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Ronnie has seen 14 of his songs achieve at least one million airplays on radio throughout his career. Several of them have attained the status of two, three, four and six million airplays, according to his performance rights organization, BMI. Overall, Ronnie's songs account for more than 60 million performances on radio, placing him in the same league as Merle Haggard, Philadelphia soul writers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and the Bee Gees.
"I really can't wrap my mind around that," Ronnie tells The Boot. "That's big business and my little pea mind is not able to get there. I'm still on a bus, running with a guitar and a five-piece band, playing honky-tonks. I really am. That's what we're doing these days, so it's hard to figure this [honor] out."
Ronnie went on to admit that being in the same class as Merle and the others who have reached 60 million status is "a little embarrassing. We [Brooks and Dunn] were lucky to come along when radio was at its peak, at a time when a lot of us were riding the Garth wave. I can remember the promo guys from Arista Records telling us that country music was, as a genre, bringing in more income at the time than pop. It was a great time back then. It still is. That's how I ended up with the Bee Gees' and Merle Haggard numbers."
When asked to analyze what the songs, including 'Boot Scootin' Boogie,' 'Brand New Man,' 'Neon Moon' and 'She's Not the Cheatin' Kind,' had that made them unique, Ronnie was at a loss to explain. "When 'Brand New Man' came out, I would hear people say it was different from what was on radio at the time. I don't know what the elements are but I do know you have to connect with people somehow, either through the words, the music or the beat."
'Neon Moon' is Ronnie's favorite song, he says, because he wrote it himself. "It has hung around for a long time," he acknowledges. "'Boot Scootin' Boogie' was the first one that I felt some excitement around. I was playing in bars in Oklahoma, and I wrote that one and 'Neon Moon,' and I'd sneak both of them into our sets. 'Boot Scootin' was the one they'd come back and ask for, because you could dance to that beat. It wasn't meant to be a song to line-dance to. At the time I thought I was being a heavy lyricist, writing metaphorically about the cowboy lifestyle and the weekend warrior deal."
Ronnie says the fun part of writing is just seeing what evolves during a writing session. "You keep the antennae up but I've never sat down and consciously planned what I was going to say from here to there," he explains. "I might have the hook line, but I just like to sit and watch it evolve as you start to talk through it. One thing kind of leads to another in your conversation with your co-writer, and you'll end up with a storyline, like 'Cowgirls Don't Cry.'"
Jody Williams, head of BMI Nashville, welcomed the gathering of friends and business associates to the celebration, saying of Ronnie, "His music is more than what he is, it is who he is." Troy Tomlinson, who is with Sony ATV Music Publishing, thanked Ronnie for his 20 years with that company.
"This won't take long," Ronnie said after his introduction. He went on to say there were some people he had to thank, then ran through a list of folks including Kix, songwriters Marv Green, Terry McBride and Don Cook.
"I remember the first time I wrote with Don, it was me and Kix and him," Ronnie recalled. "They put me in this room with them and I was a nervous mess. I finally managed to squeeze one line out and apparently was looking pretty proud of myself because Don looked at me and said, 'Well Ronnie, even a monkey with a typewriter will get one right every now and then.'"
In a more serious tone, Ronnie continued, "When I get all focused on songwriting, I get into all the marketing and promotion that we do to make it happen. Then the right song comes along and blows it all out of the water. The right song will do it for you every time."
Ronnie continues with the tradition of writing songs, with nine of the songs on his self-titled solo album having his name on them.
Ronnie's songs that have attained million-airplay or more status are: 'Boot Scootin' Boogie' (six million), 'Neon Moon' (four million), 'She's Not the Cheatin' Kind,' 'That Ain't No Way to Go' and 'Brand New Man' (three million), 'Little Miss Honky Tonk' and 'Red Dirt Road' (two million), 'Believe,' 'Cowgirls Don't Cry' 'Mama Don't Get Dressed up for Nothing' 'Play Something Country' 'Proud of the House We Built,' 'That's What She Gets' and 'You'll Always Be Loved By Me' (one million).