Jeffrey Steele was the big winner at this year's BMI Country Awards, which were held last evening (Nov. 6) at the performing rights organization's Music Row offices. He received his second country songwriter of the year title and his co-written "What Hurts The Most," recorded by Rascal Flatts, earned song of the year honors. The song spent four weeks atop Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in 2006.
Meanwhile, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville snagged the publisher award for the sixth consecutive year, and a tribute to Willie Nelson recognized the newest BMI Icon.
The 55th annual awards were hosted by BMI president and CEO Del Bryant and VP of Nashville writer/publisher relations Jody Williams.
"What Hurts The Most," co-written by Steele and published by Gottahaveable Music and Bug Music/Songs of Windswept, landed the 39th Robert J. Burton Award, presented to the most performed country song.
Steele secured his first country songwriter nod in 2003. His catalog includes five of last year's most performed BMI songs: Rascal Flatts' "My Wish," "Me and My Gang," and "What Hurts the Most;" Steve Holy's "Brand New Girlfriend;" and Keith Anderson's "Every Time I Hear Your Name."
With 17 songs among this year's top 50 most performed songs, including George Strait's "Give It Away," Josh Turner's "Would You Go With Me" and Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw", Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville-through its companies Sony/ATV Acuff Rose, Sony/ATV Songs, Sony/ATV Melody and Sony/ATV Tree-picked up top publisher honors.
Among the evening's highlights was the tribute to Nelson, which featured performances by fellow pioneers Kris Kristofferson and Emmylou Harris, as well as Toby Keith, Turner and Keith Urban.
Hit songwriters Brett Beavers, Rodney Clawson, Jamey Johnson, Tony Martin, Bill Anderson, Steve Bogard, Scotty Emerick, Keith, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Bobby Pinson and the Warren Brothers, who each supplied two or more songs to the top 50 list, were also honored.
Publishers EMI Blackwood Music; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing; Jeffrey Steele Music Group; Bug Music/Songs of Windswept; Universal Music Publishing Group; Big Gassed Hitties; Brett Beavers Music Group; Gold Watch Music; Music of Stage Three and StyleSonic Music each took home three or more awards.
For a complete list of winners, go to bmi.com/country.