Don Schlitz - "The Gambler" Don Schlitz performs his song, "The Gambler" live at Music City Roots at Nashville's Loveless Café in 2013. The song was originally recorded by numerous artists including Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash, but it secured it's place as one of country music's most iconic songs with the famous recording by Kenny Rogers in 1978.
Newly inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame, Don Schlitz is among the most influential and beloved songwriters in the history of country music.
His chart-topping songs — among them “The Gambler,” “On the Other Hand,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”, “The Greatest,” and “When You Say Nothing At All” — are touchstones and inspirations. His works have been recorded by Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, The Judds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss, and many others.
His fifty Top Ten singles include twenty-four Number One country hits. He has won three CMA Song of the Year awards, two Academy of Country Music Song of the Year prizes, two Grammy Awards, and four consecutive (1988-91) ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year trophies.
Schlitz was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (with Bob Seger and Gordon Lightfoot) in 2012.
Born Donald Alan Schlitz, Jr. on Aug. 29, 1952, and raised in Durham, N.C., Schlitz briefly attended Duke University before coming to Nashville at the age of twenty. His talent was recognized and fostered early on by greats including Bob McDill and Bobby Bare, and he emerged as an empathetic and intelligent chronicler of the human spirit.
When Rogers recorded “The Gambler,” (Don’s first recorded song!) Schlitz’s ascent was assured, and the success of that enduring story-song allowed him the ways and means to spend a lifetime writing words and music that articulated the extraordinary emotions inherent in common experience.
Schlitz has written vital and relevant songs for forty years, across five decades. In entering the Country Music Hall of Fame, he will join an exclusive circle of songwriters that includes Bobby Braddock, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, Hank Cochran, and Harlan Howard.
Schlitz and his co-writers penned “Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain,” “Forty Hour Week (for a Livin’), “Houston Solution,” “Deeper Than the Holler,” “One Promise Too Late,” “I Feel Lucky,” “Old School,” “Give Me Wings,” “Strong Enough To Bend,” and scores of other songs that underscore the depth and breadth of modern-era country music.
One of the first performers at Amy Kurland’s iconic songwriter club, The Bluebird Café, Schlitz and friends Thom Schuyler, J. Fred Knobloch, and Paul Overstreet, originated the now-ubiquitous songwriter “in the round” format in 1985. He continues to regularly perform his hits and new material at The Bluebird, interspersed with his wry wit and unique comic timing.
The Don Schlitz songbook even includes the 2001 Broadway musical, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Though he could have hung up his ambitions and his songwriting pen after having written “The Gambler,” Schlitz lives in enduring commonality with Tom Sawyer’s creator, Mark Twain, who once wrote, “I am hard at work… merely for the love of it.”
And perhaps Kenny Rogers, when inducting Don into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said it best: “Don doesn’t just write songs, he writes careers.”
Don and his wife, attorney Stacey Schlitz, live in Franklin, Tennessee.