Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Billy Edd Wheeler

Ep. 86 - Billy Edd Wheeler
Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: Appalachian Renaissance Man & Hillbilly Poet


Scott and Paul have some fun talking about artists who look just like they sound - and those who don't!

PART TWO - 11:23 mark
The guys talk about their Patreon page, Billy Edd's new book, and how 5 lucky listeners can score a free signed copy for themselves.

PART THREE - 18:00 mark
Scott and Paul's in-depth conversation with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Billy Edd Wheeler

* Click the orange play button below to begin listening. Or click here to download to your device.

Scott & Paul chat with the Yale-educated "hillbilly poet" about how Pat Boone covering his song gave him a crash course in music business shenanigans; why he wishes Richie Havens hadn't covered "High Flyin' Bird" at Woodstock; the reason legendary songwriter Norman Gimbel said he'd never make any money; the advice Jerry Leiber gave him about how to write lyrics; why he felt like a "man without a country" while appealing to both commercial country audiences and playing at the Newport Folk Festival; the time he picked up the phone to discover Elvis on the other end of the line; and a big revelation about which "Jackson" the iconic song actually refers to.

Billy Edd Wheeler’s early chart successes were collaborations with the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who worked with Wheeler more than they did any other outside writer. The team of Leiber & Stoller & Wheeler’s first significant hit came with The Kingston Trio’s Top 10 pop recording of “The Reverend Mr. Black” in 1963. The trio then found success on the country charts that same year, scoring a Top 10 hit with Hank Snow’s version of “The Woman Who Loved the Man Who Robbed the Bank at Santa Fe And Got Away.”

Wheeler is best known for writing “Jackson,” a major hit for Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1967, and “Blistered,” which was a Top 5 hit for Cash shortly after. Other artists who reached the Top 20 with Wheeler’s compositions include Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Duncan, Jerry Reed, Elvis Presley, and Kenny Rogers, who took “Coward of the County” to #1 on the country chart, and #3 on the pop rankings.

Additionally, Wheeler’s songs have been recorded by Judy Collins, Jim Croce, Richie Havens, Bobby Darin, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Lee Lewis, Flatt & Scruggs, Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, John Denver, Jimmy Buffett, Wanda Jackson, Chet Atkins, George Strait, Warren Haynes, and others.

As an artist, Billy Edd has released nearly 20 albums, and has placed seven singles on the Billboard country chart. His first, “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back,” became a Top 5 hit in 1965. He has earned multiple ASCAP awards, and is a member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. Wheeler, who pursued his graduate studies at the Yale School of Drama, is also an accomplished playwright, painter, and author, most notably of a revealing new memoir, Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: A Hillbilly Poet's Journey From Appalachia to Yale to Writing Hits for Elvis, Johnny Cash & More.

Songcraft's Billy Edd Wheeler Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy over an hour of Don's original songs. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.