Southern Gospel Radio’s 2017 Top Five Songwriters

by | Jan 20, 2018 | Awards Shows, Commentary & Observations, Singing News

Here’s a new approach to determining the top overall songwriter(s) over the period of a year. I’ve taken the top five songs from each month in Singing News starting in February 2017 and concluding in January 2018. (I chose to include January 2018 rather than January 2017 because January 2018’s chart is based on 2017 airplay data.)

For each number one song, I assigned 30 points. Number two received 24 points; number three received 18 points; number four received 12 points; and number five received 6 points. If a song had just one writer, they received all the points. Points were divided equally when a song had co-writers.

Why did I use a multiple of 6? Some songs had three co-writers, and some had two. 6 was the lowest multiple that would work.

Here are the point results for songs heard on Southern Gospel radio in 2017:
1. Gerald Crabb (78)
2. Joel Lindsey (73)
3. Rodney Griffin (60)
4. Wayne Haun (58)
5. Regina Walden (54)

Crabb, Lindsey, and Haun were co-writers on multiple songs. Griffin and Walden were each the sole writer of a single hit song that reached number one.

Ideally, I would like to include more charts and consider the Top 10 songs from each, but there are only so many hours in a day!

I do think this result, limited though it may be, means we should not be at all surprised that Griffin will be going for his 20th consecutive Favorite Songwriter Fan Award in 2018. Griffin still landed in the Top Three even after I removed fan-bias from the process. He wins because he’s a perennial favorite who also happens to be an artist, sure, but this shows he also wins because he’s a consistently great songwriter whose newly written songs consistently achieve high rankings.

Fans aren’t wrong to continue to vote for Griffin, in other words, but these results also show that fans ARE wrong when they fail to nominate non-artist songwriters and favor artist songwriters so highly. It’s not their fault. They just aren’t engaged enough to realize who is really doing most of the great writing.

Gerald Crabb did make it to the Top Ten on the Singing News ballot in 2017, but of course, he traveled for years in the past with what was arguably the top group in the industry at the time. I’m only aware of one true non-artist songwriter who has made it to the Singing News Top Ten ballot in recent years, and that is Dianne Wilkinson.

I’d like to see Singing News give Griffin his fair shot at a 20-year run in 2018. In 2019, I’d love to see the Favorite Songwriter award combined with the Favorite Song category. Award the artist for their performance of the song, then top that off by declaring whoever wrote it the Favorite Songwriter (including all co-writers, of course, if applicable).

Fans aren’t going to vote for songwriters they rarely see, but they do vote for the songs they write.

Are you curious to know who wrote 2017’s Favorite Song? They’re BOTH on this Top Five list. Joel Lindsey and Wayne Haun co-wrote “Living In The Promised Land” which was recorded by Triumphant Quartet.

Facts are facts.

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David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both and


  1. LeviSamJuno

    That brings up a question I’ve always meant to ask but forget: do songwriters/publishers get any part of song of the year awards now?

    Also I remember how musician of the year turned into the Anthony Burger Award after he won so many consecutive times; is it time to name the Rodney Griffin Award?

    • David Bruce Murray

      I had to look up the answer to your first question. According to the March 2017 issue of Singing News, the Favorite Song award IS presented to both the artist and the songwriter(s). However, they still have a separate category for Favorite Songwriter which may or may not match the writer of the favorite song…and could not match entirely if the favorite song was a co-write.

      To your second question, in retrospect, it would probably have been better if they’d never renamed the Favorite Musician award the Anthony Burger Award after Anthony won if for ten consecutive years. Once they did it that time, though, they should have continued the tradition. I mean, who can say how many more times Burger might have won it if he had not been disqualified for ten years after winning it ten years. To not continue it was rather unfair to Burger’s legacy.

      Had the tradition been maintained, Favorite Songwriter would have become the Rodney Griffin Award in 2008. It’s not just Rodney Griffin who would be affected, though.
      Favorite Artist would become the Booth Brothers Award in 2018.
      Favorite Band would have become the Kingsmen Band Award in 1996.
      Favorite Lead would become the Ronnie Booth Award in 2018.
      Favorite Soloist would have become the Ivan Parker Award in 2016.
      Favorite Soprano would have become the Kim Hopper Award in 2007.
      And finally, Favorite Trio would become the Booth Brothers Award in 2018…which might get confusing, since they’d also have an award in their name for Favorite Artist.

    • David Bruce Murray

      I need to follow up on my previous answer to your first question.

      The 2017 March issue of Singing News does indeed say the Favorite Song award would be presented to both the artist and the songwriter(s).

      However, in the 2017 December issue where all the winners are reported, the songwriters are NOT included. It simply says the Favorite Song was “Living In The Promised Land” by Triumphant Quartet. There’s also a photo of Triumphant Quartet accepting the award, but the songwriters are not included. There’s also no mention of the songwriters if you check the list of 2017 winners on the Singing News website.

      Good question. I’m not sure which is correct. I shall investigate further.

    • David Bruce Murray

      OK. I now have clarification.

      2017 was the first year the Favorite Song award was designated to recognize both the artist as well as the songwriter(s).

      An employee of Salem Communications has verified to me that the failure to list the songwriters along with Triumphant Quartet when “Living In The Promised Land” won Favorite Song was just as oversight.

      • LeviSamJuno

        Thanks for the information. I apologize for not responding sooner: I forgot to tick the “Notify me of new comments” box after posting.

        Re: Anthony Burger Award: that makes a lot of sense. It would get hairy if that convention was standard. However, since there are so many multiple-repeat winners of those awards, it does make it a little underwhelming when you see the nominations for the next years’ awards and notice the same name listed again. Not to say that the repeat-winners are not worthy of selection: they each certainly merit an award. I mean, I know these are fan-selected favorites, and the fans are ultimately predictably going to pick the names they know.

        I mean for me I usually don’t vote if I haven’t been exposed to every person/artist/group/song listed because I feel like I can’t make a wise choice of my favorite without being able to compare them all.

        Are there SoGo industry awards that are awarded by peers/industry professionals akin to the SAG awards or something to that effect? I know of several fan-voted awards. I particularly respect the AGM awards that have separate performing songwriter and industry songwriter categories.

        • David Bruce Murray

          Approximately half of the AGM categories are selected strictly by AGM staff and industry. On the rest of them, AGM staff and industry make the initial nominations, then fans determine the winner.

          I don’t know to what extent the “industry” participates, but they do include MusicScribe’s writers in the industry voting, if that gives you an idea.

          It’s interesting to note that the same artist who doesn’t even receive a nomination in AGM might receive both a nomination and even a win in the Singing News Fan Awards. I’m not suggesting either process is corrupt or anything like that, just that a different process can yield totally different results.

  2. Chris Unthank

    This is an interesting way of looking at it – but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Wouldn’t a writer’s entire body of work throughout the year be a better indicator. You look at writers like Kenna West, Becky Peck, Sue Smith, Lee Black, Jason Cox, Jeff Bumgardner, Jim Brady, Marcia Henry, Sandy Knight, Jimmy Yeary, etc. and they all have multiple cuts within a years time, many times five or six on an entire recording. However, those songs may not see the time of day at radio. Wouldn’t that body of work count towards it as well?

    Either way it’s, an interesting comparison for sure.

    • David Bruce Murray

      I would prefer to reward a writer based on their body of hits, but not their overall body of work.

      With that being said, I’d definitely consider more than just radio airplay. Streaming data and sales of singles (but not albums) would also be nice to include in the equation. And on radio airplay, I think you’d ideally look at weekly charts rather than monthly, and you’d drill down to the Top Ten rather than just the Top Five…still weighting it, of course, to reward songs with the best chart position.

      I just didn’t have any access to sales or streaming data to be able to include that in my equation.


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