When Dean Dillon got announced as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame's class of 2020, most tributes identified him as the creative force behind numerous George Strait songs.
That's true, with Dillon writing or co-writing a string of Billboard chart hits and deep cuts that includes (and is hardly limited to) "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her," "Ocean Front Property," "Unwound," "Down and Out," "The Chair," "Marina Del Rey," "Easy Come, Easy Go," "It Ain't Cool to Be Crazy About You," "What Would Your Memories Do," "Here For a Good Time," "If I Know Me," "She Let Herself Go," "I've Come to Expect It From You," "The Breath You Take" and "Famous Last Words of a Fool."
It's also far from an insult. What songwriter calling Nashville or any of Texas' musical hotbeds home wouldn't want to be tied at the hip forever with Strait?
That said, Strait wasn't the first or last singer to benefit from Dillon's transition from Opryland's resident Hank Williams tribute act to one of the greatest songwriters of the past 40-plus years.
Here's 10 great Dillon co-writes made famous by someone other than Strait. This list barely scratches the surface of Dillon's contributions to the genre, but it'll at least give you an idea of how frequently he's impacted the country charts.
"Leave Them Boys Alone," Hank Williams Jr., Ernest Tubb and Waylon Jennings
Three renegades with instantly recognizable vocal deliveries swap verses while uplifting '70s and '80s outlaws as the musical offspring of '40s and '50s honky tonk singers. It's by the most badass list of co-writers imaginable: Dillon, Williams, Gary Stewart and Tanya Tucker.
"A Lot of Things Different," Kenny Chesney
Dillon teamed with fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson to write this musical conversation about regrets. It's one of several Dillon creations recorded by Chesney. Others include "I'm Alive," a Dillon, Chesney and Mark Tamburino co-write first recorded by Willie Nelson for his 2008 album Moment of Forever.
"I'll Never Forgive My Heart," Brooks & Dunn
Writing this honky tonk throwback for Brooks & Dunn became a family affair when Dillon collaborated with not just Ronnie Dunn but also Dunn's wife, Janine.
Dillon's no stranger to living under the same roof as a fellow songwriter. Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber's crossover hit "10,000 Hours" tops the list (alphabetically speaking) of his daughter Jessie Jo Dillon's top-grossing compositions.
"An Empty Glass," Gary Stewart
Dillon often worked with Stewart, as a duet partner (check out crucial listen "Brotherly Love" from the pair's early '80s run with RCA) and as a co-writer. In this instance, the team of Dillon and Stewart used a local barroom as the setting of as sad a country song as you'll hear.
"A Little Too Late," Toby Keith
The team of Dillon, Keith and Scotty Emerick co-wrote multiple songs recorded by Keith, including this Top 2 hit from 2006 and the following year's Top 15 entry "Get My Drink On." The former's one of those great emotional ballads in Keith's catalog that gets overshadowed by the bravado of "How Do You Like Me Now?!" and the silliness of "Red Solo Cup."
"Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago," Lee Ann Womack
Womack, Dillon and a third songwriting great, Dale Dodson, floor listeners right out of the gate with such lyrical gems as "Maybelline can't hide the lines of time that's gone."
The trio wrote two other pledges of Womack's traditional country allegiance: "Have You Seen That Girl?" and Strait duet "We've Called It Everything But Quits."
"Spilled Perfume," Pam Tillis
Members of two of country music's most talented families (Tillis and Dillon) co-wrote sage advice for the morning after a questionable decision.
Dillon also wrote another Tillis hit, "All the Good Ones are Gone," with Bob McDill.
"Miami, My Amy," Keith Whitley
Whitley broke country music's glass ceiling in 1985 with this, his first Top 15 hit. Dillon co-wrote it with Royce Porter and Hank Cochran (co-writer of Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces").
Whitley's next two singles entered the Top 10. The second of these was another Dillon co-write, "Homecoming '63."
"Set 'em Up, Joe," Vern Gosdin
Fans of Gosdin fondly remember this 1988 love letter to jukeboxes filled with the saddest and greatest honky tonk songs. Like many of Gosdin's best singles, it's co-written by a who's-who of country storytellers: himself, Dillon, Cochran and Buddy Cannon.
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Tennessee Whiskey," Various Artists
An already great song, previously recorded in the '80s by both David Allan Coe and George Jones, became one of the seminal country hits of the 21st century after Chris Stapleton turned it into a blues-rock weeper.
It's one of the few can't-miss Dillon co-writes (he penned it with Linda Hargrove) turned down by Strait.
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