Songwriter and recording artist Wayne Kemp, who penned hit tunes for George Strait, George Jones and Johnny Cash, among many others, died March 9th at Macon County General Hospital in Lafayette, Tennessee. According to Music Row, he was suffering from multiple ailments and was on kidney dialysis when he passed away. Kemp was 74.
One of nine children in his family, Kemp was born in Greenwood, Arkansas, and raised in Muldrow, Oklahoma. An auto-racing enthusiast in his youth, he was badly burned in 1967 when a drunk driver crashed into his car, killing two of his band members. Although doctors told him he would never play guitar again, Kemp persevered.
An automobile also figured in one of his most well-known songs, Johnny Cash’s 1976 Number One hit “One Piece at a Time,” a novelty tune about an assembly worker who reassembles a Cadillac from the parts of several different models. Other lighthearted tunes Kemp wrote include the 1965 George Jones hit “Love Bug,” which was covered by George Strait in 1994, “Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double,” a hit for Jones and later recorded by Emmylou Harris, and the Strait smash “The Fireman.” Strait also recorded his “I Should Have Watched That First Step,” “Haven’t You Heard,” “Hot Burning Flames,” “That’s Where My Baby Feels at Home,” “She Knows When You’re on My Mind” and “Won’t You Come Home and Talk to a Stranger.”
Among the dozens of other acts who cut Kemp’s songs were Tom Petty, David Allan Coe, Elvis Costello, Patty Loveless, Ronnie Milsap, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams Jr. and Faron Young.
A recording artist in his own right, Kemp scored 24 chart hits between 1969 and 1986. His 1973 single “Honky Tonk Wine” reached Number 17. He was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.