‘Friends in Low Places’ Songwriter Dewayne Blackwell Dead at 84
Dewayne Blackwell, an iconic songwriter who co-wrote Garth Brooks' country megahit "Friends in Low Places," has died. MusicRow reports that Blackwell died on Sunday (May 23) at the age of 84.
According to his profile on the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame website, Blackwell was born in 1936 in Corpus Christi, Texas, as one of eight children to parents who were Dust Bowl migrants. The family later moved to California, and Blackwell worked as an itinerant crop picker as a child alongside his family.
According to MusicRow, Blackwell began playing in bars with his brother when he was 14 before dropping out of school and moving to Alaska, where he worked as a stevedore and longshoreman and began writing songs.
Blackwell scored his first success as a songwriter in 1959, when the Fleetwoods earned a No. 1 hit with his song "Mr. Blue." Bobby Vee, Johnny Crawford, Bobby Vinton, Pat Boone, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Brooks and Bob Dylan would all go on to cover the song.
Blackwell built a successful career as a pop songwriter throughout the '60s and '70s as artists including Vee, Roy Orbison, Vinton, the Four Preps and the Everly Brothers recorded his songs, but Blackwell scored the biggest successes of his career in his second act as a songwriter after he moved to Nashville in the 1980s. There, he landed hits including Marty Robbins' “Honkytonk Man," “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home” by David Frizzell, “Make My Day” by T.G. Sheppard and Clint Eastwood and Conway Twitty's “Saturday Night Special."
Blackwell scored his biggest hit with Brooks' "Friends in Low Places," which he co-wrote with Earl Bud Lee. The song reached No. 1 and won Single of the Year honors at both the CMA and ACM Awards, and it was also nominated for a Grammy.
MusicRow reports that Blackwell retired to Ajijic, a town on the shores of Lake Chapala in central Mexico, in 2003 and opened a restaurant called Senor Azul (Mr. Blue) there in 2004. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017.
Blackwell's cause of death has not been reported.