Bob McDill Donation

WATCH: Bob McDill Donation Ceremony [2017]

WATCH: Poets and Prophets: Salute to Legendary Country Songwriter Bob McDill [2008]

On July 31, 2017, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum honored legendary songwriter Bob McDill in a ceremony celebrating the donation of Mr. McDill’s personal collection to the museum. McDill’s substantial collection comprises hundreds of artifacts including 217 legal pads containing the handwritten lyrics to more than 200 recorded songs, 110 awards and plaques, and the Martin 1967 D-28-S that McDill played exclusively while composing songs for almost 30 years.

McDill made a rare public appearance to attend the donation ceremony, an afternoon of words and song illuminating his incredible songwriting career and monumental donation. Surprise guests on hand to perform some of McDill’s beloved hits included:

  • Bobby Bare, “Amanda”
  • Jon Byrd, “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)”
  • Jamey Johnson, “The Door Is Always Open”
  • William Michael Morgan, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”
  • Don Schlitz, “Good Ole Boys Like Me”

Longtime friend and collaborator Allen Reynolds spoke of his history with McDill and their musical adventures together. Near the conclusion of the ceremony, Mr. McDill addressed a capacity crowd, which included fellow songwriting heavyweights, music industry leaders, and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. McDill offered elegant remarks on his career and donation to museum.

For nearly three decades, Bob McDill elevated country music with songs that run the gamut from poignant love songs to literary works of art. In addition to the songs performed in today’s ceremony, McDill’s extensive list of classic songwriting credits includes “It Must Be Love” (Don Williams, Alan Jackson), “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” (Mel McDaniel), “Song of the South” (Alabama), “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” (Sammy Kershaw), “Gone Country” (Alan Jackson) and many more.

Growing up in Beaumont, Texas, Robert Lee McDill was influenced by his mother’s piano playing and family singing. Like the main character in his hit song “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” McDill’s childhood was colored by Thomas Wolfe’s writing and records spun by John Richbourg (WLAC-Nashville) and Wolfman Jack (WXLR-Del Rio, Texas). McDill was a product of pop radio’s diversity and gravitated toward songwriters like Johnny Mercer and Paul Simon. By age 15, he was writing songs, and a few years later, playing in the folk group the Newcomers.

While at Lamar University (1962–1966), he wrote “The Happy Man,” which was recorded in 1967 by Perry Como. McDill was serving a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy when Como cut the song. The following year, his second hit, “Black Sheep,” was recorded by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs. Memphis songwriter and music publisher Allen Reynolds had helped McDill place the tunes, and in 1970, McDill and Reynolds went to work for Jack Clement’s publishing company, Jack Music, in Nashville.

McDill had been composing folk, rock and pop tunes, but had an epiphany while listening to George Jones’ hit “A Good Year for the Roses” in the back seat of a car. Hearing an unsettling emotion brewing behind the song’s theme, he was able to truly understand the depth of country music. McDill’s first country success came with Johnny Russell’s 1972 recording of “Catfish John,” co-written with Reynolds. McDill began a rigorous schedule of completing one song a week for the next three decades and would go on to score dozens of Billboard #1 hits. He supplied several country artists with career-defining singles, and found success with recordings by artists as diverse as Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Anne Murray, Lefty Frizzell and Joe Cocker.

Bob McDill, Gail Davies, Frances Preston, and Bob Kirsch, 1985.

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 1985.

L to R: Mary Miller, Roger Sovine, Joe Allison, Roger Miller, Carl Perkins, Bob McDill, Frances Preston, Ed Cramer, and Maggie Cavender

Kurt Vonnegut, Emmylou Harris, and Bob McDill

​Bob McDill's manuscript for “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)”

Bob McDill's manuscript for “Gone Country”

Bob McDill's manuscript for “The Door Is Always Open”