Songwriter Jerry Chesnut, credited with writing some of the biggest hits in country music, has died. Chesnut, who was 87 years old, passed away on Dec. 15.
Born in Loyall, Kentucky, Chesnut served in the Air Force. Following his service, he worked in Florida as a railroad conductor, as well as on the radio, while teaching himself to write songs.
According to the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, in 1958, Chesnut moved to Nashville full-time to pursue music, selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door, which he found success in, while continuing to write songs. His first break came nine years later, in 1967, when Del Reeves recorded "A Dime at a Time" which Chesnut wrote.
Only one year later, in 1968, Chesnut was nominated for a Grammy Award, for "Another Place, Another Time," recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. Chesnut went on to have plenty of success, penning dozens of hits over the next, including another Grammy-nominated hit, "A Good Year For the Roses," which became a hit for both George Jones and Elvis Costello.
"George had done it, and it went No. 1," Chesnut recalled to the Tennessean. "I started getting telegrams: 'Congratulations on the Elvis Costello record.' ... I thought it was an Elvis [Presley] imitator, probably. Or maybe [comedian] Lou Costello's boy. I had no idea who it was. I found out later on. Back then, it made a lot of money. The first check we got in was $60,000, just for airplay in the British Isles. I said, 'What is this guy?' They said, 'He's punk rock.' I said, 'Maybe that's the direction I want to go in.'"
Chesnut's numerous hits include "It's Midnight" and "Love Coming Down" by Presley, "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," recorded by Presley and Travis Tritt, "They Don't Make 'em Like My Daddy" by Loretta Lynn, "Oney" by Johnny Cash, "Don't She Look Good" recorded by both Bill Anderson and Eddy Arnold, and "It's Four in the Morning," recorded by both Faron Young and Tom Jones.
In addition to his songwriting talent, Chesnut became known for his comedic skills, appearing regularly on Hee Haw in the '70s, at the suggestion of Roy Clark. Chesnut was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Chesnut also has a portion of Kentucky State Highway 840, which runs through his hometown of Loyall, named in his honor.
Chesnut is survived by his wife and four daughters. Funeral services are pending.
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