The flags were flying at half-staff Wednesday (June 13) when guests strolled out onto the sunny sixth-floor terrace of the BMI building in Nashville to celebrate Kip Moore's recent No. 1 single, "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck."
"I couldn't begin this celebration," BMI's Jody Williams told the crowd, "without acknowledging the passing of Frances Preston."
Preston, the former president and CEO of BMI and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, had died earlier that day at age 83.
"Nobody honored songwriters like Frances Preston," Williams asserted, noting that she had been a fierce advocate for songwriters' rights and recognition.
"So, Frances," Williams continued, as he turned to the ceremony at hand, "this is for you."
Moore co-wrote "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" with Dan Couch. The song was the first No. 1 for both writers and Moore's first as an artist.
Their success, Williams pointed out, has been a long time coming. Moore moved to Nashville in 2003 and initially supported himself as a waiter and golf instructor. Couch arrived in 1995 and worked in construction and catering.
Eventually, as their talents were recognized, they were signed to songwriting deals. Moore has just been tapped to open the second leg of the Eric Church tour.
Williams also noted that "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" is Brett James' first No. 1 as a producer and Mike Dungan's first in his new role as head of Universal Music Nashville.
Dungan was until recently the chief of Capitol Records Nashville. James is a performer and multiple-award-winning songwriter. Moore's label, MCA Records, is a division of Universal.
Williams presented each of the writers a new guitar, BMI's traditional gift of honor to those who've scored their first hit. James gave Moore a guitar, as well.
Ron Cox, representing Avenue Bank, which co-sponsors BMI's No. 1 parties, came to the stage to congratulate Moore and Couch and to tell them Avenue had made a donation in their names to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, their charity of choice.
Dungan, always candid and always funny, stepped to the microphone to announce, "I had absolutely nothing to do with this [achievement]. But I'm honored to be working side-by-side now with the good people at Universal."
As head of Capitol, it was Dungan's frequent duty to hand out to No. 1 artists and songwriters a glass, spear-pointed award he dubbed "the Impaler."
He confessed to the crowd he hasn't had time to have a similarly-impressive trophy designed for Universal.
For Couch, there was a Richie Sambora figurine, and for James, a Jonas Brothers stand-up.
Dungan jokingly took credit for crushing James' career as a recording artist when they were both at Arista Records.
WSM-AM/Nashville personality Bill Cody, speaking for the Country Radio Broadcasters, congratulated Moore and Couch on their hit. He recounted that nine years ago Moore had told an usher for the Grand Ole Opry named Goldie that one day she would see him on the stage at the Opry. Goldie was unimpressed. So every time Moore plays the Opry now, Cody said, "He gives a shout out to Goldie."
Couch was so overwhelmed at having finally achieved success as a songwriter, he could hardly get through his comments to the crowd. Periodically, he stopped talking and bent forward with emotion, trying to control his voice and his tears.
"My wife and I always believed I could get here," he said looking out toward his family standing near the front of the stage. "She gave me three wonderful kids. Life is good."
Couch seemed more grateful than triumphant. He said when times were tough, he contacted his accountant (and old college buddy) to tell him he was thinking about cashing in his retirement fund.
He said his friend told him that if it was anybody else, he would advise them not to but that he had faith in Couch and for him to go ahead and do it. "You're gonna make it," he assured him.
"I could stand up here forever," Couch continued, just as it appeared he might. But the crowd was with him, shouting encouragement for him to take his time.
He had one last tale to tell. He said he was in a canoe with his son on a Boy Scouts outing when the texts started coming in that "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" had gone No. 1. With that, he surrendered the microphone to Moore.
"I'm more nervous now than when I was playing the damn stadium [Nashville's LP Field] the other night [during the CMA Music Festival]," he said. Then he proceeded to thank by name his legion of supporters.
Moore expressed particular gratitude to James.
"It's an instant world," he observed, "but Brett has stayed beside me when other people wanted to quit."