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Nitty gritty of NSAI Hall of Fame honors

Monday, October 19, 2009 – Songwriters Toby Keith and Taylor Swift received honors for their songwriting prowess, while Kye Fleming, Mark D. Sanders and the late Tammy Wynette was inducted in the Nashville Songwriters International Association Hall of Fame Sunday in a Nashville ceremony.

Fleming was honored for 30 years of hits, including cuts for Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Bette Midler, Ronnie Milsap, and Barbara Mandrell. Mandrell was on hand to induct Fleming.

Trio Eden's Edge, who Fleming now manages, performed a medley of Fleming's songs during the ceremony, before a performance of Smoky Mountain Rain by Milsap.

Before the ceremony, Fleming told how Mandrell's classic song, I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool had already been recorded as part of a live album before George Jones added his famous line to it in the studio. "They did a little studio magic, and I was in the studio when George put his part on. It was two takes, and we didn't need but one. That was a classic."

Sanders was inducted for his string of hits, including Ain't No Thinkin' Thing, Blue Clear Sky and Heads Carolina, Tails California. Lee Ann Womack performed a gorgeous rendition of her smash single I Hope You Dance.

Sanders said of his induction, "This is being inducted into a group of my heroes. Hank Williams is in this group. Put my name next to his and I'll be happy." When asked about how he feels about his career right now, Sanders said, "I feel like I am of the way through. I'm hoping to have a couple of more hits before I finish. I'm trying to line things up."

He also gave praise to the Nashville songwriter community. "We've all given up a lot to come here...Everybody has had to sacrifice to come here. We all know what we've left behind. Nashville is a great place to come."

Sanders was inducted by two of his writing partners, Tia Sellers and Bob DiPiero. Sanders and DiPero wrote the George Strait classic, Blue Clear Sky. Sanders reveals the struggle behind the title of the song:

"Bob watched the movie 'Forrest Gump' and Forrest Gump said, 'Jenny appeared out of the blue clear sky.' The day they were going to record it, [producer] Tony Brown called and said 'How about changing it to Clear Blue Sky? Then George Strait got on the phone and DiPiero told them the story of watching 'Forrest Gump' and George says, 'Well, we will just be 'Gumpsters' then'."

Keith was named Artist-Songwriter of the Decade. Keith said, "This is the most prestigious thing I've ever been given, to be recognized for a body of work for 10 years. We had a big 10 years, and I worked my butt off writing songs. Only about 4 songs were released in 16 years that were singles that I didn't write. To have your peers, the lifeblood of the industry, the songwriters recognize you, is unbelievable. It's very humbling but it's a tremendous gratification, too."

Of his songwriting process, Keith said, "I don't ever write unless I have a great idea. When I write it comes in clusters. I write 20-30 songs a year, and I go in and record them and live off the results. Whatever horses we raise is what we run that year. They are either winners...or they are nags. I just live with that."

Swift also gave praise to the organization for being named Songwriter-Artist of the Year. "NSAI has been unbelievable to me, and it means the world to me. The songwriting community was the first community to welcome me to Nashville," she said.

"When I came to Nashville at 14, I would write with anyone I could possibly get an appointment with. Songwriters were my heroes," Swift continued. "The Craig Wisemans of the world and the Brent Beavers and the people who were writing the songs that were on the radio were heroes to me. The fact that these are the people who vote on awards like this and the fact that they would pick me, it makes me happy."

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