‘Friends in Low Places’ Songwriter Dewayne Blackwell Dead at 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 Music Row, he 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 scored a No. 1 hit with his song "Mr. Blue." Bobby Vee, Johnny Crawford, Bobby Vinton, Pat Boone, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Garth Brooks and Bob Dylan would all go on to cover the song.
He built a successful career as a pop songwriter throughout the '60s and '70s as artists including Bobby 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, landing 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."
He 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.
Music Row 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. His cause of death has not been reported.