Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Kenny O'Dell died Tuesday (3/27) in a suburban Nashville healthcare facility.
Born Kenneth Guy Gist, Jr. in 1944, O'Dell changed his name because of the difficulty people had pronouncing his real last name. His interest in songwriting began early, writing songs while he was still in grade school. Moving to Nashville in the late 60s, he recorded three albums of his own music, with his biggest hit as a singer being 1978's "Let's Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin'."
As a songwriter, however, O'Dell attained legendary status in 1973...thanks to Watergate. He told the Nashville Tennessean in 2017 that he kept hearing about Congressional hearings related to the Watergate scandal being held in secret. "They're always talking about how no one knows what goes on behind closed doors," O'Dell told Bart Herbison. "And I'm thinking, I like the title 'Behind Closed Doors.'"
O'Dell played rhythm guitar on Charlie Rich's recording of the song, which became a chart-topping smash in country and pop. The song won the "Country Song of the Year" Grammy award for the year, as well as the "Song of the Year" award in both the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards presentations.
His other massive songwriting success -- earning him a BMI "Country Song of the Year" award and a Grammy nomination -- was "Mama, He's Crazy," one of the biggest hits in the career of the Judds. Additionally, O'Dell wrote or co-wrote other hits such as "Lizzy and the Rainman" (Tanya Tucker), "I Take It on Home" (Charlie Rich), and "Trouble in Paradise" (Loretta Lynn).
O'Dell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996. His wife, Corki Casey O'Dell, was a Musicians Hall of Fame guitarist. She passed away last year.
Kenny O'Dell was 73.