Country music artist/songwriter James Dean Hicks is by anyone’s definition a success.
Make that a huge success.
He’s written over 3,000 songs, had more than 200 released, and seven have reached No. 1 on music charts. His chart-topping songs have been sung by such artists as the Oak Ridge Boys, Confederate Railroad, Sammy Kershaw, Kenny Chesney, Randy Travis, Bryan White, Jessica Simpson, Aaron Carter and Blake Shelton.
His song “Goodbye Time” was a No. 1 hit for both Twitty and Shelton.
While most of his songs are full of life and good feelings, some have a painful undertone to them. The 40-ish songwriter says that’s not an accident.
“Show me a writer who hasn’t gone through a lot of pain and I’ll show you a poor writer,” Hicks said with a laugh before performing at a small, private gathering at the Country Music Hall of Fame on Nov. 4, just across the street from the annual Country Music Awards gala.
The gathering was made up of about 60 clients of SilverEdge Systems Software, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based professional services firm dedicated to providing consulting services and software solutions to project-based organizations.
SilverEdge President Maria Vedral, her employees, and clients had attended the Deltek Insight 2015 Convention earlier in the day at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Vedral, who entertains a number of her clients each year at the Deltek Insight Convention, invited some of her clients this year to join her on the fourth floor of the Country Music Hall of Fame for an evening of drinks, dinner, and songwriting with Hicks.
It turned out to be a most memorable evening.
Hicks began the evening by telling his audience that his name — James Dean Hicks — wasn’t unique in his family of seven children, who grew up on a farm in Bardstown, Kentucky.
He said he had a brother named John Wayne Hicks.
“It’s an old family tradition,” Hicks said. “In the past, I think, we had a George Washington Hicks.”
When the laughter died down, Hicks talked about sitting on a swing in his backyard on the farm, making up songs, and playing them on the guitar his father gave him.
He got so good at it that by the time he was 10, he was making regular trips to Nashville where he appeared on the WSM Midnight Jamboree with such Grand Ole Opry greats as Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow. By the time he was 13, he had opened concerts for Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
Hicks said he later went to Western Kentucky University where he got a degree in classical guitar.
If anyone doubted his guitar playing or songwriting ability, that was quickly put to rest as Hicks played and sang “Grandpa Told Me So,” a song that has been recorded by Kenny Chesney.
When the applause finally ended after he was done, Hicks informed the audience that he was now going to help them compose a country song.
He explained that the song needed a chorus and 2 or 3 verses. However, he pointed out that the song couldn’t be done without a lot of audience participation.
And, participate they did.
The chorus, which took about 15-20 minutes to hash out, ended up like this:
We’re rockin’ Nashville
Above the CMAs.
We’re rockin’ Nashville
Maria brought us here to play.
Next came the first verse. That proved to be fairly easy despite a lot of loud suggestions. It finally came together as:
We come from all over the country
Deltek is what we use.
It gives us perfect … Vision
We never have to sing the blues.
The second verse:
We two-stepped over to the Orchid House
And wrote a song at the Hall of Fame.
By the time we rolled into the Gaylord
Everybody knew our name.
The third verse proved to be a toughie as the roomful of novice songwriters struggled to find something that rhymed with “a dog and a truck.” After many attempts and some colorful (but not appropriate) rhymes, Hicks suggested “a million bucks.” And, the final verse ended up like this:
When we get home from Music City
We’re gonna buy a dog and a truck.
We’ll even buy our own piece of country
When this song makes a million bucks.