Nashville hit songwriter Steve Dean never has thanked the man who probably did more for Dean’s successful career than almost any other person. But he sure does remember him.
Right after Dean graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in advertising, he went to work for a company that was selling media promotional package deals to banks.
“I thought that I’d be writing commercial jingles,” Dean said in a call from his Nashville-area home, “but the first company I went to work for put me on the road actually selling the advertising.
“The turning point came when I had made my spiel to this guy in a bank and thought I was getting ready to make my first sale. He reached over to this cherry wood box on his desk, got a cigar out, lit it up, and said ‘Kid, are you out of high school yet?’
“I was just humiliated. I thought right then, ‘I am not going to do this anymore,’ and I moved to Nashville right after that.”
It was 1980 when Dean made the move. It was the right choice. becuase Dean became one of Nashville’s best known songwriters – writing or co-writing six No. 1 hits.
They are Walk On by Reba McEntire, It Takes A Little Rain by The Oak Ridge Boys, Round About Way by George Strait, Hearts Aren’t Made To Break by Lee Greenwood, Southern Star by Alabama and Watching You by Rodney Atkins.
He will sing many of his hit compositions when he performs with two other Nashville songwriters Bill Whyte and Lisa Shaffer at the Hephzibah Opry at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Richmond Masonic Lodge 412 building, 4391 Saxon Drive, in Hephzibah.
Admission is free with a love offering taken. Call (706) 306-7537 or visit hephzibahopry.com.
Dean’s big break came in February 1982 thanks to Tom Collins, the owner and head of one of Nashville’s hottest song-publishing and record-production companies. His songwriters were churning out hit after hit for Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Sylvia, etc.
“Tom Collins believed in me and gave me my first publishing deal,” Dean said. “That’s how my career got started.”
Sylvia, in fact, became the first to record one of Dean’s songs – Not Tonight, which Dean co-wrote with Georgian John Jarrard. She also recorded her hit Nobody at that session.
The next artist to record one of Dean’s songs was Ronnie Milsap with Don’t Your Mem’ry Ever Sleep at Night. Another RCA artist, Steve Wariner, recorded it also for his 1983 Midnight Fire album and it became a No. 23 Billboard magazine single for Wariner.
Other songs that he wrote or co-wrote are Fast Lanes and Country Roads recorded by Barbara Mandrell, Just Enough Rope by Rick Trevino, One Bridge I Didn’t Burn by Conway Twitty and Cool To Be A Fool by Joe Nichols.
Besides writing songs, Dean also produces them for various artists. He co-produced the Comin’ Back Around CD for the brother-and-sister bluegrass duo called The Roys. And he has one of his songs (Living Scrapbook) on their new CD New Day Dawning, co-produced by Ricky Skaggs’ fiddler Andy Leftwich.
“I was just in a studio yesterday afternoon working with a new singer named Duane Cliatt,” Dean said.
You can hear Dean on a CD coming out on Nov. 7 titled Grafted. It was recorded by several artists coming together to raise awareness of adoption and the need for every child to have a loving and nurturing home.
BUTTERFLY MCQUEEN ON FRIDAY: If you are free at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, come by the Augusta Public Library, 823 Telfair St., for a free program about late Augusta resident Butterfly McQueen. Gary Swint, a former library director, and I will talk about the late movie, TV and stage actress.