Writers of Jake Owen’s “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” Fêted in Nashville

A ceiling-high Christmas tree, its pinpoint yellow lights winking a welcome, greeted the guests scurrying into Nashville’s CMA building late Monday afternoon (Dec. 3) to honor the writers of Jake Owen’s latest No. 1 single, “I Was Jack (You Were Diane).”

As the crowd gathered, two bartenders dispensed copious amounts of wine and beer while more temperate partygoers lingered at the nearby buffet table with its offerings of chicken nachos, herbed goat cheese and roasted tomato crostini, pastrami and Swiss sliders and three flavors of chocolate brownies (crème de menthe, double Dutch and peppermint).

The celebration of songwriters Craig Wiseman, Tommy Cecil, Jody Stevens and David Ray was jointly sponsored by the performance rights organizations BMI and ASCAP. BMI’s David Preston and ASCAP’s Beth Brinker co-hosted.

Absent from the festivities was the song’s fifth credited songwriter, John Mellencamp, whose 1982 pop hit, “Jack & Diane” inspired the spinoff.

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After summoning Owen and the writers to the stage, Preston noted that “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” is Stevens’ third No. 1, Cecil’s second, Ray’s first and Owen’s seventh (as an artist).

Produced by Joey Moi, who later joined the writers on stage, the song is also the first No. 1 for Big Loud Records, to which Owen signed after exiting RCA. And, as Preston pointed out, it is Ray’s first cut, as well.

Brinker spoke on behalf of Mellencamp, whom she praised as a major “crossover influence.” She then announced that the song is Wiseman’s 27th No. 1.

Brinker went on to enumerate that Wiseman has had more than 350 of his songs recorded by various artists and that 125 of them have been released as singles. ASCAP declared Wiseman its “songwriter of the century” in 2014.

Seth England, Big Loud’s co-founder, said “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” went through “many edits” on its way to completion. “This just didn’t happen,” he said. Moreover, the composers and the label didn’t know if they would be able to secure Mellencamp’s approval to release the song.

However, after sending the record to Mellencamp’s management team, England said, “They called us back in 10 minutes [with the go-ahead].”

Owen, whose remarks to the crowd concluded the formal part of the celebration, said the song has become a staple in his shows. “I watch it light people up every night.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.