The Scribes Behind the “Murder On Music Row”

Being friends for many years, Larry Cordle and Lary Schell decided to join forces back in 1999. Schell called Cordle and said that he had an unusual idea for a song. Then he asked if Cordle would want to get on in on it. During those times, Cordle was working mainly as a bluegrass artist. He just finished a tour, and he was in the middle of recording an album that time, so he wasn’t in the mood of writing something. However, Schell said that he already had a title for the song, “Murder On Music Row.” Then Cordle immediately said,

“Oh man, is it about killing country music?”

Schell laughed and said, “Yes.” From that moment, Schell knew that he got Cordle on the song and Cordle replied: “Sign me on.”

Writing and Pitching the Hit

After that, Cordele and Schell scheduled time to get together and write the song. It only took them a few hours to finish the song. Cordle was doing his new bluegrass album and thought that “Murder On Music Row” was bluegrass. He considered the song as a traditional country tune, and that ended his intentions of recording it. However, he still got to perform the song to a couple of well-known artists in Nashville, and it had a good response. Then, Cordle’s final night of recording his bluegrass album came. In the middle of the night, he told the musicians,

“Let’s do this. I still need a demo to pitch.”

After that, the record of “Murder On Music Row” was placed on a separate disc and wrapped some of the “crime scene” yellow tape around it. Then it was taken to a DJ named Carle Mayfield who played the song eight times in his four-hour long program. Erv Woolsey heard the song while Mayfield was playing the song.  Woolsey immediately called George Strait and said,

“I have a song for you!”

George Strait and Alan Jackson 

The spokesperson of RCA called Cordle and asked him if he put a hold on the song. Cordle answered, “Sure, I wasn’t planning to play it for anybody anyway.” The spokesperson replied,

“Well, George Strait is thinking about doing it, and he’d like Alan Jackson to record it with him.”

That was all the persuasion Cordle needed. He said, “Yes, absolutely. Tell ‘em to go for it!”

The Success

During the time Cordle and Schell were writing “Murder On Music Row,” they were expecting a backlash from much-disgruntled industry personnel who wouldn’t like the song. However, what they received was quite the opposite. The song was honored by CMA as the “Song of the Year” in 2001. In addition, eventhough it only landed on the 38th spot on Billboard’s Country Singles Chart, it stayed there for five months. It was also included in George Strait’s “Latest, Greatest, Straitest Hits” album. Moreover, George Strait and Alan Jackson won the 2001 CMA “Vocal Event of the Year.”

However, the two men never received any negative reaction. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “Murder On Music Row” was honored as the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year” in 2001, even though it was never promoted as a single. Radio programmers played the tune directly from George Strait’s CD collection “Latest, Greatest, Straitest Hits,” and the song reached the 38th spot on Billboard’s country singles chart on that basis alone. It remained on the chart for a solid five months. Additionally, George and Alan won the 2001 CMA “Vocal Event of the Year” award for their collaborative efforts.

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