Dean Dillon Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame 2020

Dean Dillon isn’t just a songwriter. He’s a master.

We are so excited that Dean Dillon has just been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as a Songwriter. Watch his acceptance speech and read about his illustrious career below.

Born in Lake City, TN on March 26th, 1955, music became a part of Dean Dillon’s life at the age of 7. By the time he was 15 years old, he appeared in a local Knoxville Variety Show called Jim Clayton’s Startime as a guitar-playing songwriter and performer. By high school graduation, he knew his future was in the Music City.

Not too long after hitchhiking to Nashville in the early 70s, he was noticed by Shelby Singleton of Sun Records. After one record and the theme park role of Hank Williams in Opryland’s Country Music Show, USA, Dillon secured his first publishing deal with Nashville producer, Tom Collins in 1976. Within three weeks, Barbara Mandrell recorded three of his songs. In 1979, he and Gary Harrison co-wrote “Lying Here in Love With You” by Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius, which became their first #1 hit record. He also wrote “Tennessee Whiskey” for George Jones in 1983.

Growing with his success from writing for others, Dillon was still set on being a recording artist himself. Between 1979 and 1981, he released 12 singles for RCA Records, three of which reached the Top 30 on the country charts, including “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her” (which later became a #1 hit for George Strait). As an artist, he charted eight times and reached Top 30 with “I’m Into the Bottle (To Get You Out of My Mind).” Not too much later he was paired with Gary Stewart (“The King of the Honky Tonkers”) by RCA Record head, Jerry Bradley. Feeding off of each other’s personalities and less conventional mindsets, they wrote two successful albums.

After “Those Were the Days,” Dillon decided to take a five-year hiatus from recording to clean up his personal life and refocus his songwriting. He wrote and co-wrote numerous hits, particularly for George Strait, who took five of his songs to the charts between 1981 and 1988. This landed Dillon a new contract with Capitol Records which led to Slick Nickel and I’ve Learned to Live, produced by Rocky Scruggs. The latter included a duet with Tanya Tucker called “Don’t You Even Think About Leaving.” In 1991, Dillon issued his most successful album with Atlantic: Out of Your Mind. With a touch of pop amidst his traditional country, the album was positively received for its refreshing sound.

In 2002, he earned the prestigious honor of being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, alongside artists like Bob Dylan and Shel Silverstein. The following year, Dillon signed a songwriting contract with Sony/A TV Tree, which had stemmed from a 15-year relationship with publishing company, Rose Acuff, which Sony had recently acquired.

Dillon’s continuing association with George Strait defined both of their careers. Sixty-three songs later (11 singles of which rose to #1), they’ve established themselves as an iconic team in country music. Producer Tony Brown said Dillon’s catchy melodies and gutbucket country lyrics “are the elements that allow Strait to sound traditional without sounding old-timey.” Memorable songs include… 

  •  “Marina del Ray”
  •  “The Chair”
  • “I’ve Come to Expect It From You”
  • “Easy Come, Easy Go”
  • “She Let Herself Go”
  • “The Best Day” and many more….

Dean Dillon’s songwriting has continued to thrive sung by other recent artists like Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, and Lee Ann Womack. On the walls of his ranch home in Gunnison, CO, one would see a grand display of photographs and awards consisting of

  • 2020 Country Music Hall of Fame
  • 1985 Billboard Country Music Artist of the Year Award
  • 1986 Nashville Songwriters Award
  • 1995, 1996, 1998 CMA Triple Play Award
  • Grammy Nominee (3 times)
  • Lee Iacocca Award (American Automotive Division)
  • Twenty-Six #1 Records Award
  • 2013 BMI Icon Award