My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Spotlight Artist: Dean Dillon

dean dillonIn his classic 1973 album Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies, Bobby sings a song titled “Sure Hit Songwriter’s Pen”, a story of how the narrator wrote hit song after hit song, until he lost his pen. After that he could no longer write any hits. I’m not sure that is what happened to Bare, but after this album, which featured two #1 singles, Bobby Bare never again had a top ten record.

Rest assured that the pen, although lost, wasn’t destroyed. It eventually found its way into the hands of our April artist of the month Dean Dillon. Dean studied his craft and associated with the best songwriters going (Frank Dycus, Hank Cochran, Linda Hargrove and Vern Gosdin among them). He mastered the art of co-writing but remained capable of writing a song completely himself. Although he had aspirations of being a country music star with hit records and grand tours, at some point Dean realized that for him, fame and fortune would come in the form of writing hits for other artists.

Born in 1955 as Larry Dean Flynn, Dean Dillon first came to the consciousness of the American public through a pair of collaborative albums on RCA with fading honky-tonk renegade Gary Stewart. Brotherly Love, released in 1982, reached #23 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and Those Were The Days, released in 1983, reached #54. A total of five singles were released from the two albums – all of them charted, but none of them cracked the top 40.

After leaving RCA, Dean would be a few years before he landed another record deal. Meanwhile, he paid the rent and the groceries through his successful songwriting. In the late seventies Dean did the unthinkable and pitched his best songs to an unknown artist making his first album for MCA. That unknown artist, George Strait, wound up recording six of Dean’s songs for his debut album, including his first hit “Unwound”, which reached #6. Over the course of time, Strait would record many of Dean’s songs. As of October 2013, the total was 54 songs, many of them huge hits for Strait.

Another of his early efforts was a co-written song (with Hank Williams Jr, Gary Stewart and Tanya Tucker) titled “Leave Them Boys Alone”. Released in 1983, the song reached #6 for the unlikely trio of Hank Williams, Jr., Waylon Jennings and Ernest Tubb. Another song, “Tennessee Whiskey”, was a hit twice, once for David Allen Coe and once for George Jones.

During his early years Dean still had aspirations of being a successful performer, but his first four solo albums didn’t sell, his singles only charted in the lower reaches of the chart and his live performances weren’t grossing the money he had hoped. In 1992, Dean had high hopes for the song “Easy Come, Easy Go”, a track on one of his Atlantic albums; however, up to this point in his career none of Dean’s singles had charted at higher than #25 (“Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her” in 1980 – later a #1 hit for Strait in 1986) and nothing since 1980 had charted higher than #39.

Married with small children that he didn’t see nearly enough, Dillon found himself at a crossroads in his career. When George Strait asked for the rights to “Easy Come, Easy Go” for release as a single, Dean did the math and determined that a George Strait single that reached #1 was worth $100K+ whereas a Dean Dillon single charting in the mid-50s was worth almost nothing. Accordingly, Dean gave George the song, gave up his recording contract and settled into becoming a full time songwriter. It was a very wise decision. Dean Dillon is not a bad singer but I am certain that the many George Strait recordings of Dean Dillon songs are all better than Dean’s recordings of the same songs are or would have been. Dean would probably agree.

Below is a partial list of the songs Dean Dillon has had a hand in writing:

Artist Song
Alabama “Changes Comin’ On”
Brooks & Dunn “I’ll Never Forgive My Heart”
Gary Stewart “An Empty Glass”
George Jones “Tennessee Whiskey”
George Jones “If I Could Bottle This Up”
George Strait “A Real Good Place to Start”
George Strait “Any Old Love Won’t Do”
George Strait “Back to Bein’ Me”
George Strait “Down and Out”
George Strait “Drinkin’ Man”
George Strait “Easy Come, Easy Go”
George Strait “Famous Last Words of a Fool”
George Strait “For Christ’s Sake, It’s Christmas”
George Strait “Four Down and Twelve Across”
George Strait “Friday Night Fever”
George Strait “Give Me More Time”
George Strait “Good News, Bad News”
George Strait “Her Goodbye Hit Me in the Heart”
George Strait “He’s Got That Something Special”
George Strait “Holding My Own”
George Strait “Honk If You Honky Tonk”
George Strait “Honky Tonk Crazy”
George Strait “Honkytonkville”
George Strait “I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore”
George Strait “I Believe”
George Strait “I Get Along With You”
George Strait “I’d Just as Soon Go”
George Strait “If I Know Me”
George Strait “If Heartaches Were Horses”
George Strait “If It’s Gonna Rain”
George Strait “I’m All Behind You Now”
George Strait “Is It That Time Again”
George Strait “It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You”
George Strait “I’ve Come to Expect It From You”
George Strait “Lead On”
George Strait “Living for the Night”
George Strait “Marina del Rey”
George Strait “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her
George Strait “Ocean Front Property”
George Strait “Peace of Mind”
George Strait “Rockin’ in the Arms of Your Memory”
George Strait “She Let Herself Go”
George Strait “She’s Playing Hell Trying to Get Me to Heaven”
George Strait “She Took the Wind From His Sails”
George Strait “That’s My Kind of Woman”
George Strait “That’s the Breaks”
George Strait “That’s Where I Wanna Take Our Love”
George Strait “The Best Day”
George Strait “The Breath You Take”
George Strait “The Chair”
George Strait “The Road Less Traveled”
George Strait “Unwound”
George Strait “We’re Supposed to Do That Now and Then”
George Strait “West Texas Town”
George Strait “What Would Your Memories Do”
George Strait “When You’re in Love”
George Strait “Without Me Around”
George Strait “Without You Here”
George Strait “You Sure Got This Ol’ Redneck Feelin’ Blue”
Hank,Waylon & E.T. “Leave Them Boys Alone”
Jim Ed Brown “Lying In Love With You”
Keith Whitley “Miami, My Amy”
Keith Whitley “Homecoming ’63”
Kenny Chesney “A Chance”
Kenny Chesney “A Lot of Things Different”
Kenny Chesney “Be As You Are”
Kenny Chesney “Boats”
Kenny Chesney “Guitars and Tiki Bars”
Kenny Chesney “I’m Alive”
Kenny Chesney “She Always Says It First”
Kenny Chesney “Soul of a Sailor”
Kenny Chesney “The Angel at the Top of My Tree”
Lee Ann Womack “Have You Seen That Girl?”
Lee Ann Womack “Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago”
Lee Ann Womack “We’ve Called It Everything But Quits”
Pam Tillis “All the Good Ones Are Gone”
Pam Tillis “Spilled Perfume”
Paul Overstreet “If I Could Bottle This Up”
Rodney Atkins “The Corner”
Sammy Kershaw “One Day Left to Live”
Shenandoah “Darned If I Don’t (Danged If I Do)”
Toby Keith “A Little Too Late”
Toby Keith “Ain’t No Right Way”
Toby Keith “Burnin’ Moonlight”
Toby Keith “Get My Drink On”
Toby Keith “Go with Her”
Toby Keith “I Ain’t Already There”
Toby Keith “Knock Yourself Out”
Toby Keith “Note to Self”
Toby Keith “Too Far This Time”
Toby Keith “You Ain’t Leaving (Thank God Are Ya)”
Vern Gosdin “Is It Raining at Your House”
Vern Gosdin “Set ‘Em Up, Joe”
Vince Gill “Whippoorwill River”

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