Amanda. Good Ole Boys Like Me. Don’t Close Your Eyes. It is hard to read those song titles without their melodies and the voices of the singers who made them famous coming to mind. The songwriter who built those works of musical art, and many more, donated his construction bench to the Country Music Hall of Fame July 31, 2017. In its collection now are 217 of Bob McDill’s legal pads, boxes of work tapes and the guitar he used to write Good Ole Boys like Me. On the pads are handwritten lyrics to over two hundred songs later recorded by artists ranging from Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs and Perry Como to Bobby Bare, Don Williams and Alan Jackson.
In honor of McDill’s gift to the Hall, several country music luminaries performed his songs. Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare sang Amanda, which was a hit by both Don Williams and Waylon Jennings. Bare recalled that he admired McDill’s work so much, he recorded a whole album of his songs called “Me and McDill” in 1977.
Performing The Door is Always Open, Jamie Johnson expressed his admiration for McDill, as did William Michael Morgan, performing Don’t Close Your Eyes and Jon Byrd, who sang Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold).
Perhaps the most emotional moment came when Don Schlitz, the songwriter responsible for The Gambler and many other hits, performed Good Ole Boys like Me. Schlitz, scheduled for official induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame himself this October, recalled his days as a young songwriter in Nashville. Schlitz said he received nothing but encouragement from the older, established McDill. Playing the 1967 Martin D-28 that McDill donated to the Hall of Fame, Schlitz gave a moving rendition that made everyone in the room feel like a “good ole boy,” in the most dignified sense of that phrase.
It is said that a public appearance by McDill himself is a rare occurrence. But there he was, gracefully accepting the accolades heaped upon him by his peers. Speaking modestly and with honesty, McDill talked about the fact that when he began, he wondered if he had what it took to be a writer of country songs. He came to Nashville from Texas via Memphis. He was influenced by everyone from Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers to Hank Williams and Jackie Brenston, the Sun Records artist who gave the world Rocket 88.
Among his goals, McDill said, was to show the world that “those who make country music are not culturally isolated.” One good listen to Good Ole Boys Like Me, whose lyrics refer to Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, Thomas Wolfe and Nashville R&B radio announcer John R. proves that Bob McDill more than made his point and adds his own contribution to our cultural landscape.
Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.