Byron Hill is known primarily as a songwriter, but his credits also include music publishing, producing, and recording. One of his first hits as a songwriter came with "Picking up Strangers," which was recorded by Johnny Lee in 1981. George Strait took Hill's "Fool Hearted Memory" to the top of country charts the following year. His production credits include Kathy Mattea's self-titled album in 1984 for Mercury Records and Gary Allan's 1996 MCA release, Used Hearts for Sale, as well as Mike Dekle's Fine Tuned, a 2000 release for which Hill also contributed some vocals. Hill's own CD, Gravity...And Other Things That Keep You Down to Earth, was released in 1999.
The Georgia native spent his youth in Winston-Salem, NC. With his father as instructor, some of the first songs he learned to play on guitar were Carter Family numbers. Soon, his interest in country music spread to include Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson. Hill especially found inspiration in "Sunday Morning Coming Down," a Kristofferson composition that Cash made into a hit. While attending Appalachian State University, he palled around with other novice songwriters and singers, a path that led to his performing at North Carolina resort areas and coffeehouses at the school. He joined a trio in 1974, but their original material wasn't well-received.
Hill consulted Songwriter Magazine and mailed off a few numbers he had written to music publishers' addresses that he found within the pages of the publication. Encouraged by the feedback he received from ATV Music's Jonathan Stone in 1975, he started traveling frequently to Nashville. By 1978, he relocated to the city, where he started working for ATV Music. He used the opportunity to work on his songwriting skills and found a mentor in writer Roger Bowling, who authored "Coward of the County," "Blanket on the Ground," and "Lucille." When Lee hit with Hill's "Picking up Strangers," the songwriter was on his way.
When ATV Music folded in 1984, Hill pushed on independently and took on the dual tasks of writing and publishing. "Nights," sung by Ed Bruce, became a hit as did songs for a number of other artists, including Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers. Toward the end of the decade, Hill's sole goal was songwriting and he joined Collins Music's writing staff. A number of outstanding songs followed, among them "Alright Already," which Larry Stewart recorded, and "Born Country," which took super group Alabama to the top of the charts. Hill joined MCA Music Nashville in 1992 and his songs were recorded by George Jones, Tracy Byrd, Sammy Kershaw, Neal McCoy, and Gil Grand. Hill remained in Nashville but left MCA Music for Starstruck Writers Group before the close of 1998. When Warner Chappell Music purchased Starstruck in 2000, he stayed on as a staff writer. ~ Linda Seida