Kenny O'Dell

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Kenny O'Dell
Background information
Birth nameKenneth Guy Gist Jr.[1]
Born(1944-06-21)June 21, 1944
Antlers, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died(2018-03-27)March 27, 2018 (aged 73)
Cool Springs, Tennessee, U.S.
Years active1962–1979
LabelsVegas, Capricorn

Kenneth Guy Gist Jr. (June 21, 1944 – March 27, 2018),[2] known as Kenny O'Dell, was an American country music singer and songwriter, best known for writing the number-one country hits "Behind Closed Doors" (recorded by Charlie Rich, 1973) and "Mama He's Crazy" (The Judds, 1984). O'Dell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.


Early in his career, he worked with guitarist Duane Eddy, and his own band, Guys and Dolls.[3] When O'Dell first moved to Nashville in 1969, he ran Bobby Goldsboro's publishing company.[3]

He also wrote pop and soft rock songs, including "Next Plane to London", which was a Top 20 hit in 1967 for The Rose Garden. The Crickets recorded two of his songs in 1972 and 1973, namely "My Rockin' Days" and "Rock'n'Roll Man". Charlie Rich had a top 10 country hit in 1972 with the O'Dell song, "I Take It On Home".[3] It was followed by "Behind Closed Doors",[3] which won a Grammy Award in 1973 for Best Country & Western Recording. O'Dell wrote or co-wrote the number-one country hits "Trouble in Paradise" (Loretta Lynn, 1974) and "Lizzie and the Rainman" (Tanya Tucker, 1975). His other top-10 hit was "What I've Got in Mind" (Billie Jo Spears, 1976).[3]

As a performer, O'Dell had a top-40 pop hit with "Beautiful People", released in 1967.[3] He later had five top-40 country hits, topped by the top-10 hit "Let's Shake Hands And Come Out Lovin'" in 1978.[3] The follow-up, "As Long As I Can Wake Up In Your Arms" peaked at No. 12 in 1979.

Personal life and death[edit]

O'Dell's wife, guitarist Vivian J. "Corki" Ray (née Casey) Gist died at the age of 80 in 2017. The couple had three children.[4][5]

O'Dell died of natural causes on March 27, 2018, in Cool Springs, Tennessee. He was 73.[2]



Year Album Label
1968 Beautiful People Vegas
1974 Kenny O'Dell Capricorn
1978 Let's Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin'


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
CAN Country
1962 "Old Time Love" single only
1967 "Beautiful People" 38 Beautiful People
1968 "Springfield Plane" 94 singles only
"Happy with You" 118
"Bless Your Little Heart"
1970 "If I Was a Rambler"
1971 "Jubal"
1972 "Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Love"
"Lizzie and the Rainman"
1973 "Rock and Roll Man"
1974 "You Bet Your Sweet, Sweet Love" 58 Kenny O'Dell
"I'll Find Another Way (To Say I Love You)"
1975 "Soulful Woman" 18 36
"My Honky Tonk Ways" 37 105 singles only
"I Can't Think When You're Doin'"
1978 "Let's Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin'" 9 Let's Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin'
"As Long as I Can Wake Up in Your Arms" 12 14
1979 "Medicine Woman" 32 single only


  • 1973—Grammy\Best Country Song\"Behind Closed Doors"
  • 1973—CMA\Song of the Year\"Behind Closed Doors"[3]
  • 1973—CMA\Single of the Year\"Behind Closed Doors"
  • 1973—ACM\Song of the Year\"Behind Closed Doors"
  • 1973—ACM\Single of the Year\"Behind Closed Doors"
  • 1984—Nashville Songwriters Association International\Songwriter of the Year
  • 1984—NSAI\Song of the Year\"Mama He's Crazy"
  • 1985—BMI\Country Song of the Year\"Mama He's Crazy"


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  2. ^ a b "Grammy-winning country songwriter Kenny O'Dell dies at 73". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 30, 2018. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1852. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ Betts, Stephen L. (May 15, 2017). "Corki Casey O'Dell, Musicians Hall of Fame Guitarist, Dead at 80". Rolling Stone.
  5. ^ "Vivian Gist Obituary – Nashville, TN | The Tennessean". Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 661. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.

External links[edit]