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6th Annual Georgia On My Mind Show – The Peach Pickers & Friends Pull Off Another Success

Some things are addicting.  Many of them are bad for you, but some are incredibly good for you, like Georgia On My Mind, the annual show presented by Gretsch and hosted by The Peach Pickers.  I went last year for the first time and I swore right after it ended that I would never miss another one. So, far I’ve kept that promise to myself. I made it to this year’s show again and now I can say it.  My name is Patti and I’m a Georgia On My Mind addict. Only I don’t want or need any interventions. I’m good, but not nearly as good as this event.

Georgia On My Mind isn’t just entertainment.  It’s a fundraiser for the Georgia Music Foundation.  The Georgia Music Foundation supports programs of music education, preservation and outreach.  Proceeds from Georgia On My Mind enable the Foundation to award grants to Georgia school, after-school and summer music programs statewide.  I can’t think of a better way to raise funds than bringing so many amazing artists that hail from the great state of Georgia together on stage at the Ryman Auditorium to play music together, and this was the 6th year in a row that it has been an enormous success.

Photo courtesy of Georgia Music Foundation

For those of you that aren’t aware of who The Peach Pickers are, they are three of Nashville’s best songwriters.  Chances are, they’ve had a hand in writing many of the country songs you know and love. Each one of them is also originally from Georgia.  They are Dallas Davidson (Albany, GA), Rhett Akins (Valdosta, GA) and Ben Hayslip (Evans, GA). I think most people know that Georgia is world-famous for its peaches, and that’s why they call themselves The Peach Pickers.  Pretty simple, right? What wouldn’t be simple would be the math on trying to determine how many hits, how many awards and what charts each song reached what spot on. Only someone who really loves stats. Otherwise, it could be migraine-inducing, but suffice to say, they’ve written a ton of hits.

Photo courtesy of The Peach Pickers Facebook

Once again, Nashville traffic and finding parking caused us to walk in just a few minutes late, right smack in the middle of Travis Denning singing “Ashley David Parker From Power Springs” (Travis Denning, Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander).  I was sorry I missed the beginning, as I love that song, but at least I didn’t miss the entire thing. Denning is a native of Warner Robins, Georgia and has become a fast favorite of mine. I’ve had the opportunity to see him a few times now.  Not full concerts, but short appearances, and he never misses. His sound hits that treasured space right in the center of traditional and modern country that I personally think a lot of people look for. Not everyone can commit to one extreme or the other.  He fits the bill perfectly for those that sit in the middle of the aisle.  

The emcee of the show was Sirius/XM The Highway’s Storme Warren, always fun at any event.  He told us we were in for some surprises and he didn’t give us much time to think about who they might be, because immediately after that, out came a non-surprise guest, as he was on the scheduled lineup, Riley Green.  


Green, decked out in his usual ball cap, came out and sang “In Love By Now”, his single that was written by himself, Marv Green and two of The Peach Pickers, Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins.  Well, what do you know? I told you those guys write a lot of songs. It was a good performance on Green’s part, unfortunately, there was a lot of chatter going on around me during this one, actually during a few of them.  I must have been in the “we haven’t seen each other in years and need to catch up” section this time. I know the Ryman isn’t exactly a listening room, but if you’re going to a concert, either listen to the music, sing along or go talk in the lobby.  

Video courtesy of Missy Hartley Thomas and YouTube

Colt Ford, originally from Athens, Georgia, stopped by to perform “Chicken & Biscuits” which he wrote with Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins.  It was released as his first and only single off his Chicken & Biscuits album in 2010.   It was a lively duet with co-writer Akins, but don’t think this is a song about sitting around indulging in delicious, yet heart-damaging food.  Oh no. This is a love song. This song is about a girl. What? You haven’t heard it? What? You don’t like country rap? Stop it. Give this one a try.  Click the link below. I think it’s time you tried a little “Chicken & Biscuits”.  

Ford did a fine job at the Ryman and he did Georgia proud.  The morning of their very first writing session together, Akins and Hayslip saw that Ford brought chicken and biscuits for breakfast.  They couldn’t think of anything to write about, so Akins suggested they write about chicken and biscuits, seeing that the box was sitting right there in front of them.  Song inspiration can come from anywhere my friends. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You just never know.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

It was time for The Peach Pickers to make their first appearance and play us some songs, and that made for one happy crowd.  These three guys are so talented and you never know what they’ll play because let’s face it, they’ve written so many recognizable tunes, it could be anything.  They started off appropriately with “All About Tonight”, the 2010 song recorded by Blake Shelton.  The song was co-written by Davidson, Hayslip and Akins and reached number one on the Billboard US Hot Country Songs chart the week of August 28, 2010.  The party had most certainly been kicked off in style by our hosts The Peach Pickers.

Photo courtesy of Georgia Music Foundation

“Small Town Boy” (Rhett Akins, Kyle Fishman, Ben Hayslip), which became a hit for artist Dustin Lynch, was the song they played next.  It was a song written about the counties in Georgia that The Peach Pickers grew up in. Reaching number one on the Billboard US Country Airplay chart in September 2017 it certainly hasn’t lost its appeal.  It can still be heard quite regularly on country radio.

From Dustin Lynch and right back to Blake.  The Peach Pickers jumped into “Honey Bee” (Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip), Blake Shelton’s 2011 number one.  The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance but fell to Taylor Swift’s “Mean”.  I could make a really horrible pun here, but I’m sure it’s been done many times over already. The song did quite well otherwise.  The Peach Pickers did a good job with it at Georgia On My Mind too. 

Rounding out their first set, Davidson, Akins and Hayslip finished strong with the Luke Bryan mega hit, “Play It Again”, co-written by Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley.  Dallas Davidson handled the lead vocals at Georgia On My Mind for this multi-platinum 2014 song.

Video courtesy of Luke Bryan and YouTube

Storme Warren welcomed Fred and Dinah Gretsch, the good folks who presented this 6th annual Georgia On My Mind show, as they presented the Georgia Music Foundation a check which will support music education in schools all across the state of Georgia.  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Following that, an outstanding group of young people, the Otis Redding Foundation’s Dream Choir came out and performed an upbeat rendition of the current chart-topper, “Old Town Road – Remix” (Atticus Matthew Ross, Billy Ray Cyrus, Joselyn Donald, Michael Trent Reznor, Montero Lamar Hill).  These kids got things hoppin’ in that place! They weren’t messing around. They had the whole thing choreographed and they had the moves. That particular song falls into the “love it or hate it” category, or at least that’s what people want you to believe. I’ve witnessed it done by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus (along with Keith Urban on banjo) at CMA Fest, and I saw an awful lot of people dancing and singing along.  Kind of the same thing at the Ryman. I would bet if you took many of those people, and put them back in their homes or their offices, they would never admit to enjoying that song, yet in the moment, they couldn’t help themselves. It was a good time.

Video courtesy of JustDuckyDesigns1 and YouTube

Michael Ray, recently engaged to Carly Pearce, sang his ballad, “Her World or Mine”.  The problem with this is, why was Michael Ray even on the bill? He’s from Eustis, Florida.  Storme Warren jokingly called it “South Georgia”, but that’s stretching things a bit. First of all, it’s Nashville.  Artists are friends and rules are meant to be broken. If Michael Ray was from somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Asia and The Peach Pickers wanted him on the show, guess what?  He’s in. There was a connection to Georgia though. “Her World or Mine” was co-written by Brett Beavers, Jamie Paulin and Travis Denning. There it is. Travis Denning from Powder Springs.  No wait, that’s David Ashley Parker. Travis Denning from Warner Robins, Georgia! How about that? Ray may be engaged, but he still had the ladies swooning, but what else is new? Just another day at the office.

Photo courtesy of Terry Wyatt Photo for Getty Images

From “South Georgia” we took a quick flight to “North Georgia”, way up there.  They’re calling it “Canada” these days. Calgary, to be precise. The high priestess of country shredders, Lindsay Ell was up next and did she ever wail out that “one song that can change your life”, and for her, that one song was “Criminal” (Lindsay Ell, Christopher Stevens, Fred Wilhelm) from her 2017 album, The Project.  It’s generally a given that Ell will be a showstopper with her insane guitar solos, but her sense of style always keeps up with those mind-blowing solos, and I’m not just talking about her stage wear.  I’m talking about her guitars, which she often hand paints. They’re as strikingly fashionable as her outfits. The one she was playing at Georgia On My Mind was especially colorful.  Its name was Jeremy.  “I name all my guitars, ‘cause I’m a nerd like that”, said Ell. If that’s nerdy, I must be one too, because I’ve been known to name inanimate objects myself. Then again, I’m a self-professed nerd anyway. No guitar required.

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

Up until that point, I was having a difficult time choosing that one shining moment, you know, the one act that I thought deserved the blue ribbon.  They were all so good. Time was about to stop and that moment was ready to hit me square in the jaw.

This guy was a true Georgia boy.  Hailing from Lyons, Georgia in Toombs County.  The song he performed only made it to the 24 spot on the Billboard US Country Airplay chart, but it was critically acclaimed and country music fans loved it.  The song is “Outskirts of Heaven” co-written by Craig Campbell and Dave Turnbull. Craig Campbell came on stage with his acoustic guitar and nothing more. No house band, just himself.  As he was singing, I furiously scribbled in my notebook, “think of a good word for ‘CLEAR’ “.  

Image courtesy of TownMapsUSA.com

Video courtesy of Brenda Steinmann and YouTube

I’ve seen Craig Campbell countless times.  I can’t even remember all the times I’ve seen him.  He’s always been great, but something was different this time around.  There was such control and such brilliance to his voice. There was a clarity to it, which is why I made that note.  I didn’t want to say it was “clear”. It was clear, but it was clearer than clear, if that even makes sense. So, I really gave it a lot of thought because I wanted to describe it exactly as I heard it, and I would say it was luminous.  It had a brightness to it that was as close to perfect as I’ve ever heard in that venue.  I looked at my guest and we both were a bit shellshocked, so it wasn’t just me. Further proof came after Campbell finished the song when the entire audience gave him a standing ovation.  It was a blue ribbon performance. For those that would like to see Campbell play in the future, he now does a residency at The Stage on Broadway the first Tuesday of every month. He also has special guests joining him at each show, so you definitely want to go check that out while in Music City.

Storme Warren introduced artist John Berry as being from “Northeast Georgia”, meaning South Carolina, but Berry spent a lot of time in Athens, Georgia, so he considers that home just as much as South Carolina, so I guess we could say he’s an Honorary Georgia Boy.  “The Richest Man” was written by Berry for his late father. It’s a heart-tugger.  I’ve seen him sing this one before and I’ve also seen tears in the audience each time. If you know this song was written by John Berry for his own father, it makes it even more meaningful.  Berry has dealt with serious health issues recently and is now in recovery mode. It’s truly amazing how beautiful his voice is and how easy it is to listen to. One of the best in the business. It was so good to see him up there, looking happy to be back at what he does so well.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

A little bluegrass never hurts any show and that’s where Russell Moore % IIIrd Tyme Out came in.  This five-piece group from Cumming, Georgia certainly livened things up.  I’ve learned a lot about the bluegrass genre in the last few years and for anyone that believes it’s all hayseeds and backwoods stump jumpers pickin’ and grinnin’ without a clue, back that train right up.  If you watch a good bluegrass video and then you watch a good rock video you’ll see that those bluegrass musicians not only keep up with the rockers, they often surpass them in skill.  I have to thank my friend Billy Strings for turning me on to this piece of information.  Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out are a great bluegrass band and I was glad to see them perform live.

When you mix in someone like the wonderfully gifted Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls it’s magical.  Ray, a native of Decatur, Georgia, has been wildly successful with the Indigo Girls, as a solo artist, the owner of a record label and a champion of numerous causes.  Together, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out and Ray played “Blue Sky” (Richard Betts) in celebration of the 50th year of the formation of The Allman Brothers Band. Thanks to a rare eye condition, I don’t see very well, and from way back in Row U, it was difficult to make out details, especially with that many people on stage, but my hearing is just fine, and this one sounded oh, so good.

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

As Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out exited the stage, Storme Warren came out and told Amy Ray she wasn’t leaving yet.  He also admitted he was “totally geeking out right now” because he was such a fan of Ray’s for so long, and it was the first time he was meeting her.  Yes, even celebrities get starstruck once in a while. My neighbor and friend, Mary Beth, who I brought along with me, and was helping me out, well, she was “geeking out” right along with Storme Warren.  She said she was a huge Indigo Girls fan since she was 14-years old, and even used one of their songs for her wedding.   

Ray then brought out her friend and fellow artist, Becky Warren, to sing Ray’s “Duane Allman”, her tribute to the late guitarist and founder of The Allman Brothers Band who died in a 1971 motorcycle crash at the age of 24.  If you don’t know this song and you’re an Allman Brothers fan, you need to have it. This was a highlight of the night for me. If you need a tribute song, Ray might be the person you want to collaborate with. If you go to download this song, you’ll find it’s Amy Ray with Susan Tedeschi.  It’s one of the best songs anyone will ever tell you to get. Get it.

Americus, Georgia is where singer/songwriter Brent Cobb was born.  He was raised in Ellaville in Schley County, Georgia and now calls Nashville home.  He has written songs for artists such as Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney, and he even saves some for himself, like “South of Atlanta”, which he did for the crowd at the Ryman.  It’s a pretty one and I guess with a title like that, it was fitting for a Georgia-themed show. This was another one where I was wishing we were either closer to the stage or had our photographer with us, something about his performance must have really grabbed me, because in my notes  I harshly scribbled, “PHOTO WOULD HAVE BEEN GOOD HERE”. Maybe next year. 


Image courtesy of TownMapsUSA.com

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Every year at this event, The Peach Pickers give a special Flamekeeper Award to someone from Georgia who keeps the “fire burning” by representing the state in a positive manner.  This year’s recipient was singer/songwriter Bill Anderson. Anderson was born in South Carolina, but was raised in Griffin and Decatur, Georgia, and is one of country music’s most beloved songwriters. Dallas Davidson pointed out that Anderson has had hits spanning from the 1960’s to the 2000’s.  Ben Hayslip added, “We’ve got a long way to go if we’re gonna catch Bill Anderson. We’re honored just to be on this stage with him.”

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

The 2019 Flamekeeper hasn’t slowed down either.  He’s still writing songs. “Everybody Wants to Be Twenty-One” is a song he co-wrote with Jamey Johnson.  Johnson joined Anderson on stage at the Ryman where they performed the song about the young wishing they were older and the old dreaming about being younger.  This was one of those moments you just know you’ll be telling people about for years to come.  


Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Johnson holds a deep appreciation for Bill Anderson and said he’s proud to have been one of his students.  He said when he first came to Nashville, he had already written hundreds of songs and thought he knew quite a bit about songwriting.  Once he got in a room with Anderson, he realized he didn’t know anything at all about it. He learned a lot from this year’s Flamekeeper, Mr. Bill Anderson.  I’m sure many others have as well.  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Johnson then sang a moving version of “Georgia On My Mind”.  He does it better than so many I’ve heard over the years. Better than just about any of the many I listened to as I prepared to write this feature.  I’m not sure what it is, but when Jamey Johnson sings just about anything, it’s like his soul meets his vocal chords and he requires no other fanfare to make you watch and listen.  He’s an enigma. 

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Surprise guest Cole Swindell, born in Bronwood, Georgia, popped in to sing his latest single, “Love You Too Late” (Cole Swindell, Brandon Kinney, Michael Carter) and “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” (Cole Swindell, Adam Sanders, Josh Martin), the latter being a big crowd favorite with just about everyone singing along.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

It was time for The Peach Pickers to make one final appearance and they went out with a bang.  These guys are hitmakers and they went after them. Hit after hit after hit.

Starting off with the Jake Owen hit “Anywhere With You”, Ben Hayslip took lead vocals.  That made sense because he, along with David Lee Murphy and Jimmy Yeary wrote that certified platinum song.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Hayslip turned the mic over to Dallas Davidson for the next one.  Honoring the birthday boy, Luke Bryan, who celebrates July 17th, the day of the show, they played “What Makes You Country” (Luke Bryan, Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley).   This song was one “we wrote about what makes all of us country”, explained Davidson. The Peach Pickers let the audience know that Bryan was spending his birthday fishing on the Flint River, and yes, that’s pretty country.


Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

It was Rhett Akins’s turn to shine, but before he did, he let everyone know that yes, he is Thomas Rhett’s Daddy, and he also had something to say about that.  “We taught Thomas Rhett everything he knows, but not everything we know.”  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

“That Ain’t My Truck” was co-written by Rhett Akins, Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters and recorded by Akins.  It was released in May of 1995. While it never made it to number one, it’s still one of the most recognizable and loved country songs by fans of the genre.  The point was proven by the mass singalong going on, especially every time Akins came around to the chorus.  

The last two songs had all three songwriters singing together, and, as I said, it all ended on a high note.  “Huntin’, Fishin’ And Lovin’ Every Day (Ben Hayslip, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins, Luke Bryan) and Boys ‘Round Here (Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins, Craig Wiseman), the Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton number one  hits rounded things out for the evening. The Ryman was rockin’!  

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

This event is sweeter than Georgia peaches and my advice to you is next year, be ready.  The minute those tickets go on sale, get yours. It’s a songwriter round of the highest caliber.  To date, The Peach Pickers have 70 number one songs between them. The house band for Georgia On My Mind is top-notch.  The lineup and surprise guests are like bonus gifts. Best of all, the proceeds go to such a special cause. That money will help develop new, exciting musicians for our future.  Music is a language we all understand and love. It’s a common thread that brings us together. Every state has young people with amazing musical potential, but you can’t deny, there’s just something about Georgia.    

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country

Here are some thoughts about the show from people that were there…

“John Berry’s performance of his new single, ‘The Richest Man’ was beautiful and really touched the audience.  Another favorite moment was seeing the sweet beaming faces of the Otis Redding Foundation’s Dream Choir as they came off stage after their song, receiving a high five from Lindsay Ell as they passed by.”  Cynthia Aycock, Nashville, TN

“The annual Peach Pickers show is an amazing opportunity to witness our immense talent in Nashville, much of which comes from Georgia, and the fact that they raise money for music education and awareness makes it even more worthwhile.  A special congrats to Whisperin’ Bill Anderson on the Flamekeeper Award – pretty impressive to have hit songs in every decade dating back to the 60’s!” Lindsey Sipe, Nashville, TN

“Craig Campbell… ‘Outskirts of Heaven’, goosebumps and tears!”  Lisa Etherington

The Georgia Music Foundation: https://www.georgiamusicfoundation.org




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