Today at the historic Bluebird Cafe, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development celebrated the state statute passed, annually designating the last full week of February as “Tennessee Songwriters Week.”
The week is designed to celebrate the foundation of the craft, recognize songwriters and pave the way for future artists. The historic Bluebird Cafe is where some of the world’s most talented songwriters got their start and where up-and-coming artists perform nightly.
Today, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Pat Alger, known for writing hits like Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls,” & “Unanswered Prayers” and Nancy Griffith’s “Once in a Very Blue Moon” performed, explained stories behind the songs and shared how the art of songwriting touched his life. Other distinguished songwriters also attended, including: Dickey Lee, whose six-decade career beginning with his first recordings in his hometown of Memphis at Sun Records branched to hits like “I Saw Linda Yesterday,” George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care” and “The Keeper of the Stars” (ACM Song of the Year) by Tracy Byrd; and Bettye Crutcher, the most successful female songwriter at legendary Stax Records in Memphis, who co-wrote Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love.”
Tennessee Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, Rep. David Hawk, Sen. Rusty Crowe, all prime or co-sponsors of the bill, also joined the festivities.
“Music touches our souls and is a vital part to Tennessee’s culture and heritage,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “Tennessee musicians have brought us the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. This law will honor past and present songwriters and inspire future artists to collaborate. I’m honored to sign this law promoting one of our greatest assets and largest exports to the world – Tennessee music.”
Tennessee’s musical roots are the motivation for Tennessee Tourism’s “The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee” brand, which boosted tourism’s economic impact to a record $19.3 billion, and $1.7 billion in state and local taxes.
“Fans from all around the world have been impacted by music recorded in Tennessee, which starts with the crafting of the song itself,” said Commissioner Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “’Songwriters Week’ celebrates the foundation of the craft for which we are known, music. It recognizes contributions of past, present and future songwriters. Music is a universal language with roots in every direction to Tennessee and is celebrated, performed and heard every day of every week in Tennessee and around the world.”
Local businesses are encouraged to participate in Tennessee Songwriters Week by programming special events such as open mic nights and songwriter showcases that celebrate songwriters and drive visitation. The last week of February was chosen because it’s a time of year that tends to be slower for most Tennessee destinations. To help get the effort started, the Department of Tourist Development has entered into a partnership with Nashville’s famous songwriter venue, The Bluebird Cafe.
During Tennessee Songwriters Week the last full week of February, Tennessee Tourism and The Bluebird Cafe will sponsor open mic nights in Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Johnson City. Bluebird Cafe’s long-time open mic night host, songwriter Barbara Cloyd, will host each night as a panel of local judges and audiences select the top two songwriters from each event. Those eight songwriters will perform at The Bluebird Cafe Sunday, April 7, 2019 during Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival before an audience that includes music publishing professionals.
“Many well-known songwriters have honed their skills here at The Bluebird, starting by performing on our Open Mic shows,” said Erika Wollam Nichols, general manager of The Bluebird Cafe. “To have the chance to expand our Open Mic throughout the state is so exciting and offers the chance to explore the wealth of songwriting talent that is inherent to Tennessee.”
“One of Tennessee’s largest exports to the world is its music, which begins with the writing of a song,” said Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), sponsor of bill. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Tennessee music. Great lyrics produce those hit songs that will last regardless of genre. I am thrilled to serve as co-sponsor of the bill honoring and recognizing the creation and inspiration behind the music.”
“Many writers still remain in the shadows of the music business and designating a week to focus the spotlight on the men and women who make the hard work of songwriting look easy confirms Tennessee’s place as the songwriting capital of the world. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has often been the catalyst for drawing attention to the songwriters behind the hits, and their support of our Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame public television show “The Songwriters” is a prime example of their commitment to our craft,” said Pat Alger, songwriter and board chairof Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation, Hall of Fame Class of 2010