Music Row was created by a small handful of men and women with talent and vision. Exceptional even in this elite group was Buddy Killen, who took a tiny, struggling music operation and made it into the biggest and best music publishing company Nashville had ever seen.
In 1951, at the age of 18, Killen came to Nashville to be a musician. He started playing bass on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1954 radio executive Jack Stapp asked Killen to run the small, almost nonexistent publishing company he had brought into being in 1951. The company was called “Tree.” It had its first number one country hit and a year after that Tree was the sole publisher of the hit song that was the foundation stone of the rock and roll movement, “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Under Killen’s guidance, Tree collected the greatest array of hit songs Nashville had ever known, songs like “King of the Road,” “Green, Green, Grass of Home,” “Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” and the song generally considered to be the greatest of all country hits, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” By the 1970s Tree was the undisputed top publisher on Music Row, and the company continued to rule the Nashville music publishing scene. In 1989, Killen sold it to SONY.
His publishing success gave Killen a position of leadership in the Nashville music community. He is a past president of the Nashville chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and served as secretary on the national board of NARAS. He has also served on the national boards of ASCAP, the National Music Publisher’s Association, and the Country Music Association and was the first person inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
In 1993, his memoirs were published in the highly acclaimed “By the Seat of my Pants,” (Simon and Schuster) co-written with Tom Carter.
Most recently, Killen has the publishing rights for several songs from the Grammy Award winning group OutKast.
The Distinguished Lectures Series provides students and faculty with an opportunity to interact with prominent executives for an open exchange of views on current issues. Through this vital program, executives are brought into the classroom to offer students first-hand information about the complexities of the business world, while inspiring them to seek new ways to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Killen will speak at 9 a.m. in the Johnson Hall Auditorium, Room 103, and again at 10 a.m. in the same location. Both sessions are open to the public.