Jeff Syracuse

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As a musician, it’s an inherent trait in me to want to share music with others. I want to help preserve some of the stories of musicians who called or still call Donelson home and by sharing their music, it’s a great way of showcasing a core element of Music City. It’s already been a great learning experience for me as I research songwriters,...

As a musician, it’s an inherent trait in me to want to share music with others. I want to help preserve some of the stories of musicians who called or still call Donelson home and by sharing their music, it’s a great way of showcasing a core element of Music City. It’s already been a great learning experience for me as I research songwriters, composers, artists, and those in the music business who helped support the careers of artists. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have in putting it together.


Non-Profit Donelson News - November 2019

Big congrats to Lisa Maddox, who is our new Director of FiftyForward Donelson Station.  Lisa is a fantastic leader at the center and her energy and passion for FiftyForward’s mission can be seen and felt each and every day.  Thank you, Lisa and congrats on this very well deserved promotion!  Lisa is seen here with Mark and Kevin with Donelson Café & Catering during the recent Casino Night fundraiser.

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Phil Dillon

Phil Dillon

When I first met Phil Dillon, I sat in row of bleachers with other parents as I watched him do an amazing job as a dynamic tennis coach to my son and other kids.  I was pretty sure he wasn’t a Nashville native and he sounded like he may even be from up-state New York like me.  Sure enough, upon meeting Phil, not only was he from up-state New York, but from Buffalo where I was born and I also learned he was a very successful producer, engineer, singer, songwriter and musician.  Suffice to say, we hit it off with much in common.

Phil heard Frank Sinatra sing “All The Way” on the radio in 1960 at his grandparent’s house as a kid and was hooked.  He sang in both church and school and by the 5th grade started to play drums, playing along with Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich records.  After playing bass drum and snare in grammar school, Phil started playing guitar and wrote his first song at 11.  After building a long career as a musician in Buffalo, Phil started visiting Nashville and realized that Music City was the place to be to keep his career moving forward.  One of Nashville’s “A Team” keyboard players, Steve Nathan, told Phil, “If you want to hunt tigers, you have to go to where the tigers are.”  Phil had successful friends like Steve, Harry Stinson and Stuart Ziff who were there to help him integrate into the Nashville scene.

Finally moving to Nashville in the fall of 1994, Phil hit the ground running and immediately started working with Stuart Ziff, Billy Henderson, Carson Whitsett, Kim Parent, Tim Loftin, Barry Walsh, Tommy Spurlock, Mike Rojas, Gary Morse, Bob Britt, Maxwell Schauf and many more great Nashville musicians and songwriters.  In 1999, Phil started working with Jimmy Nalls, co-producing records for Rick Moore & The Mr. Lucky Band.  They worked on Jimmy’s critically acclaimed “Ain’t No Stranger” album.  In 2000, Phil was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.

Phil has worked on other great projects over the years, including Michael McGrew’s “I’d Like to Be the Man” (co-produced with Harry Stinson), “The Amazing World of Doc Butt,”, a 16-piece big band endeavor produced by Bob Moore, featuring “Ranger Doug”, Boots Randolph, Bill Pursell, Kenny Malone and many others. 

Phil began playing with T Graham Brown in 2003, spending the next six years playing acoustic guitar and singing background vocals at venues like Bluebird Café, Wildhorse Saloon, The Trapp, on GAC Classic and over thirty appearances on The Grand Ole Opry.  He went on to record and co-produce T Graham Brown’s “The Present” album with T and Mike Caputy.  In 2007, Phil met Jim Tract and recorded and mixed all the projects on Adroit Records.  Most recently, Phil has produced and recorded Bill Edwards’ “Here Lately” album and David Nipper’s self-titled EP.

In addition to his incredible list of musical accomplishments and collaborations, Phil also has built an impressive career as a PTR Certified Tennis Teaching Pro for the last 31-years.  He’s held several positions as Head Pro at Country Clubs and with the YMCA.  Phil currently serves as the Head Professional at Langford Farms Club in Old Hickory.  Phil and his wife Jane have two grown boys, Andrew and Chris, and are a great family Donelson is lucky to have as neighbors.

Check out Phil’s website about his studio and publishing company, Nickel City Music.

  • Someday/Together We'll Grow Old (Written by James Ralston, Phil Dillon)
  • Mister Please Understand (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • Don't You Think You've Had Enough (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • How It Feels (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • Now That We're Not a Family (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • Hey Brother (Written by Phil Dillon & Bill Edwards)
  • I Sleep With One Eye Open (Written by Phil Dillon & Bill Edwards)
  • Walkaway Joe (Written Vince Melamed & Greg Barnhill)
  • Through The Eyes of a Child (Written by Phil Dillon, Stuart Ziff, Kim Parent)
  • Never Be The Same (Bill Edwards)
  • Drive (David Nipper)
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Brennin Hunt

Brennin Hunt


The Eagle’s “Hell Freezes Over” tour was not only a very special reunion of a band no one thought would perform together again; it was also an inspiration for a special musician and actor that we’re proud to call friend and neighbor here in Donelson.  At nine-years old, Brennin watched Don Henley play drums on that tour and began to play and continue to be deeply influenced by the band’s timeless songwriting and talent.  It was a couple years later that Brennin’s grandmother gave him his Dad’s Epiphone guitar and began to play it as well as the family’s old player-piano.  He began to find his own very talented voice in songwriting and arranging, discovering a variety of artists and able to learn their songs by ear.

Before moving to Nashville from his hometown in Oklahoma City, Brennin was heavily involved in performing and leading worship in churches.  In 2004, he began touring the country with Christian artist Jami Smith, playing guitar and singing background vocals.  He was also influenced by artists such as Aranda and Paul Colley, both of whom Brennin had the opportunity to get to know and learn a lot about songwriting.  Brothers Dameon and Gabe Aranda are successful songwriters with song cuts by major artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks and they had also secured their own major deal with Sony.  Paul Colley produced and recorded Brennin’s first couple of records and taught him about production and recording, skills Brennin still uses today as he records in his own studio.

While attending an International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) conference here in Nashville, Brennin’s cousin Judy met Barbara “Mother” Hubbard, an entertainment promoter, educator and mentor at the Pan American Center at New Mexico State University.  Judy gave Barbara a demo of a song Brennin wrote with Dameon Aranda (recorded by Paul Colley) and the next day Brennin received a call from Barbara asking him if he wanted to open for the Bellamy Brothers in Hot Springs, AR.  Brennin recalls that she wanted to see if he could “carry a tune live” as she put it.  Barbara encouraged Brennin to move to Nashville and also connected him with Gayle Miller at Epic Records in New York, who put him in touch with Rikk Feulner, a manager here in Nashville.  Rikk further encouraged Brennin to move to Nashville and after he and his wife Kelly finally moved here, Rikk taught Brennin a lot about Nashville and the music business.

After renting an apartment in Bellevue for a year, Brennin and Kelly decided to find something close to the airport and downtown and while searching for a home to buy, fell in love with Donelson and the community.

In 2011, Brennin had the great opportunity of being part of the hit TV show The X-Factor.  That experience led him to a publishing deal with Razor and Tie Music Publishing and KyeCatt Music.  With other great influences including The Eagles, Vince Gill, Michael Jackson, Elvis, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder and anything Motown and Staxx, Brennin’s hard work continues to pay off and be highly regarded and recognized.  He recently spent a few days with Vince Gill and wrote with him for Vince’s new album that will be released February 12 and features their song “I Can’t Do This”.

Brennin has a new EP coming in February with plans to tour in support of the project.  He’s also signing with William Morris Endeavor.  Brennin’s story is a great Music City success story and we’ll no doubt be hearing much more from him in the future.  I’m proud to have Kelly, Brennin and their two sons as neighbors here in Donelson.  Enjoy this selection of Brennin’s songs, including a Christmas song he recorded with Ayla Brown (whose husband Keith owns Donelson’s Bowtie Barber Club) and two tracks from his upcoming new EP to be released February 19.

How We Make It (written by Brennin Hunt)

At My Door (written by Brennin Hunt, Chris Dubois and Catt Gravitt)

Quarantine (featuring Brennin) (written by T. Carter)

Christmas Without You (featuring Ayla Brown) (written by Brennin Hunt and Briana Tyson)

Lose My Cool (written by Brennin Hunt)

Light It Up (written by Brennin Hunt)

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Roland White & Diane Bouska

Roland White & Diane Bouska

Roland White and Diane Bouska have been great Donelson neighbors for many years and they add to the diverse fabric of “Music City” in keeping the tradition of Bluegrass going strong.

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Michael Doster

Michael Doster

Photo by John Rijsbergen

Michael Doster was among the first to come to my mind when putting the concept of this blog together, admittedly because he played bass in B.B. King’s band for 17-years.  As B.B.’s health started declining and we received news that he entered hospice, I began digging a bit deeper into his music and watched some past performances I hadn’t seen before.  Many of them had Mike playing on stage and are just incredible.  I felt this was a fitting time to feature Mike and share his incredible story of playing with an international musical icon as well as other well-known and critically acclaimed musicians.

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Leon Rhodes

Leon RhodesOne of the thrills of doing this blog is the time I get to spend researching artists and listening to their music. I revisit some music I hadn’t heard in a long time and I always discover new music too. Donelson is full of wonderful neighbors who are immensely talented, have incredible stories about where their music has taken them and are musical heroes of mine. Leon Rhodes is in a class of his own. His musical talent is truly a gift from God. He never had a lesson and doesn’t read music, but his playing showcases him as one of the true masters of the guitar. His older brother had a guitar while growing up and he would pick it up and play it every chance he got. At ten years old, his dad sold his bed to buy him his first guitar. Although the guitar has always been his main instrument, he can play anything with strings. Leon has also played drums and sang at various clubs in the early days of his career while in Dallas, Texas. He would later also sing on albums with The Texas Troubadours and while part of the staff band at the Grand Ole Opry.

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Carol Grace Anderson

Carol-Grace-AndersonCarol Grace Anderson spent her early childhood years living with her family in a tiny, 18-foot trailer near New York City. “Here’s the fun part,” she says. “Our neighbors in the trailer park were mostly circus performers.  Can you imagine coming home from school and watching them practice daring tricks and stunts right before our eyes?”

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Porter Wagoner

Porter Wagoner

Porter Wagoner, who was known as “Mr. Grand Ole Opry”, lived in Pennington Bend in a modest brick ranch-style house typical of the kind seen in Donelson. Neighbors in Donelson often saw him in town at the grocery store or at local restaurants. After his death in 2007, The Tennessean’s Gail Kerr (who grew up in Donelson), wrote that “folks refer to Porter as a musical icon, the Thin Man from West Plains, or the Rhinestone Troubadour, but in 37214, he's just called neighbor.”

Although well known for his many rhinestone suits and blond pompadour while performing on stage, Jeannette Rudy, whose family sold some of their farm in the Pennington Bend area in the 1960’s and 70’s where Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry were built, remembered all the times they had coffee together and the song he wrote for her, simply titled “My Neighbor”.

Porter Wagoner’s career spanned almost 60 years and he was an RCA Victor recording artist between 1951 and 1980, charting 81 records. The Porter Wagoner Show was a big hit for television and one of the first syndicated shows in Nashville, airing from 1960 to 1981. He earned three Grammy’s for his Gospel recordings with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Porter was also a fan of R&B, bringing James Brown to the Grand Ole Opry and produced an album for Grammy-award winning singer Joe Simon.

Some of the albums that Porter recorded in the 1970’s were considered “conceptual albums” in that they were built around a particular theme. Porter’s final album in 2007 called “Wagonmaster” was produced by Marty Stuart (also a Donelson neighbor at one time) and it too was thematic, written around an unrecorded Johnny Cash song called “Committed to Parkview”. The album received rave reviews and was considered a return to raw, classic country music.

I hope you enjoy this small selection of Porter’s recordings I chose. Some of the tunes he wrote were no doubt written right here at his home in Donelson.

Highway Headin’ South (written by Porter Wagoner)
Big Wind (written by George McCormick, Wayne Walker, and Alex Zanetis)
What Ain’t to Be, Just Might Happen (written by Porter Wagoner)
Indian Creek (written by Porter Wagoner)
Singing on the Mountain (written by Porter Wagoner)
Please Don’t Stop Loving Me (written and performed by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton)
Raining Blues at Midnight (written by Porter Wagoner)
Be A Little Quieter (written by Porter Wagoner)

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