Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Schlitz discusses his songwriting career—encompassing more than fifty Top Ten country hits, including the Grammy and CMA Award-winning Kenny Rogers chart-topper “The Gambler”—during this 2011 interview, part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Poets & Prophets series.
The hits Schlitz discusses range from “The Gambler,” his very first record cut, to 1980s mega-hits “On the Other Hand” and “Forever and Ever, Amen” for Randy Travis, and modern country classics including “When You Say Nothing at All” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her.”
Schlitz also performs several songs during the program, including “I Watched It All (On My Radio),” “Allergic to Crazy,” and parts of many more to illustrate his points.
During the conversation with the Museum's Michael Gray, Schlitz talks about his youth growing up in Durham, North Carolina, and how his love of music on the radio and reading put him on a path to songwriting. He remembers his early scuffling years in Nashville after arriving in 1973, writing songs on the side while he held down a job in the Vanderbilt University computer center, and how fellow songwriter and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bob McDill listened to his songs and encouraged him, along with songwriters Jim Rushing and Dave Loggins.
Schlitz also talks about the twists and turns that ultimately led to Kenny Rogers recording “The Gambler,” and how that enormous hit changed Schlitz’s life and launched him as a respected songwriter. He touches on his brief career as a recording artist with Capitol Records before he began focusing solely on songwriting, and delves into his co-writing collaborations, including those with Paul Overstreet, Brent Maher, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Offering insight into what’s become a Nashville songwriting institution, Schlitz explains how he and his songwriter pal Fred Knobloch convinced Bluebird Café owner Amy Kurland in 1987 to try something new at the little Nashville nightclub: allowing them and their fellow songwriters Paul Overstreet and Thom Schuyler to try an acoustic, in-the-round songwriter performance format. They became an immediate hit, making the Bluebird’s reputation as a songwriter venue and widely popularizing the in-the-round performance format along the way.
Don Schlitz’s Poets & Prophets interview and performance also includes vintage photographs, video footage, and recordings.
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