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Rory’s Biography

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

During a career of more than thirty years, Rory Michael Bourke has had songs recorded by Anne Murray, Elvis Presley, Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Phil Vassar, Dolly Parton, Tom Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Julio Iglesias, Tim McGraw, and many others. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989 and has been named ASCAP Writer of the Year three times: 1976, 1979, and 1983. He is a four-time Grammy nominee and the recipient of two CMA triple play awards. He served on the Board of Directors of the Nashville Songwriters Foundation for many years.

Rory was born on July 14, 1942, in Cleveland, Ohio. As a boy he loved watching movie musicals. “When I was seven years old,” Rory says, “I started going to the movies with the little girl who lived next door. Her father was manager of the Lowe’s MGM theater. I saw every MGM musical they made. Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, I watched them sing, and dance… they were romantic, and they always got the girl. In that darkened theater a dream was born. Seeing all those musicals is a big part of the reason I am a songwriter today.”

Rory graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s College in 1964 and married his college sweetheart, Rita Welty, shortly after. His first job was tracing lost railroad cars for the New York Central Railroad. His true calling, though, was songwriting. When there were no lost cars filled with cabbages from Mexico or pig iron from Alabama, he wrote songs. He spent his lunch hours writing lyrics on yellow slips of paper. When work was done, he brought those slips of paper home with him and set the lyrics to music.

Rory came to Nashville in 1969 as head of Sales and Promotion for Mercury Records Country and Western Division. Shortly afterwards Henry Hurt signed him to Chappell Music as a songwriter. There he met Don Gant who became a mentor. Rory later signed with Polygram Music.

In 1973, Rory’s “Most Beautiful Girl” became a worldwide hit. In 1979, he began a long and successful co-writing career with Charlie Black.

Rory left his position as staff writer with PolyGram in 1994 to form his own publishing company, Rory Bourke Music Company. Since then he’s had hits as a BMI writer/publisher with Phil Vassar (“Carlene”), Collin Raye (“Little Red Rodeo”), and Jo Dee Messina (“Bye Bye”). “Bye Bye” was named ASCAP’s Most Performed Song of the year in 1999. He also is writer and publisher of “Eyes of a Woman,” a cut on Tim McGraw’s CD, A Place in the Sun.

Rory tells aspiring songwriters, “I learn from every person I write with, and I hope they learn from me. Songwriting is an art whose lessons are never completely learned.”

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