Music City at Night

Music City at Night
Nashville: the City Where Some Dreams Begin and Others Die...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Murder on Music Row

Most country music fans are familiar with the famous George Strait and Alan Jackson duet "Murder on Music Row," written by Larry Shell and Larry Cordle. The "murder" in the song was the symbolic killing of traditional country music by modern producers and artists who have murdered the genre by turning it into a pop medium.

In 1989, however, there was a real murder on Music Row. John Clore, music industry worker in the areas of marketing and publicity, at Clore Chronicles provides some information on this event as does Fox News Cold Case Files.

In March, twenty two years ago, Cashbox magazine researcher Kevin Hughes was killed outside a recording studio on Music Row in what some have called an execution style murder. His friend, aspiring country singer Sammy Sadler was also severely wounded in the same attack. Detectives slowly built a case against Richard D'Antonio, who also worked for Cashbox at the time, as the trigger man. The police suspected Tony D, as he was called, and Chuck Dixon, another Cashbox employee, of running a scam operation in which star struck wannabe singers paid them money for pushing their song up the Cashbox rankings. Hughes, who wanted to take a more scientific approach to the Cashbox rankings, either threatened to expose D'Antonio or at the very least resisted their attempts to involve him in the scheme.

The case was stalled for several years but eventually police were able to pressure a known associate of D'Antonio into giving them information about the gun and ammunition used in the attack. Finally, in 2003, Richard D’Antonio, living in Las Vegas at the time, was caught, tried, and convicted of first degree murder (for killing Hughes) and intent to commit second degree murder (the wounding of Sadler). Hughes had apparently refused to take bribes related to the ranking of country songs on his magazine's charts. 

And what happened to Sammy Sadler? An article by Mario Tarradell in the Dallas Morning News, November 14, 2009, provides the rest of the story. The article appears on Sammy's blog:
Mr. Sadler, meanwhile, struggled to regain footing. He was the guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. He toured for years after recovering from the shooting, which remained unsolved for more than a decade. When the strain affected him most, he worked with his father in a drywall construction business they still co-own.
Now single, he has no children and lives with his parents on a 58-acre farm in Bonham. He also released Heart Shaped Like Texas, on E1 Music, formerly Koch Entertainment.
Here's a great song from the Heart Shaped Like Texas album--"In America." It definitely sounds like a hit song to me, and in my opinion Sammy Sadler has paid enough dues to earn one. I wish him tremendous success with the song and the album. 


  1. Hey mate, great post!! I was not aware of the song "In America" until this post. I'll almost undoubtedly be using it in a post as we near Memorial Day(if winter ever gets over).

    Very interesting murder mystery as well. BTW, last year I was contacted by our local DA's office and had to testify at two "Cold Case" homicides I had investigated back in the day. One case was 23 years old, the other 31. If you want to know more, send me an E-mail and I'll give you the details, some of which you might wanna use in your next novel.

  2. It definitely sounds like a hit song to me...

    I'm not qualified to judge country hits... but if'n ya say so, Dan. ;-)

    I loved the Sadler back-story.

  3. Well written Dan. If I may, how 'bout a pice on David Allen Coe? It might make interesting reading.

  4. I came over from Dan's blog. Good stuff!

    When I first heard "Murder," I thought...oh, crap! Somebody done broke out the dookie-stirrin' stick.

    For a born and raised "country" music listener (notice, I didn't say "fan") I have a great appreciation for what Alan & George were saying. Dangit! If it's not "country," just go ahead on and call it something else.

    I mean, Willie and Waylon came up with a different term for what they did. Others have, too.

    Now, I am one that appreciates "Country" music, and I've bored you to tears with stories from my raising, so I won't do it again. So, it bugs me the way the biz has turned.

    I really enjoyed the video. I think one thing I liked most is that George is actually playing the guitar some in it. Dunno what went with Strait, but for about the last 20 years he normally just stands there holding his guitar...never picking. Of course, he's always grinnin'...drives the chicks wild...Good on him!

    I think the thing I like most about those two guys is their history. Where they came from...what they've been through...their life experience. Can't say I'm a "fan" of either...but The Mrs. is a fan of both.

    To finish this off, I'll just say that the first time I heard this song the thing that grabbed me about it was the "steel guitar" line. The lyricist is right. If you don't hear the steel guitar, there's just something missing.

    Kinda like a day without orange juice, or something...