It wasn't just a No. 1," she added. "It was a three-week smash."
She informed the crowd that Akins -- a former recording artist himself -- will be journeying to his hometown of Valdosta, Ga., next week to receive an alumnus-of-the-year award from Lowndes County High School.
For Aldean, Roberts continued, "Baby" is his 13th No. 1 as an artist. She said he will commence his Burn It Down tour on May 1.
To conclude her statistical barrage, Roberts announced that "Baby" is Knox's 11th hit. He quickly corrected her, pointing out that it's actually his 14th.
ASCAP's Ryan Beuschel then came to the stage to sing Hayslip's praises. He declared "Baby" Hayslip's 15th No. 1 and said all 15 had been scored within the past three years.
"We sat down that day to write a Jason Aldean song," Hayslip said, explaining the song's origin to the crowd. "I wanted to get on Jason's Night Train album [and] I wrote a whole catalog of songs to get on there."
Akins, who spoke next, alluded to Hayslip's hard-driving work ethic.
"There are a lot of people I'd like to thank here," Akins drawled, "but I didn't have time to make a list because Ben made me write a song today."
The two men have been writing songs together since they were teenagers.
Akins recalled Aldean had opened some shows for him years ago and that he was so impressed, he hoped Aldean wouldn't become disheartened by the strain the music business puts on young talent.
Between 1994 and 2003, Akins charted 13 singles, including the No. 1 "Don't Get Me Started" and the No. 3 "That Ain't My Truck."
Observing that his own son, Thomas Rhett , is now finding success as a performer (and that he has worked as an opening act for Aldean), Akins offered this final piece of advice for aspiring artists: "If you love country music, stick it out."
Although Akins, Knox and Hayslip all eclipsed him in total No. 1's, Aldean could take some comfort in the fact that Night Train, his current album, has alone yielded him four such hits.