Each year the Country Music Hall of Fame inducts a new member from a rotating group that includes individuals involved in country music behind-the-scenes. These are the contributors that regularly don’t receive the attention they deserve like the performers. In 2017, that opportunity fell to the songwriters, and in the Hall of Fame’s estimation, Don Schlitz was the man whose name is deserving to be forever enshrined in country music’s most hallowed institution.
From Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” to Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen,” to Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All,” Don Schlitz set the pace for penning some of the most memorable compositions in country music history, and created those timeless moments for the performers who took those songs and made them hits.
Born Donald Alan Schlitz Jr. in 1952 in Durham, North Carolina, Don Schlitz was already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for among other distinctions, winning two Grammy Awards for songs he wrote (“The Gambler” and “Forever and Ever, Amen”), as well as multiple CMA, ACM, and ASCAP Songwriter of the Year awards.
Though perhaps best known for his towering hits for Randy Travis, including “Deeper Than The Holler,” “Heroes and Friends,” “On The Other Hand,” and the aforementioned “Forever and Ever, Amen,” Schlitz wrote signature songs for Alabama, Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Paul Overstreet, and scores more through his storied career. Randy Travis, whose career is defined by Don Schlitz songs, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
“I’ve been living in the parenthesis all this time and it’s very safe and very wonderful, getting to work on something different every day,” said Don from the podium of the Hall of Fame Rotunda on Wednesday morning (4-5). “There are some names in the Rotunda that I have no idea who they are and I expect to be one of those names. To be the least recognizable name in that room, is an honor beyond anything I could ever think. I can do my best to represent.”
Don Schlitz’s songwriting career spans five decades, and will now be capped off with country music’s greatest distinction.
The other 2017 Hall of Fame Inductees were Jerry Reed in the Veteran’s Era, and Alan Jackson in the Modern Era. All of the newest members will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame in a private medallion ceremony later this year.