Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame to induct five of Music City’s finest

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame to induct five of Music City’s finest

 Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 to be honored at November Gala

 By Preshias Harris for Country Music News International


Country music fans think of Nashville as a city built on the success that many Country recording artists found in the studios of Music City.  But the artists themselves will readily tell you that the real stars are the songwriters.  When Number One parties are held in Nashville, they celebrate the songwriters who wrote the chart-toppers, rather than the singers and bands on the recording. The 1982 hit song “16th Avenue” (written by Thom Schuyler and recorded by Lacy J. Dalton) summed it up this way: “God bless the boys who make the noise on 16th Avenue,” referring to one of the streets than comprise Nashville’s fabled Music Row.


For many years, the songwriting community mainly consisted of “boys” (and old boys) and while more females are now seeing their names on songwriting credits, only one female writer will be among the inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Class of 2021.


Amy Grant, Toby Keith, Rhett Akins, Buddy Cannon and John Scott Sherrill will be inducted into the Hall this November, according to an announcement made July 13 by Sarah Cates, chair of the organization’s board of directors, and Mark Ford, its executive director.


The five new inductees-elect will join the 213 previously inducted members of the elite organization when they are officially inducted during the “50/51” Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Monday, November 1, at the Music City Center.  Because the organization’s 50th Anniversary celebration was postponed last year, this year’s event will honor two classes in a special double-sized event that will also spotlight NaSHOF’s previously named Class of 2020:  Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Kent Blazy, Brett James and Spooner Oldham.


“Nashville has always been the home of legendary songs written by the world’s finest songwriters – and this class is no exception,” said Cates during the announcement of the inductees. “It’s our great honor today to welcome our class of 2021:  Rhett Akins and Buddy Cannon in the songwriter category; John Scott Sherrill in the veteran songwriter category; Toby Keith as our songwriter/artist and Amy Grant as our veteran songwriter/artist.”


Induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame is an honor recognized throughout the music industry. Songwriter (and 1997 Hall of Fame inductee) Roger Cook summed up the importance of Music City when he told me, “Nashville is the only place where people are still writing ‘story’ songs.”


The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala is one of the music industry’s premier events of the year.  The evening features tributes and performances of the inductees’ songs by special guest artists.  In recent years, artists such as Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Jimmy Buffett, Ronnie Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton, Marty Stuart, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner and Trisha Yearwood have performed at or participated in the event.


Here are the brief biographies of the five 2021 inductees, provided by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame:



Valdosta, Georgia, native Rhett Akins began his professional music career as a performer at San Antonio’s Fiesta Texas theme park.  In 1992, he made the move to Nashville.  Initially a performer at Opryland theme park, he also worked as a demo singer, later signing a recording contract with Decca Records.  As an artist, Rhett topped the charts in the mid-1990s with “Don’t Get Me Started” and his signature song, “That Ain’t My Truck.”  By the later 2000s, Rhett was writing songs for other artists, including “Put A Girl In It” by Brooks & Dunn, “What’s Your Country Song” by Thomas Rhett, “All About Tonight” by Blake Shelton and “Boys ’Round Here” by Blake Shelton w/ Pistol Annies & Friends.  Rhett also wrote “All Over Me” by Josh Turner (the 2011 BMI Country Song of the Year), “Honey Bee” by Blake Shelton (the 2012 ASCAP Country Song of the Year), “Take A Back Road” by Rodney Atkins (the 2012 BMI Country Song of the Year) and “It Goes Like This” by Thomas Rhett (the 2014 ASCAP Country Song of the Year).  Rhett was named BMI Country Songwriter of the Year in 2011 and 2014.  He was the 2017 ACM Songwriter of the Year and the 2019 ACM Songwriter of the Decade.



Buddy Cannon was born in Lexington, Tennessee.  He began his diverse career as a songwriter/singer/musician/publisher/producer/label executive in the early 1970s as bass player in Bob Luman’s band, later making the jump to play in Mel Tillis’ band and write for his publishing company.  During their 11 years together, Tillis recorded several of Buddy’s songs, including the chart-topping “I Believe In You.”  Throughout his career, Buddy’s keen song sense has served him well in the studio, helping select and record hit songs for artists ranging from Shania Twain to Kenny Chesney to Willie Nelson, with whom he has written regularly since 2008.  Buddy’s credits as a songwriter include “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” by Billy Ray Cyrus, “Look At Us” by Craig Morgan, “I’ve Come To Expect It From You” by George Strait, the Vern Gosdin hits “I’m Still Crazy,” “Set ’Em Up Joe” and “Dream Of Me,” as well as the Sammy Kershaw hits “Anywhere But Here” and “If You’re Gonna Walk, I’m Gonna Crawl.”  “Give It Away” by George Strait was named the 2007 ACM Song and Single of the Year and also the 2007 CMA Song of the Year.



Oklahoma native Toby Keith received his first guitar at age eight.  After high-school graduation, he worked in the oil fields by day and played with his band at night.  In the early ’90s, one of his demo tapes found its way to producer Harold Shedd, who signed him to a deal with Mercury Records.  In 1993 Toby’s solo-written debut single, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” reached #1 on the Country chart and would go on to become the most played Country song of the 1990s.  As an artist, he has placed 45 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard charts, including 16 #1s and 17 more in the Top 10.  Among those compositions are “You Ain’t Much Fun,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” “Beer For My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” “American Soldier,” “A Little Too Late” and “God Love Her.”  “As Good As I Once Was” was BMI’s 2006 Country Song of the Year.  Among his many awards, he was named BMI’s 2001 Songwriter of the Year, 2004 Writer/Artist of the Year and 2006 Songwriter of the Year.  He was NSAI’s 2003, 2004, 2006 Songwriter/Artist of the Year, as well as that organization’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade (2000-2009).  He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York in 2015.



Raised in Nashville, Amy Grant was signed to a record deal at age 16 and was a star by the late ’70s.  Her singer-songwriter fusion of Pop, Rock, Gospel and ’70s Jesus-music created a fresh, new sound that kick-started the Contemporary Christian genre and led to the first Platinum-selling album in the new genre’s history — her 1982 breakthrough, Age to Age.  By the mid-’80s, Amy was reaching Pop audiences with hits such as “Find A Way” and “Lead Me On.”  Her blockbuster 1991 album, Heart in Motion, generated the multi-genre hits “Baby Baby,” “Every Heartbeat,” “Good For Me,” “I Will Remember You” and “That’s What Love Is For.”  Another song from this era, “Place In This World,” written with and performed by, Michael W. Smith, earned the 1992 GMA Song of the Year.  Amy’s catalog also includes the hymnal mainstay “Thy Word,” as well as her signature holiday standard “[Tender] Tennessee Christmas.”  As an artist, she has placed 36 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard and Contemporary Christian music charts, including 12 #1s and 18 more in the Top 10. She was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2003.  Amy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.



John Scott Sherrill was raised in Chappaqua, New York, and in Uganda and Bolivia by parents who were book and magazine writers.  Drawn at an early age to Folk, Country and Rock music, he played coffeehouses in Boston and spent time as a musician in Amsterdam.  In 1975, on his way to California, John Scott decided to remain in Music City and soon signed a songwriting deal with Combine Music.  By 1982, he had his first #1 hit – “Wild And Blue” by John Anderson (later recorded by Hank Williams, Jr., Alan Jackson and Lucinda Williams).  Throughout the ’80s and into the 2000’s, John Scott enjoyed more #1 hits: “Some Fools Never Learn” by Steve Wariner, “That Rock Won’t Roll” by Restless Heart, “(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes” and “Cry, Cry, Cry” by Highway 101, “The Church On Cumberland Road” by Shenandoah, “No Doubt About It” by Neal McCoy, “How Long Gone” by Brooks & Dunn and “Would You Go With Me” by Josh Turner.  Another popular song, “Nothin’ But The Wheel,” was a Top 20 Country hit for Patty Loveless and was also recorded by the Bluegrass band Special Consensus and the Rock duo of Peter Wolf & Mick Jagger.  In the late 1980s, John Scott was a member of the Country group Billy Hill and wrote many of their songs.


Since 1970, the Hall has enshrined more than 200 of the greatest writers from all genres of music ever to put words to music in Music City. For more information visit


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Group photo: (l-r):  Sarah Cates, John Scott Sherrill, Amy Grant, Buddy Cannon, Rhett Akins and Mark Ford. Photo Credit:  Bev Moser

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