Songwriter Jerry Chesnut Dead at 87
Songwriter Jerry Chesnut has died. A member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, the tunesmith died on Saturday (Dec. 15), at the age of 87, according to Nashville's WSMV-TV.
Born in May of 1931 in Loyall, Ky., Chesnut decided to learn to play guitar, a Country Music Hall of Fame biography reports, after his older brother bought a guitar and forbade his younger sibling from touching it, let alone playing it. Beginning in 1949, he spent time in the Air Force -- he performed on naval ships and military bases during his four years of service -- then worked as both a railroad conductor and music teacher.
In 1958, Chesnut moved from St. Augustine, Fla., to Nashville to pursue a career in music, reports the Nashville Songwriters Foundation. “I wanted to test the waters to see if I had the talent to go pro and be a star like everyone dreams of doing,” the tunesmith once recalled. “I found out pretty quick I wasn’t going to be a star.”
Indeed, it took nine years -- during which time Chesnut worked as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman -- for Chesnut to earn his first cut. In 1967, Del Reeves recorded Chesnut's "A Dime at a Time."
One year later, however, Chesnut notched his first Grammy Awards nomination, when Jerry Lee Lewis' "Another Place, Another Time" -- a Top 10 country hit -- earned a nod. He'd later earn another Grammys nomination with his song "A Good Year for the Roses," recorded by both George Jones (who made it a No. 2 song) and Elvis Costello.
Also in 1968, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner made Chesnut's "Holding on to Nothin'" a Top 10 hit. In addition to Jones, Costello, Lewis and Parton and Wagoner, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. and more recorded his songs. "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," recorded originally by Elvis Presley and later by Travis Tritt is arguably his most well-known track, having been performed more than 4 million times as of 2010, according to BMI.
Chesnut never became an artist himself -- though he did record a few singles for United Artists Records in the 1970s -- but he did earn a regular spot on the TV show Hee Haw. He was named Country Songwriter of the Year by Billboard in 1971 and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996; he was also a 2004 inductee into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, has an exhibit in his honor in the Kentucky Music Museum and has a stretch of Highway 840 named after him in his hometown of Loyall.
Chesnut, who retired from the music business in 1980, is survived by his wife and four daughters. His funeral arrangements have yet to be revealed.
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