Mike Dekle (second from left) wrote songs cut by Kenny Rogers, Tracy Byrd and others.
Mike Dekle (second from left) receives an award on stage during the 54th annual ASCAP Country Music awards at the Ryman Auditorium on Oct. 31, 2016 in Nashville. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Mike Dekle, the Songwriter Behind Kenny Rogers' 'Scarlet Fever,' Dies at 77

Mike Dekle, a veteran singer-songwriter known for songs cut by Kenny Rogers, died last Thursday (Feb. 24) in Athens, Ga. He was 77.

The first domino in Dekle's long line of songwriting successes, including Tracy Byrd's Top 10 single "Don't Love Make a Diamond Shine," fell in 1983 after Rogers made "Scarlet Fever" a Top 5 country hit that reached a respectable No. 94 on Billboard's all-genre Hot 100.

"Music was a dream for me, and Kenny Rogers made it come true with one song," Dekle told Wide Open Country in April 2020. "I will always be beholden to him. Every time I'm ever doing a writer's round, I always thank Kenny Rogers because he changed my life financially. Even more than that, after 18 years of writing and not getting anything recorded, he recorded one."

Dekle wrote and first recorded the song, which was inspired by a sign he saw at a Missouri nightclub during his stint in the Army. It became a hit in Northeast Georgia, where Rogers lived with his fourth wife, Marianne Gordon.

Rogers later encouraged Dekle to pursue songwriting over a solo career to maximize his chances of personal happiness and country chart success.

"Kenny told me I was too old to be an artist. I was 33 years old," Dekle said. "I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'First of all, I think you're good enough to make it and you'd be a big artist, but you'll lose your wife. You'll be divorced in six months, and your kids will get grown and won't know who their daddy is.' That was the hardest thing in the world for me to accept. He said, 'Your songs will make you a rich man if you keep writing the kind of songs you write. Those earthy, heartfelt songs that reach in and touch people in some kind of way.'"

The Dekle-Rogers connection continued into the '90s with "Two Hearts One Love," "People in Love," "Someone Must Feel Like a Fool Tonight" and "Some Prisons Don't Have Walls."

Read More: Leon Timbo's 'Galaxy' is About the Powerful 'Forever Love' of Fatherhood [Interview]

Dekle went on to become a musical mentor to Brantley Gilbert. Fruits from that working relationship include "Country Must Be Country Wide," a No. 1 hit they co-wrote with Colt Ford.

"To my brother, Mike Dekle... An old friend that was and always will be family...," Gilbert wrote on Facebook. "Thank you for the words and melodies in the songs you left behind... For the memories, the lessons and the legacy.... Yours sincerely is One Hell of an Amen, and we're all going to miss the hell out of you... But I know where you are... Lookin up to you is nothing new... I love you brother, we all do... Rest easy... You're gonna need it for when I get there."

When Dekle wasn't co-writing with some of Nashville's best up-and-coming talents, the University of Georgia graduate worked in Athens, Ga. as a State Farm insurance agent.