Gary Nicholson (singer)

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Gary Nicholson
BornCommerce, Texas, U.S.[1]
OriginNashville, Tennessee, U.S.
record producer
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar
Years active1970s-present

Gary Nicholson is an American singer-songwriter[2] and record producer, known mainly for his work in country music and blues. He is a two-time Grammy winning producer and was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriter's Association Hall of Fame.[3] Nicholson has more than 500 recordings and is best known for his work with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Ringo Starr, BB King, Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joe Shaver.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Nicholson was born in Commerce, Texas. He grew up in Garland, Texas and began playing guitar in his teenage years in bands such as "The Valiants", "The Catalinas" and "The Untouchables". Afterward, Nicholson attended University of North Texas, majoring in music.[5]


Early career[edit]

In 1970, Nicholson and his band drove to Los Angeles, California. The band won a talent contest at the Palomino Club and met musicians James Burton, Red Rhodes and Clarence White. Afterwards, he formed the bluegrass/folk trio, "The Whitehorse Brothers", playing in Southern California. The group expanded and became "Uncle Jim's Music" and was signed to MCA/Kapp records for two albums.[6]

In 1973, Nicholson moved back to Texas and started the rock/country band "Hot Sauce". During this time, he first played with Delbert McClinton. His friend and bandmate, Jim Ed Norman, recorded Nicholson's song "Jukebox Argument", sung by Mickey Gilley in the film Urban Cowboy.[6]

In 1980, Nicholson signed with Norman's Jensong Music and moved to Nashville, Tennessee.[7] He played lead guitar for Guy Clark during the recording of the album Better Days. Mickey Gilley recorded Nicholson's songs "Your Love Shines Through" and "Ladies Night". During this time, he also played guitar for such artists as Billy Joe Shaver, Bobby Bare and Guy Clark.[4]

In 1983, Nicholson signed a publishing contract with Tree Publishing (now Sony/ATV Music Publishing).[8][9] He achieved his first number 1 hit in 1984 with the song "That's the Thing About Love", recorded by Don Williams and "The Power of Love", recorded by Charley Pride. In 1986, he wrote six songs for T. Graham Brown's debut album and in 1987 the title and five others on his second release, Brilliant Conversationalist.[10]

He penned a number 1 hit in 1993 with "One More Last Chance" recorded and co-written by Vince Gill. In 1995, Nicholson co-wrote six songs with John Prine for his album, Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings. He co-wrote a song for Waylon Jennings called "Working Without a Net" in 1996. He received ASCAP Awards in 1997 for the songs, "Givin' Water to a Drowning Man", by Lee Roy Parnell, and "A Thousand Times a Day", by Patty Loveless. Nicholson also left Sony/ATV Music Publishing to start his own publishing company, Gary Nicholson Music ASCAP, during this time. In 1998, Nicholson wrote the album title and single "Trouble With The Truth" by Patty Loveless. In 1999, his song "Live, Laugh, Love" was the album title and single for Clay Walker.[4][6]

Later career[edit]

In 2001, his song "She Couldn't Change Me" by Montgomery Gentry reached number two on Billboard Hot Country Songs. In 2002, Nicholson's song "Squeeze Me In" became a hit duet for Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. He also charted for the singles, "When Love Gets Ahold of You" by Reba McEntire, "Back in Your Arms Again" by The Mavericks and "The Reason Why" by Vince Gill.[10] In 2003, he co-wrote the single "Never Without You" with Ringo Starr and has collaborated on each of his last five records.[11] In 2008, Nicholson co-wrote the title song, "Skin Deep", for Buddy Guy, which was number one on the Billboard Blues Chart and Grammy nominated. He co-wrote "The Git Go" with Billy Joe Shaver for Willie Nelson's Band of Brothers album, and co-wrote "It Ain't You" with Waylon Jennings, as a Ray Benson/Willie Nelson duet.[4]

Nicholson has more than 500 recordings of his songs during his career.[12] He has co-written songs with many notable songwriters and artists including Ringo Starr, Stevie Nicks, Neil Diamond, Vince Gill, Los Lonely Boys, Jimmy Webb, Michael McDonald, Brad Paisley, among others.[13][14]


During his career, Nicholson has produced five projects for Delbert McClinton, winning Grammys in the Best Contemporary Blues category for the albums "Nothing Personal" in 2001[15] and "Cost of Living" in 2005.[16] Nicholson has also produced for Billy Joe Shaver, The Judds, Wynonna, Pam Tillis, T. Graham Brown and Marcia Ball.[17]

Awards and recognition[edit]

He was nominated to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 and inducted into Texas Heritage Songwriter's Association Hall of Fame in 2011. He has received ASCAP Awards for the songs, "Giving Water to a Drowning Man" and "A Thousand Times a Day".[17]

Personal life[edit]

On June 30, 1973, Nicholson married Barbara Ellendorff. He is from Garland, Texas and has lived in Nashville, Tennessee since 1980.[18]



Year Album Label
1971 Uncle Jim's Music – Uncle Jim Kapp Records
1972 Uncle Jim's Music – There's A Song in This Kapp Records
2000 Gary Nicholson – The Sky Is Not the Limit Ardeo Records
2000 Fortunate Sons – Fortunate Sons Fortune Records
2008 Whitey Johnson – Whitey Johnson Slow Moving Records
2010 Gary Nicholson – Nashville Songbook Four Sons Recordings
2011 Gary Nicholson – Texas Songbook[12] Bismeaux Records

Songs in film[edit]

Film Song Artist
Urban Cowboy "Jukebox Argument" Mickey Gilley[19]
Message in a Bottle "Beyond The Blue" Beth Nielsen Chapman[19]
Happy Texas "Are You Happy Baby" Lee Roy Parnell[19]
Where the Heart Is "Beyond The Blue" Emmylou Harris/Patty Griffin[19]
Crazy Heart "Fallin and Flyin" Jeff Bridges[20]


  1. ^ "Gary Nicholson | The Sky Is Not The Limit | CD Baby Music Store". Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  2. ^ "TAXI A&R Interview: Gary Nicholson, Songwriting Producer". Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  3. ^ "Awards Nominations & Winners". April 30, 2017. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "Gary Nicholson". AllMusic. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  5. ^ Tarradell, Mario (June 29, 2011). "Spotlight on Texas Artists: Gary Nicholson, Greezy Wheels and Bigelow Station". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Bio". Gary Nicholson. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  7. ^ "Songwriter Gary Nicholson enjoys best of both worlds »". Archived from the original on September 14, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  8. ^ Interviewed by Michael Laskow. "TAXI A&R Interview: Gary Nicholson, Songwriting Producer". Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  9. ^ Gary Nicholson. "Gary Nicholson – Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Gary Nicholson". Nashville Songwriters Association International. November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  11. ^ Stutz, Colin (December 29, 2014). "Ringo Starr Announces New Album, Tour for Spring 2015". Billboard. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  12. ^ a b "The No Surf Review: Gary Nicholson - Texas Songbook". Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  13. ^ "Songwriter Gary Nicholson enjoys best of both worlds". August 25, 2011. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  14. ^ Steve Leggett. "Seth Walker | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  15. ^ Dexter, Kerry (March 6, 2001). "Delbert McClinton's Nothing Personal Actually Is". MTV. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  16. ^ Collette, Doug (October 6, 2005). "Delbert McClinton: Delbert McClinton: Cost Of Living (2005)". All About Jazz. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  17. ^ a b "Gary Nicholson | The John Jarrard Foundation". Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  18. ^ Tolbert, Gary (July 17, 1973). "Gary Nicholsons live in Van Nuys". The Garland Daily News. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d "Gary Nicholson – Biography". Yamaha Artists. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  20. ^ Kurutz, Steven (February 6, 2010). ""Crazy Heart" Controversy Over Soundtrack Credit". Speakeasy. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 21, 2015.

External links[edit]