Stories Behind The Hits

“These are the stories I get asked about. For a complete list of recordings and hits, see the Songwriting Discography link on this website. Thanks. Enjoy!” -BH

Alphabetical by ARTIST:

BORN COUNTRY (Byron Hill/John Schweers), 1992
Recorded by Alabama, RCA Records
Produced by Josh Leo, Larry Michael Lee, and Alabama
“Born Country was written while I was under contract with Collins Music. I co-wrote the song with veteran songwriter John Schweers. The original demo was sung by Joe Diffie (who began his recording career as a demo singer). Joe flawlessly sang the original demo for us in about ten minutes at County Q Studio. I started carrying the song around in my car, hoping to run into any of the guys from the band Alabama on the Music Row. Music Row is the area of Nashville where most of the music offices are. On February 19, 1991, I was writing in a small upstairs room at Collins Music (the house is gone now but was on the SW corner of Music Square West and Roy Acuff Place overlooking 17th Avenue, where Word Music is today) when my co-writer that day (Billy Lawson), pointed out the window and said “hey…there’s Teddy Gentry”. In a flash I was down the steps and out the back door heading around the building to try and meet Teddy. I stopped him in the street and handed him a copy of this song. Two weeks later they called and said they were going to record it. Producers Josh Leo and Larry Michael Lee took our song to new places with their great production work. The record went #1 in 1992 in R&R/Country, the Gavin Report, and #2 in Billboard/Country. Many years later Joe Diffie told me…. ‘Born Country was my Grandpa’s favorite song of all the demos and records I’ve done’. The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1991. Alabama’s recording of “Born Country” has been released on more than 16 albums, collections, and box sets. On August 25, 2016 the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened its Alabama: Song of the South exhibit. The exhibit details their journey to success through childhood mementos, musical instruments, tour memorabilia, awards, photographs, and includes the original ‘Born Country’ handwritten lyrics, written the day the song was created.” -BH

NOTHING ON BUT THE RADIO (Byron Hill/Odie Blackmon/Brice Long), 2004
Recorded by Gary Allan, Decca Records
Produced by Mark Wright, and Gary Allan
“It is hard to tell the he story of ‘Nothing On But The Radio’ without mentioning some of the history of my friendship and early work with Gary Allan. I was introduced to Gary on August 28, 1993 by a mutual friend, singer/songwriter, and talent-scout Jim Seal at a bar called the Lion D’or in Downey, CA. Jim Seal and I had planned to showcase another unsigned act at the Lion D’or that we were developing for another label to see. I had arranged to bring the head of A&R out to the show to see this other act perform. Gary Allan was performing there regularly as the house band and had agreed to kindly let us use his stage for the event, giving our act the opening performance slot that night. I promised Gary that I would make sure we all remained there to see his portion of the show. I was knocked out with Gary, and very impressed with his voice and stage presence. From that point on I began sending him songs. Without any serious funding at the time, Jim Seal and I arranged for Gary to go into Jim’s small studio in California to try his vocals on some of my existing demo tracks. After reviewing his performance on the tracks, I urged Gary to try to come up with the basic funds to go in a studio in Nashville with me and re-record the songs in keys that better fit his voice and try to make them sound like they belonged on the same project. Gary found some independent funding for the four-song demo. I signed Gary to an independent production agreement and we went into Javelina Studios in Nashville for a couple of days starting on September 11, 1995. We did a photo session on Gary and I immediately started showing the product. We had responses from various labels including serious interest from Mercury, RCA, and Decca. A planning meeting was held between me, Gary, and Don ‘Hoppy’ Jeffrey of KFRG Radio, during which we aligned our efforts. Don organized two key showcases for us in Los Angeles which put Gary on stage at two of his station’s KFRG nights at a local club, and I arranged for staffers at two labels to attend the showcases. Staffers from Decca attended the first showcase which was held on November 1, 1995. Decca immediately wanted to sign Gary, and knowing that I was lining up other labels to see him, Decca asked me to cancel the second showcase. We committed to the Decca offer. I gave up half of my production deal to get Gary signed to Decca, which I felt was a small price to pay for getting Gary’s career launched, plus I was assured that I would co-produce Gary for the entire deal. I went on to co-produce Gary’s first three albums for Decca. In the meantime, as a writer I had changed contracts from MCA Music to Starstruck Music was writing songs for various acts, and had recently co-written ‘Nothing On But The Radio’ with Odie Blackmon and Brice Long. We wrote the song in writer room #3 in Reba McEntire’s Starstruck building. Gary Allan really liked the song, and it continued to come up in meetings, but it just never made the final cut. Then, the merger of Polygram, Decca, and MCA Records brought some unexpected changes, and marked the closing of Decca and Gary was moved to MCA Records. The change hit us mid-stream as we were working hard at finding the direction and the songs for Gary’s third album which would become ‘Smoke Rings In The Dark’. I had remained on board as co-producer of ‘Smoke Rings In The Dark’, but because of the label merger and staffing shuffle….that would be my last project on Gary. The ‘See If I Care’ album (which I did not produce) came next, and it finally included our song ‘Nothing On But The Radio’. I like to say that it was Gary’s way of returning the favor of helping get his career started. Whether Gary feels that way or not, the single sure came along an important time for me, and went to #1 for two weeks in December of 2004, and won an ASCAP Award in 2005. I am particularly proud of my work with Gary Allan because it started from the ground-up and established an undeniable star who has been able to uniquely continue his career on his own terms. The ‘Used Heart For Sale’ album came out in 1996 and included the singles ‘Her Man’ (Robbins) that went to #7 (Billboard), ‘Forever And A Day’ (Dycus/Lauderdale) that went to #44 (Billboard), ‘From Where I’m Sitting’ (Brooks/Maxon) that went to #43 Billboard, and ‘Living In A House Full Of Love’ (Sherrill/Sutton) that went to #43 (Billboard). It was during the recording of the first album which began on March 11, 1996 that we also recorded ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ (Brown) and the song ‘It Must Have Been Ol’ Santa Claus’ (Connick), as added tracks to be packaged on various MCA Christmas compilations. The song ‘It Must Have Been Ol’ Santa Claus’ was written by Harry Connick. One day I came home and there was a personal message from Harry Connick on my answering machine thanking me for the recording, and he added a few of his New Orleans style lingo with a “very cool man!” compliment. That Christmas recording has been since released on at least four, maybe five Christmas compilations. Gary’s second album was the ‘It Would Be You’ album, which came out in 1998 and included the singles ‘It Would Be You’ (Robbins/Hunt) that went to #7 (Billboard), ‘No Man In His Wrong Heart’ (Bruce/Rogers) that went to #43 (Billboard), and ‘I’ll Take Today’ (Robinson/Robbins) that went to #47 (Billboard). Some of the singles from the second album were starting to hit the Billboard Pop chart as well. That album also had a cool hidden acoustic track called ‘No Judgement Day’ (Shamblin) that radio stations began giving airplay. The ‘Smoke Rings In The Dark’ album included the singles ‘Smoke Rings In The Dark’ (Rutherford/Robert) that went to #12 (Billboard), ‘Runaway’ (Shannon/Crook) an album cut that charted to #74 (Billboard), ‘Lovin’ You Against My Will’ (O’Hara)that went to #34 (Billboard), and ‘Right Where I Needed To Be’ (Beathard/Marvel) that went to #5 (Billboard). Several songs from those three albums I co-produced ended up on Gary’s Greatest Hits album, including  ‘Nothing On But The Radio’ (Hill/Blackmon/Long) which was Gary’s first #1 single. Gary has an identifiable voice. No one sounds like him, which is a real gift. I don’t think I have ever worked with a voice that is so forgiving of pitch and control. Gary’s texture and tone make every note sound good.” -BH

KEEPIN’ ME UP NIGHTS (Byron Hill/James Dean Hicks), 1990
Recorded by Asleep At The Wheel, Arista Records
Produced by Ray Benson
“James Dean Hicks used to tell me that he liked writing with me because I kept him away from writing so many ballads. Truthfully, if it hadn’t been for James’ great up-tempo guitar skills, we may not have written this one. I love the song, I love the cut, but it is a nightmare for me to play this one at showcases. I met Ray Benson several times, and he always impresses me as a real gentle giant. This was one of Asleep At The Wheel’s biggest radio hits, and finally it made it on one of their greatest hit packages. I was playing golf with Ray at Barton Springs in Austin, TX a few years after this was a hit and I asked him if it was going to be on the greatest hits album. Ray cracked me up when he said…..’Byron…that’s a dirty little song’. Oh well.” -BH

WHEN YOUR LIPS ARE SO CLOSE (Byron Hill/Brent Baxter/Gord Bamford), 2013
Recorded by Canadian artist Gord Bamford, Royalty Records/Canada, Cache/Sony Music Canada
Produced by Byron Hill, and Gord Bamford
“I produced five albums on Gord Bamford between 2004-2013 that generated chart activity from 2005-2015. The very talented lyricist Brent Baxter was one of many top songwriters I brought in to co-write for Gord’s projects along the way. One of the songs co-written with Brent was ‘When Your Lips Are So Close’. This song wasn’t just the product of a typical writing session. Gord had been on a good steadily-upward trajectory having just come off our very successful ‘Is It Friday Yet’ album in 2012, and it was a crucial time to keep the trajectory aimed high and find that impact up-tempo hit song that would take him even higher. I had put the word out among key songwriters that we needed something suitable for a cutting-edge American country hit to help with all the work I had been doing to try to get him a record deal in Nashville, and a song that wouldn’t alienate Gord’s slightly more traditional audiences in Canada. Brent presented the idea to me with a partial lyric, and the music came together perfectly. With some songs… you just know, and I knew before we even recorded it that this one would break new ground for Gord, and it did. It became a #1 single for Gord in Canada (2013), was awarded a CRIA Gold Digital Single Award (2013), became CCMA Single of the Year (2013) and in 2016 it was listed by Top Country Magazine as one of the ‘Top 10 Most Sold Digital Country Songs By Canadian Artists Of All Time’. This pinnacle single helped Gord’s 2013 ‘Country Junkie’ album complete its two-year run as arguably the biggest album of his career to-date, with a list of accolades that included a #1 single, a CRIA Gold Digital Single certification, two CCMA Single of the Year awards, two other Top-10 Country singles, one CCMA Song of the Year award, and a coveted JUNO nomination (our third) for Country Album of the Year. Other Gord Bamford chart singles (2004-2014) that I co-wrote over the years were; ‘God’s Green Earth’ (Hill/Blackmon/Grand), ‘My Heart’s A Genius’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘Life Is Good’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘I Would For You’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘We’re All Cowboys’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘Blame It On That Red Dress’ (Hill/Bamford/Turner), ‘Stayed Til Two’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘Postcard From Pasadena’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘Drinkin’ Buddy’ (Hill/Bamford/Irwin), ‘Honkytonks And Heartaches’ (Hill/Bamford)-UK only, ‘Baseball Glove’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘Day Job’ (Hill/Bamford), ‘Put Some Alcohol On It’ (Hill/Bamford/Brown), ‘My Daughter’s Father’ (Hill/Smith), ‘Hank Williams Lonesome’ (Hill/Bamford/Turner), ‘Is It Friday Yet’ (Hill/Bamford/Brown), ‘Disappearing Tail Lights’ (Hill/Bamford/Brown), ‘Farm Girl Strong’ (Hill/Bamford/McBride), ‘Must Be A Woman’ (Hill/Bamford/Rudd), and ‘When Your Lips Are So Close’ (Hill/Bamford/Baxter). Other chart singles that I didn’t write, but I produced on Gord were; ‘Hurtin’ Me Back’, ‘In The Palm Of Your Hands’ (released in the UK only), ‘Little Guy’, ‘Leaning On A Lonesome Song’, ‘Unreal’, ‘Where A Farm Used To Be’, and ‘Groovin’ With You’.”  -BH

FIND MY PEACE OF MIND (Byron Hill/Joel Rathjen/Ryan Langlois), 2013
Recorded by The Boom Chucka Boys, Royalty Records/Canada, Cache/Sony Music/Canada
Produced by Byron Hill, and Gord Bamford
“The band started in the club scenes back in 2010. I began working with them as their producer in the beginning of 2012. The long writing process resulted in their first aand self-titled CD. With a knack for walking the fine line between many musical styles… country, rock n’ roll, some gospel, and little bit of soul, the Boom Chucka Boys were amazing showmen and incredibly engaging with the live audiences that loved them. The first single from the album was ‘Find My Peace Of Mind’ (Hill/Langlois/Rathjen), which charted into the Canadian country top-forty in Billboard and Mediabase in 2013,  followed by their second single ‘Caffeine’ (Hill/Langlois/Rathjen). Though everyone hopes for a first-time-at-bat home run, neither of the singles did what we had hoped, but by most standards their first album tagged all the bases and set them up nicely. They were off and running. The album introduced them to a broader audience, and earned some unexpected accolades. They were nominated for 2014 CCMA Group of the Year, they won the 2014 ACMA Group of the Year and the ACMA Rising Star award. The album also earned me the 2013 CCMA Producer of the Year award.” -BH

I DON’T GIVE UP SO EASY (Byron Hill/Cyril Rawson/Marie Bottrell), 1991
Recorded by Marie Bottrell, Cardinal Records/Canada
Produced by Byron Hill, and Cyril Rawson
“By the time Marie asked Cyril Rawson and I to co-producer her, she’d already had huge success as a Country artist in Canada on RCA Records. In her earlier years she was nominated at RPM’s Big Country Awards in the Outstanding New Artist category, then won Outstanding Female Performer by RPM in 1979, scored eight JUNO nominations for Country Female Artist of the Year between 1979 and 1986, and won CCMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1983 and 1984. According to Allmusic Guide, she caused something of an upset when she was voted favorite female singer at the first Canadian Country Music Fans Awards, beating out the better-known Anne Murray and Carroll Baker. She toured with Lee Greenwood in 1984, toured with her own band Marie Bottrell & Cottonwood, and appeared on all of the popular shows of the day including; Tommy Hunter, The Joan Kennedy Show, Ronnie Prophet, The Family Brown Show and Ray St. Germain, and continued to follow with more Canadian chart hits. In 1989, she began recording for Cardinal Records, sang on the soundtrack of Border Town Cafe, and performed with Tracy Prescott and Anita Perras, as the group TREE-O. After being off the charts for a while, Marie wanted to write for a project, so at the urging of Cyril Rawson, the three of us started writing towards doing some recordings. I remember Marie used to bring her Mom with her and they would shop every chance they got while in Nashville whenever we weren’t in the studio. Cyril and I locked into a sound that worked well for her and we had some very good singles with Marie in Canada. The singles were ‘Lasso Your Love’ (Hill/Rawson/Bottrell), ‘I Don’t Give Up So Easy’ (Hill/Rawson/Bottrell), and ‘Like There’s No Tomorrow’ (Hill/Rawson/Bottrell). Several of the songs we co-wrote with Marie were covered by other artists and we had some significant singles on those as well. With multiple CCMA wins, Marie is very well known in the Canadian country music industry, and was inducted in the CCMA Hall of Fame in 2010.” -BH

NIGHTS (Byron Hill/Tony Hiller), 1986.
Recorded by Ed Bruce, RCA Records
Produced by Blake Mevis
“Tony Hiller and I wrote this swingin’ little number at Shoney’s Inn during one of Tony’s many trips to Nashville. My pal Blake Mevis (co-writer of ‘Fool Hearted Memory’) was Ed’s producer and the rest is history. It turned out to be a big hit for Ed, who is a great songwriter himself. I always considered it a true compliment to having a songwriter of Ed’s stature record this song. One thing about Ed that particularly impresses me is that he always gives the songwriters credit whenever he is on talk shows or whatever. He’s one of us. The success of this one was sweet and long overdue for Tony and I, as we have always written far more songs than any amount of cuts would ever justify. I remember getting our ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1986. Tony had a big smile on his face, a hint of tears in his eyes, and I held up my award at the table and kissed it. Our wives were smiling too. They knew how hard we had worked, for Tony and I to date have written nearly 500 songs together.” -BH

LIFESTYLES OF THE NOT SO RICH AND FAMOUS (Byron Hill/Wayne Tester), 1994
Recorded by Tracy Byrd, MCA Records
Produced by Jerry Crutchfield
“Wayne Tester walked in one day for a writing meeting and he unfolded a church program from the previous Sunday’s service. The theme had something to do with “lifestyles of the rich but not so famous” or some similar slant on the title of the TV show. Wayne wanted to write the idea with me. I came up with a better twist, changed the title, and we were up and running with what would become one of the biggest hits of Tracy Byrd’s career. Wayne is a piano guy and I remember telling him that we should write it on guitar. While writing I would see him leaning over towards the keys during out rough run-downs of the song. I would shake my head “no” and he would go back to slapping his knees or whatever. We both leaned heavily on our Carolina roots for this one. Wayne is from Blowing Rock, NC. Though neither of us grew up with cars on blocks in our yards, we both knew people who did. Not long after the song came out, Larry Flick, of Billboard magazine reviewed the song favorably, saying that the song is ‘chock full of hilarious white trash-isms’ and called it Byrd’s best single so far. The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1994.” -BH

THE PAGES OF MY MIND (Byron Hill/J. Remington Wilde), 1986
Recorded by Ray Charles, Columbia Records
Produced by Billy Sherrill, and Ray Charles
“J Wilde and I wrote this song in 1982. I always knew we had something special with this song, but it was really confirmed when I received a letter from Chet Atkins on January 25, 1984 saying how much he liked it. Chet’s letter was basically informing me that the song wasn’t right for the Perry Como project he was doing, but he wanted to hold on to it for a while. I was so proud of that letter that I sent it to my folks back in North Carolina, who still have it framed on their wall. Four years later, I was working in the studio one day when I got a phone call from Margie Hunt at CBS. She asked “Did you know that Ray Charles recorded one of your songs?” Then she said it was scheduled to be a single! Those kinds of calls are very rare. In this business, you sometimes hear stories about nice surprises that happen to people, or successes that come out of the blue and change people’s lives. This was one of those stories. I was on cloud nine when I heard the news, and to this day I’m back on cloud nine every time I think about Ray Charles having recorded one of my songs. I had been a Ray Charles fan since I was very young, back when my parents used to wear out his 1962 LP ‘Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music’. Twenty-four years later I couldn’t believe we had the title cut of a Ray Charles album! Sometime prior to the Ray Charles cut, we had heard that the famous Australian artist Frank Ifield had recorded the song for PRT Records, but we never could confirm that, and if it was recorded, to my knowledge it never was released.” –BH

FAMOUS FIRST WORDS (Byron Hill/JB Rudd), 1998
Recorded by Gil Grand, Monument Records
Produced by Byron Hill
“Gil and I first met on February 3rd, 1997 in Nashville. It was proposed by Canadian publisher Frank Davies that Gil and I explore writing towards a project for Gil. We wrote a bunch of songs and started recording demos two months later at MCA Music studios on April 7th, 1997. The sessions went so good that Gil and I realized that we needed to plan a showcase for him immediately.  We did the showcase on May 28th 1997, and two days later we had a deal offer from Sony’s newly re-activated Monument imprint.  Other labels joined in on the bidding and we went through months of tempting offers and arduous negotiations.  On October 13th 1997, we began recording Gil’s album. The Dixie Chicks were also signed to Monument and were already starting to create a buzz.  Monument launched Gil’s album with an unprecedented promotional campaign led by Larry Pareigis that included four well-funded and well-attended full-band acoustic showcases done in San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans and Austin.  We performed three of the showcases in recording studios in the first three cities on the tour for small groups of about 60 radio people.  The fourth showcase was done at the Voodoo Garden at the House of Blues in New Orleans’ French Quarter.  The band for all these shows was made up of Paul Worley on acoustic guitar, Todd Cerney on Mandolin, Laura Webber on Fiddle, me on acoustic guitar and background vocals, Liana Manis on background vocals, and Gil as the artist.  The shows went over very good, and the nights always ended with an expensive dinner all the Sony/Monument radio guys schmoosing the guests. There were a few gigs when we were traveling with the Dixie Chicks, and it was great fun watching them start to take off. A fifth and final launch showcase for Gil was done in St. Thomas.  The St. Thomas weekend was a much larger production with lights and sound equipment boated-in from San Juan.  An entire 300 room resort was booked for this event.  DJs and their spouses were flown in from all over to see Gil. Everyone’s expectations were high.  Unfortunately, the singles were released at the strangest time I’ve perhaps ever known for Country radio.  Things were rapidly changing.  It seemed that overnight, stations were being bought up by huge corporations, radio consultants were more involved than ever, the whole system of breaking new artists was being questioned, there were too many new artists, and there was a serious back-lash against traditional country, which was the sound that Gil had. Then, just when we began launching Gil’s singles, the Dixie Chicks hit even bigger and faster with huge historic success for Monument that no one anticipated. Monument’s promo staff was overwhelmed with the attention that they needed to give to the Dix Chicks. Gil became somewhat sidelined in the U.S., with most of the blame chalked up to unforeseeable bad timing.  Meanwhile, the push continued in Canada, and Gil’s success in Canada became a different story.  His singles, starting with “Famous First Words” made significant movement on the charts, all of which hit the top-ten on either the RPM or CMN Country chart, and Gil went on in 1999 to be nominated in several CCMA Award categories. The follow-up singles to ‘Famous First Words’ were ‘I Already Fell (Hill/Grand), ‘I Can’t Put Your Memory To Bed’ (Hill/Grand), ‘Spilled Perfume’ (Hill/Hiller), and I had another hit with Gil called ‘Burnin’ (Hill/Grand) on a later album that I didn’t produce.” -BH

THAT’S WHAT I AM (Byron Hill/Rob Shapiro/Stacie Roper/Darren Gusnowsky), 2010
Recorded by Hey Romeo, Royalty Records/Canada
Produced by Byron Hill, and Hey Romeo
“They started out as a cool band with a real funny name….Udder Madness. This was another of those situations where we met through a song of mine that they had recorded much earlier. Udder Maddness had released my song ‘Wrap These Around You’ (Hill/Spencer) as a single in 2005. The single went to #79 in CMN.  Much later, I teamed with them as Hey Romeo to work toward their ‘That’s What I Am’ album which was recorded in August of 2008 and released in 2010. I immediately learned that they were one of the hardest working bands in Canada, and because they were constantly on the road, their harmonies had developed into a terrific blend. In September of 2008, they won the CCMA Top New Talent of the Year (Group or Duo) award, so the timing was perfect for a new album and for me to get involved. The singles from that album were ‘Searchin’ For You’ (Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky/Banks), ‘That’s What I Am’  (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky), ‘Snap My Fingers’ (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky), ‘He Still Calls Me Baby’ (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky), and ‘Hello’ (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky). The second album that I produced was ‘Twist Of Fate’ which was released in 2012, and contained the singles  ‘Jump Back In’ (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky), ‘Maybe You Remember Me Now’ (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky), ‘It’s A House’ (Hill/Shapiro/Roper/Gusnowsky), and ‘Twist Of Fate’ (Shapiro/Gusnowsky/Roper/Johnson). As their producer, I only worked with them for the two albums, but both of those albums and their extensive touring took them to win the CCMA Group of the Year award in 2011 and 2012. They are a lot of fun to write with. We spent many days together working on songs, and we still write whenever they come to Nashville.” -BH

HIGH-TECH REDNECK (Byron Hill/Zack Turner), 1994
Recorded by George Jones, MCA Records
Produced by Buddy Cannon, and Norro Wilson
“Zack Turner and I wrote some of our best songs either in my kitchen or on the front porch of the small house he and his family lived in at the time on Colorado Avenue. We never let our writing get above our “Carolina boy” raising. This was a fun one to write and a real thrill to have recorded by such a legend. Both Zack (N4ZFM) and I (KD4KMQ) are licensed amateur radio operators (“hams”), though all my ham radios are stored away and it has been years since I’ve even keyed a mic. We drew from some of that radio knowledge while writing the lyrics. We even included “Ronnie Milsap” in the lyrics. Ronnie (WB4KCG) is a “ham”. Unrelated to this song, it might be interesting to some that Patty Loveless (KD4WUJ) an her husband/producer Emory Gordy, Jr. (W4WRO) are “hams”, as was the late and great Chet Atkins (WA4CZD). There’s a lot of ham radio stuff in this story, but I’ve sure met a lot of those enthusiasts and I know how much they enjoy the hobby.” -BH

POLITICS, RELIGION AND HER (Byron Hill/Tony Martin), 1997
Recorded by Sammy Kershaw, Mercury Records
Produced by Keith Stegall
“This was the first song Tony Martin and I wrote together. We met at the urging of Mike Sebastian, who then worked for MCA Music over at the old offices on 17th Avenue. It was Tony’s title. I got out my guitar and in no time a melody and some words rolled onto the tape. We finished it in about 45 minutes. It was like the song just fell into our laps. Another “early lunch day”! We both knew right then that it would be a hit for someone. The Sammy Kershaw record was great, and his video was even better. Our original lyric had the line “let’s talk about fast cars”, but Sammy changed it to “let’s talk about NASCARs”. Tony and I have written a small but very strong catalog together. Tony is one of those writers who never writes anything down during the writing process. I notice this every time we write together because it reminds me so much of another great writer I knew and wrote some with, Roger Bowling.” -BH

PICKIN’ UP STRANGERS (Byron Hill), 1981
Recorded by Johnny Lee, Warner Brothers Records
Produced by Jim Ed Norman
“During the summer of 1980, I had been given an assignment by my publisher Gerry Teifer, to write a song for the movie ‘Coast To Coast’, starring Robert Blake and Dyan Cannon. I took a copy of the script home. I had only 24 hours to read the script, write the song, do a work tape, and get the song on the plane to Los Angeles. I wrote an entire song by midnight that I thought may work, but I had some doubts about it. I went to bed and set my alarm for 4:00am. I decided to trash the first song, then “Pickin’ Up Strangers” fell out of my head in about 15 minutes. I hurriedly left my apartment on West End for the office. I got there about 6:00am and went into the little studio there to do a work tape. I had the song on the plane that afternoon and the producers in L.A. loved it. It was recorded by Johnny Lee very soon thereafter, and eventually was released on the soundtrack LP, then as a single (twice), and caused the re-mastering of Johnny Lee’s ‘Lookin’ For Love’ LP, which was pulled briefly from distribution after 100,000 units or so were released. They re-mastered the LP to include my song. I now have two ‘Lookin’ For Love’ albums on my shelf, one with “Pickin’ Up Strangers” on the LP, the other without. The song that they deleted from the LP, became the B-Side of ‘Pickin’ Up Strangers’. I remember back then fearing the day that I would ever meet Donny Lowery, the writer of the deleted song. many years later, Donny and I laughed about it. Great guy. The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1981.” -BH

THE STRONG ONE (Byron Hill/Cyril Rawson), 1998
Recorded by Mila Mason, Atlantic Records
Produced by Blake Mevis
“Mila Mason has one of the most expressive country voices I have ever heard. I was so pleased with this cut, and the depth of feeling that Mila was able to put into the performance. This song seems to have an effect on people far and beyond mine and Cyril’s expectations. It is definitely a woman’s song and one that makes me proud as a man to have been able to write. The meaning in this song goes beyond the basic man-woman relationship. I believe everyone may have something going on in their life that may cause them to be touched by this one. More than just lyrics that were designed to entertain, these lyrics reach out more than most I’ve written. Mila dedicated her cut to Rick Blackburn (then head of Atlantic Records Nashville) and his wife Susie, and I heard that for special personal reasons that Rick and Susie really loved this song. That meant a lot to me. Sixteen years later in 2016, Canadian artist Lynne Taylor Donovan took it to the #1 spot on the UK Hotdisc chart for three weeks.” – BH

IF I WAS A DRINKIN’ MAN (Byron Hill/JB Rudd), 1996
Recorded by Neal McCoy, Atlantic Records
Produced by Barry Beckett
“JB Rudd is an inspired man, who has a knack of putting some stark true life into his ideas without ruining the commercial edge. I don’t know exactly how much of this idea JB has lived, but we both understand the message well, which also hit home with some fans out there. I played the song once at the NAMM convention in the Taylor Guitars booth, and a fellow came up to me later and asked “so, how long have you known Bill?”. Some people out there know Bill and what that means. Neal McCoy was a brave man to record it, and I am as proud of this cut as any song I’ve ever had recorded. People tell me all the time that this is their favorite Neal McCoy song. Barry Beckett produced a magical recording. The acoustic guitar work on the record is stellar. The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1995. The Neal McCoy recording is something I like to post on social media every April, which is Alcohol Awareness month.” -BH

OVER YOU (Byron Hill/Tony Hiller), 1995
Recorded by Anne Murray, Capitol Records
Produced by David Foster
“Tony Hiller and I wrote “Over You” way back in 1984. Our good friend, the late and great Canadian singer Colleen Peterson sang the original demo, which immediately cast the song in the direction of Anne Murray. Somehow it got to Anne, and David Foster produced the recording on her sometime around 1984 or 1985. Tony Hiller and I were very disappointed then to find out then that it had been bumped from the album. Amazingly, nearly ten years later, I was at the CCMA Awards in Calgary, when one of Anne’s staffers approached me to tell me that Anne was searching through her old masters to find a recording she could used as a single to promote her hits album, to be titled The Best So Far. The recording caught everyone’s ear, they tracked down the master (which had long since been stored at an engineer’s home in Los Angeles under his bed…so the story goes). One thing lead to another and the recording was spruced up, remixed, and finally released as a single and released on Anne’s album in 1994 (ten years later!). It meant the world to Tony Hiller and I. We’re very proud of the cut. The story doesn’t end here. Seems the song is full of surprises. Fifteen years later (Feb. 2009), I was writing again with Tony, and we decided to look up the Anne Murray cut and see what the sales were. We discovered that the album had been certified Gold and Platinum by the CRIA (Canada).” -BH

SIZE MATTERS (Someday) (Byron Hill/Mike Dekle), 2006
Recorded by Joe Nichols, Universal South
Produced by Buddy Cannon
“Joe has recorded three of my songs, each co-written with my good friend Mike Dekle. We thought we’d get a single from at least one of Joe’s first two CDs, but that didn’t happen. I guess the third time is the charm. We are thrilled with “Size Matters” and with Buddy Cannon’s great production. No doubt, Joe has one of the best voices to ever hit the Country charts. We’re proud to be a small part of his career! This is one of those song titles that I imagine just about every professional songwriter in Nashville has in their catalog. Fairly often I listen to the radio and say “darn….there goes another title!” referring to some song that beat mine to the charts. That’s how it kind of goes for these topical songs built on phrases that are part of the everyday conversational fashion. I can’t remember any odd story about this one. Mike and I just cranked it out one day at the house I used to live in on Brighton Road in Nashville. Like many co-writers, we have a huge catalog of great songs, yet so few singles to show for it. If catalog size matters, the songs will find their way…someday! The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 2005.” -BH

I BROKE IT, I’LL FIX IT (Byron Hill/Buzz Cason), 1997
Recorded by River Road, Capitol Records
Produced by Scott Hendricks, and Gary Nicholson
“I walked into Buzz Cason’s studio in Berry Hill completely void of ideas. It was our first time writing together. His secretary had ushered me into the studio to wait while Buzz fielded a few phone calls. I looked around the room, remembering having recorded there fifteen years or so earlier. I noticed how nothing had changed much. Buzz walked in and I complimented him on the room saying “I guess if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it”. He agreed , we talked a bit, then he stepped out for another call. I kept thinking about that thought, and came up with a twist on it. Buzz stayed gone just long enough for me to set the direction for the hook and a bit of the music on his beautiful grand piano. He came back in the room and we wrote like old friends, like we had written hundreds of songs together. He’s a real pro. We nailed it by lunch, and in one more follow-up meeting we wrote a bridge. I wish they would all happen this way. River Road’s heartfelt performance and beautiful production by Scott Hendricks and Gary Nicholson made for some very gratifying moments listening to this recording. The band River Road got their start down in Louisana area and made a sizeable mark on the country charts with several other hit singles including ‘Nickajack’ and ‘Somebody Will’.” – BH

ALRIGHT ALREADY (Byron Hill/JB Rudd), 1993
Recorded by Larry Stewart, RCA Records
Produced by Scott Hendricks, and Larry Stewart
“Larry was at one time the quintessential demo singer. He worked constantly all over town singing for writers, publishers, and jingle producers. He must have sang nearly a hundred song demos for me before he became the lead member of Restless Heart. I never imagined Larry recording this song. I originally pitched it for Brooks & Dunn, but it has turned out to be a signature recording for Larry as a soloist. JB Rudd, a fellow North Carolina boy, came up with this title, and we wrote it rather quickly, possibly just in time for that early lunch. JB and I love this cut. It is interesting to me how such a simple song became the biggest solo hit for a guy as broadly talented as Larry. Proof again that simple is sometimes better. The song earned a ASCAP Award and a BMI Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1993. BMI also awarded their “Millionaire” award for this song.” – BH

FOOL HEARTED MEMORY (Byron Hill/Blake Mevis), 1982
Recorded by George Strait, MCA Records
Produced by Blake Mevis
“The song ‘Fool Hearted Memory’ was written in 1981 in a small, upstairs, southwest corner room at 1217 16th Avenue South in Nashville, which is the building where my publisher… ATV Music’s offices were. I had recently written and produced a track for the movie ‘The Exterminator’, and the same production company came back to me for another song for another movie called ‘The Soldier’. Thanks to ATV Music’s Gerry Teifer (my publisher then) and MCA Records’ Jim Foglesong, and producer Blake Mevis, a deal was done that included giving a young new MCA recording artist a cameo role in the movie singing a song that ideally could be on his album and on the soundtrack album, and a potential hit single. That new MCA artist was George Strait, and he was a perfect match for the movie and the song. I co-wrote the song with Blake Mevis, whose masterful vision as a producer on this song began from the moment we wrote it. Blake went home that night and did a killer little 4-Track demo on the song, creating the signature riff and the feel that would become the template for his amazing recording on George. ‘Fool Hearted Memory’ became a historic first number one record for George Strait and my first number one as a songwriter. Prior to this, Strait had debuted at #6 with ‘Unwound’ (Dycus/Dillon). He followed that up with a single that went to #15 called ‘Down and Out’ (Dycus/Dillon), then charted to #3 with ‘If You’re Thinking You Want a Stranger’ (Mevis/Wills). His fourth release was “Fool Hearted Memory” which hit the top of the charts on August 28, 1982. The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1982. An interesting thing happened 32 years later when Jason Aldean was a guest on George’s final The Cowboy Rides Away tour. Jason selected “Fool Hearted Memory” as one of the two songs he wanted to sing with George Strait on the tour, first in Bossier City, LA on January 9, 2014, and again the next night in Austin, TX. George kept the song in his set-list for the rest of the tour, and consequently the performance of the song by Jason and George made it on the ‘George Strait-The Cowboy Rides Away’ CMT special, and the final tour album on MCA records, and a special DVD release of George’s final show on Eagle Rock Entertainment. Strait’s recording of “Fool Hearted Memory” has been released on more than a dozen albums, collections, and box sets.” -BH

OUT OF YOUR MIND (Byron Hill/Dennis Knutson), 1980
Recorded by Joe Sun, Ovation Records
Produced by Brien Fisher
“This was my very first hit single. It was the follow-up to Joe’s hit of “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You”. Ovation Records was the hot independent label in town at the time, with several other successful artists including The Kendalls.  Brien Fischer, head of Ovation Records, was one of the first producers to introduce the clavichord keyboard sound and the phase-shift guitar sound to Country, and his records hit time and time again with those rhythmical yet swimming textures. Joe Sun and I became friends through ATV Music publisher Jon Stone. I still see Joe now and then. His fans in Germany and other European countries have supported him long after his American radio success faded. Just about every time I see Joe these days, he’s headed off to another short European tour. Joe’s voice is very unique and I think he’d fit perfectly in today’s Americana market. A true artist. The song won an ASCAP Award for being one of the most performed country songs of 1979.” – BH

WHITE PALACE (Byron Hill/Zack Turner), 1994
Recorded by Clay Walker, Giant Records
Produced by James Stroud
“I remember when I came off the road from my first writing trip with Tracy Byrd. Tracy and I were driving back to Nashville with publicist Melissa Mathews. Tracy was driving and kept talking about this guy Clay Walker and Clay’s cut of my song “White Palace”. Tracy had an advance cassette copy of the album. We played it several times on the way back to Nashville. I didn’t know Clay, but I soon realized that Clay was going places. I kept my fingers crossed, hoping that we would get a radio single, but it never happened. Anyone who spent time in the country music clubs in the mid-90s will remember this song as a huge club hit for Clay. For some reason though, in spite of Clay’s wishes and the success of the recording in the clubs, and the fact that it hit the Billboard singles chart, it was never an official radio single and remained just a club hit and a two-million seller an album cut.  Zack and I had a lot of fun writing it. It was another of those front porch songs that benefited from that little house of Zack’s over on Colorado Avenue.” – BH

[All story material on this page is Copyrighted by Byron Hill, and may not be used, quoted or republished without permission.]