Songwriter Series

Matraca Berg

November 16, 2008 // 0 Comments

When women became the dominant creative force in country music during the mid-nineties, it wasn’t just on the strength of their vocal talents, but also because of their excellent choice of material. No single songwriter supplied more of that quality material than Matraca Berg, one of the most prominent and successful female country songwriters in country music history. Most songwriter stories begin with their journey to Nashville, but Matraca Berg was born in Music City. She grew up thinking that she’d either be a lawyer or a songwriter, and she later quipped that once she dropped out of high school, it was obvious that law wasn’t an option. Not that it mattered much. Berg was only eighteen when she met up with songwriter legend Bobby Braddock (”D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today”), who was very impressed with her self-written songs and suggested they pair up to write on together. The Read More

Tom T. Hall

November 6, 2008 // 5 Comments

Tom T. Hall, one of the finest storytellers ever in country music, tells tales of great insight and description that have earned him a place among Nashville’s songwriting elite. His sense of clarity and an offbeat style have translated into true respect and admiration in Music City. Hall, the son of a bricklaying minister, began learning music from an early age.   At age 11, his mother died, and our years later his father was shot in a hunting accident.  In order to support himself and his father, Hall quit school and took a job in a local garment factory. While he was working in the factory, he formed his first band, the Kentucky Travelers.  In 1957, Hall enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Germany. While in Germany, he performed at local NCO clubs on the Armed Forces Radio Network, where he sang mostly original material. After four years Read More

Dean Dillon

November 1, 2008 // 6 Comments

Although he started his career in front of a microphone, Dean Dillon soon transitioned into one of the finest songwriters in Nashville, notably enhancing the careers of one of its legends and illustrating an uncommon power in melody and verse. Dean Dillon, born on March 26, 1955, in Lake City, TN, was entranced with country music from an early age. At 15, he appeared in a local Knoxville variety show as a songwriter and performer, and that experience stirred his interest in a career of performing. Soon after arriving in Nashville as a teenager, Dillon accepted a job at the Opryland theme park. In 1976, he landed the role of Hank Williams in the Country Music Show at Opryland. While there, a friend introduced him to songwriter John Schweers, who became Dillon’s mentor. Three weeks later, Barbara Mandrell recorded three of Dillon’s songs. In 1979, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius had a Read More

Don Schlitz

October 11, 2008 // 4 Comments

Few songwriters in Nashville have reached the dizzying heights of Don Schlitz. His mantle full of awards and his prominence on the charts for the better part of three decades has made Schlitz an integral part of country music’s rich heritage of storytelling songs. Don Schlitz was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. He briefly attended Duke University before moving to Nashville in 1973. After his arrival, Schlitz served as a computer operator at Vanderbilt University, but continued to write songs for five years before his big break.  With “The Gambler”, Schlitz’ career finally moved forward. The classic tale of a man learning how to “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em” enraptured country music audiences upon its release in 1978. The story of a young man and a train-traveling sage earned the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1979 and received the CMA honor for Single Read More

Bobby Braddock

September 19, 2008 // 0 Comments

As one of Nashville’s premier songwriters, Bobby Braddock has spoken the language of many a country music fan, a talent that has surpassed a number of his peers for its sheer depth of creativity and connection to the audience. Braddock was born in Auburndale, Florida, attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland for two years. The first recording of one of Braddock’s songs occurred in 1961, on D.J. Records, an independent record label that operated out of Auburndale. Braddock played piano in several rock and roll bands locally and around the state, and throughout the southeast, but soon migrated to Music City. After moving to Nashville in 1964, Braddock landed a job at a music store, and eventually he was offered a gig playing piano in Marty Robbins’ tour band. In 1966, Robbins recorded and released Braddock’s song, “While You’re Dancing.” Bobby worked around town as a session player before signing Read More

Dallas Frazier

September 11, 2008 // 9 Comments

Dallas Frazier, born in 1939, in Spiro, Oklahoma, is one of the defining songwriters of his or any other generation, penning classic songs that remain popular with core country music artists to this day. His lasting impression on the genre will be one of superb perception and purpose that led to a significant number of career-defining hits. Raised in Bakersfield, CA, Frazier learned to play a variety of musical instruments as taught by his parents. This early start saw him achieve tremendous success in his teenage years. He served as featured member of Ferlin Husky’s band, cutting his first solo single, “Space Command,” in 1954. In 1957, Frazier scored a hit when the Hollywood Argyles covered his “Alley Oop,” a novelty song that nonetheless set his career into a higher gear. When Hometown Jamboree, a popular TV show in which Frazier starred, was canceled in the late 1950s, Frazier and Read More

Kris Kristofferson

August 30, 2008 // 3 Comments

On his tombstone, Kris Kristofferson has requested the first three lines of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” to be engraved: Like a bird on a wire/Like a drunk in a midnight choir/I have tried in my way to be free. The words speak to the free-spirited nature of the singer-songwriter. As a hillbilly poet, few can match his intelligence, his eloquence and his ability to capture a mood and a moment with each verse. He has created a legend as a songwriter, but also gained fame and acclaim as a singer, actor and musician. Born in Brownsville, Texas, Kristofferson’s parents were Mary Ann and Lars Henry Kristofferson, a U.S. Air Force major general. During his childhood, his father pushed his Kristofferson toward a military career, and he would join the U.S. Army (and later rise to the status of captain) in the early 1960s. Throughout his younger years, Kristofferson’s family Read More

Harlan Howard

August 23, 2008 // 0 Comments

“I like to give artists a song they have to sing the rest of their lives. Songwriting is both my living and my pleasure, so I’m a happy man.” ~ Harlan Howard The dean of country music songwriters, Harlan Howard paved the way for all future practitioners of his craft, lending an authenticity and eloquence to the music that will last for the ages. Through five decades of classic songs, Howard put his indelible stamp on the country music industry through sheer genius and, like many fellow artists and songwriters, rose through the ranks with country music as a constant love through a hardscrabble life. Born and raised in a Michigan farm town, Howard, an orphan, was first drawn to country music by his weekly appointments with the Grand Ole Opry radio shows on Nashville’s WSM radio. This love affair with the music continued when he traveled to Nashville on Read More

Darrell Scott

August 16, 2008 // 8 Comments

Darrell Scott was born on a tobacco farm in 1959 in London, Kentucky, but was raised in East Gary, Indiana where his father worked as a steel worker. When he was eleven, his family moved to Southern California where his musical father, Wayne, started a band comprised of Darrell and his four brothers. His father’s band played in roadhouses and taverns all over the United States, including traveling as far North as Alaska. After studying Literature and earning a degree in Poetry at Tufts University, Darrell finally moved to Nashville to realize his dream of singing and songwriting in the Music City. For a while, he worked as a skilled session musician and played guitar and banjo on albums for people such as Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Steve Earle and Guy Clark, among others. The first of his songs to be recorded was “No Way Out,” which was released by Read More