While his name may not be instantly familiar, music aficionados will recognize a few of the more than 600 songs Garland, Texas native Gary Nicholson has penned through the last four decades; songs that have been recorded by artists ranging from Willie Nelson and George Strait to Ringo Starr and Buddy Guy.
The two-time Grammy award winner and Texas Heritage Songwriter’s Hall of Fame recipient generally takes a back seat to fame. He is “the man behind the song.” On October 30, Nicholson will be inducted into the prestigious Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, along with Shania Twain, Steve Wariner, Hillary Lindsey. And David Malloy. They join 213 previously honored songwriters, a virtual who’s who of American music.
Today, after 42 years of songwriting, his songs have been recorded by many of his heroes and friends, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Ringo Starr, BB King, Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, and so many others. (see discography)
Delbert McClinton has recorded 35 of the songs he and Nicholson have written together. “I am very proud of my body of work with Delbert. He has embodied the country and rhythm and blues that made rock and roll what it was to begin with. He is one of my major influences in music making.”
Nicholson has produced five projects for Fort Worth native Delbert McClinton, winning Grammys in the Best Contemporary Blues category for the albums, Nothing Personal in 2001, and Cost of Living in 2005: as well as leading productions for The Judds, Wynonna, Pam Tillis, Marcia Ball, Billy Joe Shaver, and many others.
In addition to his long list of songs performed by other artists, Nicholson has a catalog of his own recordings (see recordings), and many videos available on his website and other streaming services. He occasionally performs as his alter-ego, Whitey Johnson. The character of Whitey Johnson is based on a short story Nicholson wrote about a guitar player who performed at a fair in his hometown of Garland. When Nicholson performs as Whitey, he invokes the spirit of the blues music he has loved all his life. With deepest respect for all the great founding fathers of the blues, and songs that reflect his own unique point of view, Whitey Johnson lives on.
When notified of the upcoming induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, among the most prestigious honors a songwriter can achieve, Nicholson said “I am a product of this environment, this community shaped me and gave me a way to live this dream. I credit this honor to the value of our songwriting community.”