Referred to by Billboard Magazine as “One of Music Row’s greatest veteran tunesmiths,” Jerry Salley has had an incredibly successful, multi-award winning songwriting career. The 2003 SESAC Country Music Songwriter of the Year and 2018 IBMA Songwriter of the Year, Salley has had over 500 different songs recorded and his songs have sold in excess of 17 million records worldwide. Writing and singing in Nashville since 1982, he has written multiple hits in country, bluegrass, and gospel music and may well be the most successful songwriter to have earned equal recognition from all three genres of music.
From Sir Elton John’s only chart single to appear on the Billboard Country Chart (“Where We Both Say Goodbye” – duet with Australian artist Catherine Britt) to a Gospel song so popular it has been included in church hymnals (“His Strength Is Perfect”); from songs recorded by country music legends Loretta Lynn and The Oak Ridge Boys to some of today’s biggest country stars like Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, and Brad Paisley, Jerry’s long list of accomplishments speaks for itself.
Born in the small southern Ohio town of Chillicothe, he signed with Performing Rights Organization SESAC at eighteen years old. After earning a degree from Ohio University in 1982, Salley moved to Nashville and landed a job in the Country Music USA cast at Opryland theme park, a job that would become a springboard for what was to come.
Jerry’s country music successes began in the late 1980s when the group Wild Rose recorded “Breakin’ New Ground”. Since then, countless country music stars have recorded his songs, including Reba McEntire (“I’m Gonna Take That Mountain”, “Close To Crazy”), John Anderson (“I Fell In The Water”), Wade Hayes (“How Do You Sleep At Night”) , Chris Stapleton (“Outlaw State Of Mind” on the Grammy award winning double-platinum album Traveller), Toby Keith, Sara Evans, Patty Loveless, Joe Nichols, Darryl Worley, Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Mark Chesnutt and many more. Internationally, he has penned no less than nine #1 Country hits in Australia.
As part of a trio with friends Larry Cordle and Carl Jackson, Jerry recorded the song “You’re Running Wild” on the Louvin Brothers Tribute on Universal South Records. Entitled Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’ – Songs Of the Louvin Brothers, the album features numerous country music stars singing songs made famous by the legendary duo. The project won the 2003 Grammy for Country Album Of The Year.
In the bluegrass genre, Jerry won the 2018 Songwriter of the Year award in addition to being a three-time nominee and has had hundreds of songs, including numerous chart-toppers, recorded. He was thrilled to have co-written three songs on The SteelDrivers Grammy award winning album, The Muscle Shoals Recordings (“A Long Way Down”, “The River Runs Red”, “6 Feet Away”), and a song on the Del McCoury Band Grammy winning album The Streets Of Baltimore (“The Butler Brothers”). Other bluegrass groups who have recorded Jerry’s songs include The Osborne Brothers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Rhonda Vincent, Lonesome River Band, Balsam Range, Seldom Scene, Flatt Lonesome, IIIrd Tyme Out, Larry Stevenson, Donna Ulisse, Irene Kelley and many others. Salley is a multiple IBMA Song Of The Year nominee, and his song “All Dressed Up”, recorded by Joe Mullin and The Radio Ramblers, won the IBMA Gospel Recorded Song Of The Year award in 2016. Jerry is a three-time IBMA Award winner, which includes receiving the 2006 IBMA Album Of The Year award for his contribution (as an artist) to the Celebration Of Life album.
He is a seven-time Dove Award nominee in the country, bluegrass, and southern gospel categories and won a prestigious Dove for the 1990 Inspirational Song of the Year “His Strength Is Perfect”, recorded by and co-written with Steven Curtis Chapman. “His Strength Is Perfect” has been recorded more than 200 times, and was included in the Baptist Hymnal in 2009. Prior to that, the song had been included in the Celebration Life Hymnal, arguably the largest selling non-denominational Hymnal in the world. Salley has written eight #1 Gospel hits, multiple #2 Gospel hits and over a dozen other top ten/top twenty gospel songs. Gospel groups that have recorded Jerry’s songs include Steven Curtis Chapman, CeCe Winans, The Talleys, The Isaacs, Karen Peck & New River, The McKameys, Tribute Quartet, The Kingsmen, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and many more.
As an artist, Jerry has performed worldwide. As well as having the honor of performing as a soloist many times on the world famous Grand Ole Opry, he has appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, Regis and Kathy Lee, and NBC’S Today Show, where he was honored to sing as background vocalist for the legendary Linda Ronstadt.
In 2007, Jerry released his first solo project, New Songs, Old Friends, on the Mountain Home Records Label. A Bluegrass CD of all new songs written by Jerry, the project includes guest vocalists The Oak Ridge Boys, Rhonda Vincent, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White, Darryl Worley, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Sonya Isaacs, Alecia Nugent, Jamie Johnson, Lisa Shaffer and buddies Carl Jackson and Larry Cordle. The project was one of the final nominees for the 2007 IBMA “Recorded Event of the Year”.
Salley followed up his debut, New Songs, Old Friends, with yet another outstanding lineup of original tunes, entitled Showing My Age. This project was released in 2012, with tracks that appeal to lovers of Americana, gospel, bluegrass, and country music. It includes crowd favorites “Paper and Pen”, “Where I’m Coming From”, and “The Broken Ones”.
In 2015 Jerry released his third solo project, Gospel From My Grassroots, an all-bluegrass gospel project. This highly anticipated 13-track CD features guest vocalists Steven Curtis Chapman, Dale Ann Bradley, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Val Storey, Bradley Walker, and Maggie Salley. After much prompting by fans, Salley compiled a song book of sheet music to accompany the project.
2017 brought Front Porch Philosophy (released in August 2017) packed with 12 brand-new songs, all written or co-written by Salley with some of the best bluegrass writers and artists in the business, including Carl Jackson, Donna Ulisse, Irene Kelley, Tammy Roger-King, Cody Farrar and other talented writers. The first single from the album, “The Night Flatt & Scruggs Played Carnegie Hall”, debuted on the bluegrass charts at #11 and climbed into the top 4, while the song “Pulling A Heavy Load” landed at #6 on the bluegrass gospel charts. Another notable song, “Thin Blue Line”, has gained success and attention on the World Wide Web.
Salley’s fifth cd and second all gospel album will be released in 2019 and he is already working on his 7th bluegrass album.
Although Salley focuses on songwriting, he is in high demand as a producer for classic country, bluegrass, Americana, and gospel artists. He also loves sharing his music with his fans, performing approximately 80 shows a year throughout the country. In addition to songwriting, producing and touring, Salley was taped to be the head of A&R and Creative Director for Nashville’s newest bluegrass and Americana record labels Billy Blue Records and Billy Jam Records.
Multi-Grammy award winning producer, musician and songwriter, Carl Jackson says of Jerry: “Jerry is not only a friend, in the truest sense of the word, he is also a songwriter’s songwriter – an artist that completely understands the idea of “painting a picture” using the marriage of lyric and rhyme; someone that fully grasps the art of crafting a song, rather than throwing words against the page. His paintbrush is a pen, his canvas a legal pad, and his goal always another masterpiece.”