A little more than five years after Doak Turner moved here, hundreds of songwriters would find it almost unimaginable to work here without him.
Within six months of his arrival, Turner had begun two of Music Row’s most admired and powerful networking tools, the weekly Nashville Muse and the Third Sunday gatherings of singers and songwriters at his home in West Meade.
The Muse, whose motto is “Friends do not let friends play to an empty room,” is a comprehensive listing of songwriter appearances and industry happenings all over Nashville, which is eagerly read by more than 10,000 tunesmiths, Radio personalities, and Music Row executives every Monday.
He also initiated the monthly Third Sunday confabs, which combine food, fellowship, co-writing sessions and song pitches for an ever-increasing number of Nashville and out-of-town writers. Each April, there’s also a Guitar-B-Q; 150 folks came to the first Guitar-B-Q and by last April that number had swelled to 600.
In a town where many of the most talented writers and singers are by their nature very private and even withdrawn souls, Turner’s enthusiasm and ability to bring folks together are indispensable.
“I’m living my dream,” he said in August 2008. “My six years in Nashville have been the happiest of my life.”
Just a shade over 25 years ago, Doak began in Radio sales with Beasley Broadcasting in his native West Virginia. He worked for stations with a variety of formats. Turner’s success in creating successful advertising copy and campaigns for his clients was a revelation. He told himself: “I can be creative. I started writing 90% of my clients’ ads. I loved the competition, I was motivated, and I began reading self-improvement books by folks like Norman Vincent Peale and Coach John Wooden. Those all helped shape my life. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to have fun.”
Turner moved to Charlotte in 1987, and by the mid-1990s he was working in Radio for one of North Carolina’s most famous exports – NASCAR. He syndicated NASCAR Country, building a network of more than 300 stations for the company, and selling sponsorships worth in excess of $300,000. Doak’s characteristic success helped rekindle his lifelong love for Country music and Radio. By this time, he had also been trying his hand at lyric writing for several years. He began going to meetings of the Charlotte chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), where he first met North Carolina native Byron Hill. Hill’s 500-plus Nashville cuts include Tracy Byrd’s “Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous” and George Strait’s “Fool Hearted Memory.”
Doak was by now getting the itch to move to Nashville himself, which he at last did in October 2002. Three months later, a visitor to Turner’s house mentioned a weekly party of songwriters in Greenwich Village, New York, where spaghetti was served to every tunesmith who sang a new song. “That was a cold Sunday afternoon, and I remember thinking how much I missed having dinner with my family. So I invited 30 of my peers over for dinner on that Third Sunday of March 2003. The next month we ordered 50 pounds of barbecue and had the first Guitar-B-Q.”
The Muse began in a similar serendipitous way. Doak was visiting songwriting friends in San Diego when someone suggested, “why don’t you send out a newsletter? That seed of an idea grew into the Nashville Muse,” Turner says. The idea itself is simple, but the painstaking execution, and the growth into a fully-sponsored Enewsletter with more than 10,000 readers a week, is pure Doak energy, enthusiasm, and work ethic.
The years of tireless support Turner has given songwriters are finally translating into success for his own tunes. Indy artists have cut about six of them. A recording of an Alabama soldier singing Doak’s “Talkin’ Part” nationwide on Sirius Satellite Radio got spins at Country Radio stations around the USA in 2007. Best of all, a Michigan artist named Frankie Ballard recently demoed a version of a Radio-friendly song called “The Look,” which Doak, Marc-Alan Barnette and Gary Dennis wrote. Frankie has scored a developmental deal with Sony Nashville, and many of the label folks have made very positive remarks about “The Look.”
For Doak Turner, Nashville’s living embodiment of the Power of Positive Thinking, that’s another dramatic step on the journey to his music and Radio dreams.