Songwriter got his first taste of success in UP
By Meredith Shamburger | Special Contributor
Tom Douglas was just picking up steam in his dream of becoming a successful songwriter when Park Cities People profiled him in July 1994.
His song “Little Rock” had been climbing the charts after Douglas attended a songwriters’ conference in Austin, where he played it for a music producer.
Now, with hit songs recorded by various country music singers and several Top Ten hits, the former University Park resident’s dream has been fulfilled.
“It just seems like this is my calling,” he said.
The Atlanta native hoped a move to Nashville in 1980 would be a high note, but it fell flat. With no immediate success in the music industry, Douglas moved on with his life, marrying and moving to Dallas in 1984 to try his luck selling commercial real estate.
The job was “brutal,” Douglas said, because he came to Dallas amidst the savings and loan crisis.
“It was challenging,” he said.
As he slogged through the 9-to-5 grind, Douglas continued to write songs. As time went on, he “started writing a little bit more.”
Douglas said he’d go to SMU on Saturday mornings to work on his songs. He joined songwriting groups. Then came Bill Clinton’s presidential race in 1992. The former Arkansas governor inspired the line: “I think I’m on a roll here in Little Rock.”
Collin Raye recorded Douglas’ song, which became a No. 1 hit and a Country Music Association Song of the Year. Douglas signed with Sony and spent four years shuttling between Dallas and Nashville. He finally took the plunge in 1997 and moved to Music City, figuring if he was going to try to be a songwriter, he should be in Nashville “as much as I could.”
Dallas and Nashville are “completely different cities,” Douglas said.
“Nashville’s a really small town,” he said, and “Texas is a country unto itself. I love them both.”
The songwriting process is more than words and music, Douglas said. He reads great fiction, takes piano and guitar lessons, and is inspired by other artists. Songwriting is a byproduct of all that, he said.
Douglas says he tries to narrow his focus, only trying to write the next tune. As a writer, he always tries to be in the present. Of course, that’s not so hard when you’re working with some of the biggest names in country music, including Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks, and Randy Travis.
Douglas would not name a favorite artist, saying he loves them all.
“I’m always excited to hear their interpretations,” he said.
He’s written two No. 1 songs with McGraw: “Grown Men Don’t Cry” and “Southern Voice.” Two other compositions with Mr. Faith Hill — “My Little Girl” and “Let It Go” — were Top Five hits.
Douglas worked with McBride on her No. 3 hit “Love’s the Only House,” as well as on Lady Antebellum’s chart-topping “I Run to You” and Miranda Lambert’s No. 1 hit “The House That Built Me.”
“It took me a long time to find my calling,” Douglas said, but songwriting is what he’s supposed to be doing.
Meredith Shamburger is an SMU journalism student and an intern at People Newspapers.
ALSO IN THE NEWS ...
Robin Hood continued to dominate the headlines. On Aug. 27, Highland Park ISD residents overwhelmingly voted to send about $27 million a year to Laredo ISD under the terms of Senate Bill 7, pending a challenge in the Texas Supreme Court. And on Sept. 13, the Highland Park school board approved a new participation fee for all student athletes to offset the loss of funds.
On Nov. 8, the school board approved stiffer penalties for students caught abusing drugs and alcohol. The move came four days after 13 HPHS students were cited for possessing or consuming alcohol on a chartered bus outside a Scots football game in Greenville, Texas.
In August, the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department reached a settlement with parents who alleged wrongdoing in the April 1993 arrests of 121 students at a ranch in Combine. The parents claimed the students were deprived of their civil rights and were subjected to illegal searches and seizures.
CHANGES AT THE TOP
In May, Bradfield Elementary principal Elaine Prude retired after 24 years of service with HPISD, and Jean Rutherford was hired as Highland Park High School’s principal. Interim principal Linda Springer was shifted to the new middle school.
Also in May, University Park’s first and still only female mayor, Barbara Hitzelberger, presided over her final meeting. Pete Goldman took over her seat, running unopposed.
HIGHLAND PARK HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian: Evan Pollan
Salutatorian: Sara Morrill
Blanket Award winners: Scott Addison and Tish Mauldin
Homecoming Queen: Kimberly Stephens
Cynthia Jane Casey, Carol Owen Funk II, Bridget Katherine Holden, Stephanie Diane Martin, Margaret DeGolyer Maxon, Tiffany Ann Newsom, Jewelee Ann Williams