DON SCHLITZ: A DESERVED AWARD
says Norman Warwick
after reading Alex Hooper at American Songwriter
The Gambler, When You Say Nothing At All and Forever and Ever Amen are songs that every country fan knows like the sidetracks and detours —we take to get home in time for our favourite country music programme or like an old friend that you could sit and listen to for hours.
Though you probably have matched the faces of Kenny Rogers, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis to these songs, there is another name that deserves its dues: Don Schlitz.(left)
As Rogers once put it, while inducting Schlitz into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, “Don doesn’t just write songs, he writes careers.”
Schlitz has written chart-toppers for Randy Travis, The Judds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tanya Tucker, Alison Krauss among others. He collaborated with Mary Chapin Carpenter (right) , too, after writing her hit He Thinks He´ll Keep Her, one of her biggest hits.With a discerning eye on the world and an ear-worm melody or two, Schlitz has struck gold across decades of country music.
While his efforts have earned him inductions into both the national and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Grammy, and ACM Awards, Schlitz marked yet another milestone this week: an induction into the Grand Ole Opry. On top of what would already be a momentous occasion for any musician, Schlitz’s induction was made even sweeter as he became the first non-artist songwriter to ever receive the coveted invitation.
Schlitz received his invite from his longtime friend and colleague, Vince Gill. As Schlitz recalled on stage at the induction, Gill brought the songwriter along for a night of work at the Opry house. During Gill’s set, he surprised Schlitz by bringing him out onto the famed circle and asking him if he’d like to stay a while. “I’m gonna be a member of the Grand Ole Opry! Can I bring my songs with me?” Schlitz said at the time.
The night of the induction, Schlitz shared the stage with Riders In The Sky, Aaron Tippin, 49 Winchester, The War and Treaty, Gary Mule Deer, Charlie Worsham, and Gill. Ahead of the titular moment, Schlitz made things official by screwing his nameplate into the Opry wall surrounded by those of other country icons —some of which he played a part in creating their most famed songs.
Before Schlitz even took the stage, he was being honoured as his predecessor in the line-up, Worsham, played one of his penned tracks Oscar The Angel, by Randy Travis (left) . A testament to Schlitz’s poignant lyricism, Worsham crooned out the bridge:
Now, I’m not about to argue
Oscar’s train had jumped the track
But I’ll bet my last dollar on the plain and simple fact
Oscar never said a word about me behind my back
And the way that I was raised to understand
Well, that alone, it makes him the better man.
Soon after, Schlitz took the stage with his guitar and golden songbook in hand. He began by addressing the crowd, beating them to the punch by joking, “I know what you’re thinking, ‘I have no idea who this is.”
The knowing laugh of the crowd was quickly turned to a chorus of voices singing along as Schlitz started up the first lines of “The Gambler.”
After playing the Rogers track, followed by another crowd pleaser, When You Say Nothing At All, Schlitz explained that he feels his role is to be a bridge between the crowd’s favourite artists that may not be around to sing for them anymore—to act as a placeholder for that relationship. It was around this time the crowd was gifted a surprise appearance from Randy Travis, who sat at the side of the stage while Schlitz sang Forever and Ever, Amen—another one of his credits.
photo 4 vince gill After the performance came the induction. Gill came out on stage with the Opry trophy in tow—an antique microphone atop a piece of original Ryman Auditorium wood. The two reminisced about their friendship and Schlitz’s enduring impact on the country world as he took his place as the latest member of the time-honoured club.
The primary sources for this piece was written for the print and on line media was a piece written by Alex Hooper and published in American Songwriter. Authors and Titles have been attributed in our text wherever possible
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For a more comprehensive detail of our attribution policy see our for reference only post on 7th April 2023 entitled Aspirations And Attributions.