Raised here in Vancleave, through the 1980s Paul Overstreet became one of Nashville’s most consistently successful and honored songwriters, penning major hits for George Jones, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, The Judds, Kenny Chesney, and Alison Krauss, while becoming a chart-topping singer himself. Some of his songs about family, marriage and religion such as “On the Other Hand,” “Sowin’ Love,” “Seeing My Father in Me,” and “When You Say Nothing at All,” became modern country classics.
Born on March 17, 1955 in Newton, Mississippi, and raised in Vancleave, Paul was the youngest of five children of William Overstreet, a preacher, and his wife Mary. Musical talent and interest ran in the family, and he regularly heard classic country music on the radio as a child. He was six years old when his parents divorced, his mother left dependent on public assistance until she eventually remarried. Inspired by the Hank Williams story, and a performance by Tanya Tucker that he saw while working in Texas as a mechanic soon after graduating from high school here in 1973, Overstreet headed for Nashville, determined to succeed as a songwriter and singer. He would work blue-collar day jobs and sing and play in country bands at night for most of the difficult decade to follow.
In 1982, George Jones took his song “Same Ole Me” to Number Five on the country charts, the breakthrough in a multi-decade career that would yield dozens of Top Ten songs and establish Paul Overstreet as one of the leading songwriters in country music. His career would include a remarkable stand (1987-’91) in which he was BMI’s Songwriter of the Year five years in a row. Among Overstreet’s dozens of Top Ten songs were “On the Other Hand,” and the Grammy-winning “Forever and Ever Amen” as recorded by Randy Travis (both CMA and ACM Songs of the Year); “When You Say Nothing At All,” a hit for both Keith Whitley and Alison Krauss; the Grammy-winning “Love Can Build a Bridge,” recorded by The Judds; “I Fell in Love Again Last Night,” recorded by The Forester Sisters; “My Arms Stay Open All Night” recorded by Tanya Tucker; and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” by Kenny Chesney.
Overstreet’s celebrated ability to evoke life’s unforgettable moments and emotions as a writer and co-writer were matched by his gifts as a singer, which came to be recognized in the mid-1980s. He would have significant solo hits with personal material such as “Seein’ My Father in Me,” and “Daddy’s Come Around,” and more, including the Number One “Baby’s Got a New Baby” as a member of the group S-K-O. Songs that affirmed married love, the value of family life, and of the spirit would become the central focus of his songwriting as his own life evolved towards a focus on his marriage to wife Julie, an active role in raising his six children, and working for Christian ministries and charity efforts. He founded his own record company, Scarlet Moon, in 1999. Paul Overstreet was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003.
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