Grammy-Winning Songwriter Kenny O’Dell Dead at 73
Grammy Award-winning songwriter Kenny O'Dell died Wednesday (Mar. 28) at the age of 73. He passed away from natural causes at a health care facility in Cool Springs outside of Nashville.
O'Dell was best known for his two award-winning songs: the 1973 Grammy-winning Best Country Song "Behind Closed Doors" for Charlie Rich, and the 1984 Grammy-nominated Song of the Year "Mama He's Crazy" for the Judds. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996.
He additionally was known as one of the longest-serving members of the board of directors for the Nashville Songwriters Association International, and had a reputation as a devoted proponent for songwriters.
He was born Kenneth Gist, Jr., in Oklahoma in 1944, was raised in California, and began writing songs at the age of 13. After graduating high school, he formed his own record label, Mar-Kay, and cut his first single, "Old Time Love." Upon its release, he decided to change his name to his mother's middle name, O'Dell, since "Gist" proved hard to pronounce.
He made his way to Nashville in 1969, where he began writing for many notables, including Tanya Tucker, Dottie West, Sandy Posey and Kenny Rogers. He balanced his songwriting career with his own performance ambitions, recording his own music and touring through the '70s. He earned a Top 10 country hit on his own with "Let's Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin'" in 1978.
O'Dell was married to the pioneering guitarist and singer Corki Casey O'Dell, who played on many of Duane Eddy's early hits, and died in 2017.
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