The stories behind country music's top hits

It undeniably takes a shining personality to rise to the top of any music chart, but beneath every star there is a strong team that built a foundation prime for success. On the eve of George Strait's final show of his final tour, Lucchese in conjunction with KSCS and Savor presented "By George, They Wrote It: The Songwriters’ Salute to The King of Country Music.”

Famed musicians and songwriters Dean Dillon, Jim Lauderdale and Steve Dorff took to the stage of Dallas' Klyde Warren Park on June 6 to play the hits they wrote for Strait and best-selling artists like Barbara Streisand, Patty Loveless, Hank Williams Jr. and Whitney Houston. Between songs, the three shared the unexpected stories of how many came to life. The crowd sat relaxed among picnic blankets and baskets, and each time a famous tune was identified, heads tilted back in a collective wave of recognition.

Onstage, the trio joked, interacted and seemingly relished the opportunity to perform tracks so deeply personal but made famous by others. Clad in sunglasses and cowboy hat, Dillon quickly established himself as the storyteller with most swagger, strumming his guitar between the sentences of every story. 

At another point, Dorff stopped somewhat emotionally to say, “The faces of these songs are the recording artists — and we need them.” He continued by pointing over to Lauderdale and Dillon, “But the heart and should of these songs are these guys. We really appreciate you coming to hear us perform the songs that you’ve always heard played just one way.” And the admiration proved mutual by all, evident as Lauderdale mouthed along to the songs his contemporaries played.

In the event that you couldn't make it to the special evening in Dallas, standout moments from the "Songwriters' Salute" are compiled below.

  • Jim Lauderdale goes to Joshua Tree, California once a year to write music. 
  • A conversation with Victoria Williams inspired the concept for Lauderdale's "You Don't Seem to Miss Me." He suggested they write the song together, but timing never panned out in their favor. Lauderdale then shared the song idea with Patty Loveless who roped in George Jones for the 1997 smash hit.
  • Steve Dorff was the music supervisor for and oversaw the soundtrack of 1992's Pure Country. The album went to number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
  • "The first song that George recorded of mine was 'King of Broken Hearts' for Pure Country. I couldn't believe it!" Lauderdale exclaimed. "That changed everything in my life as a songwriter. I feel I pretty much owe my musical career to him."
  • Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers had a tug of war over "Through the Years." Dorff joked that "Kenny outweighed Lionel at the time, so he won." 
  • Dorff revealed that Strait didn't want to do a song called "Pure Country," saying, "I don't blame him. It's a cheesy title."
  • According to Dean Dillon, Steve Wariner is a big fan of magic tricks. 
  • Dorff brought up-and-coming country star Mo Pitney onstage to perform, saying "We didn't plan this, but anything might happen when we get together." 
  • On the song that means the most to him, Dorff chooses "I Cross My Heart." "This was a song I never gave up on when countless people told me it wasn't 'one of my best.'"