Songwriters of this song, Larry Cordle, and Larry Schell had been friends for years. One day in 1999, Schell telephoned Cordle saying he had an unusual idea for a song and asked if he wanted to get in on it. Cordle was working mainly as a bluegrass artist at that time. He had just come off the road and was in the middle of recording a new album, so he wasn’t particularly in the mood to write anything. Schell mentioned that he already had a title. He was going to call it “Murder On Music Row,” and no sooner did he get that out of his mouth than Cordle replied, “Oh man, is it about killing country music?” Schell laughed and said, “yes.” He knew that Cordle got the play on words right away. Cordle said, “Sign me on!”
The two men scheduled some time over the next few days to get together and write the song. It took just a few hours to complete. Cordle was making his new bluegrass album, but he didn’t really think this was a bluegrass song. He considered it a traditional country tune, so that nixed any intentions he might have had of recording it.
The final night came of the sessions for Cordle’s bluegrass album, and around midnight he told the musicians, “Let’s do this. I still need a demo to pitch.” So “Murder On Music Row” was recorded and placed on a separate disc for Cordle to shop around, but he had a unique idea for the distribution: he took the disc and wrapped some of that police “crime scene” yellow tape around it and took it over to disc jockey Carl P. Mayfield at Nashville’s WKDF-FM. Mayfield developed an entire website based on “Murder On Music Row.” For over a month, the song was the centerpiece of his entire program. The first day that Mayfield played “Murder On Music Row” on his show, he played it eight times. The CD demo Carl used had no label printed on it or anything. The song title was handwritten. WKDF’s manager Erv Woolsey heard Mayfield playing it on the air and telephoned George Strait. He told George, “Have I got a song for you!”
MCA spokesperson Renee White called Cordle’s cell phone while he was up in Louisville attending the International Bluegrass Music Association Convention, and she asked him if he would put a “hold” on the song. He said, “Sure, Renee. I wasn’t planning to play it for anybody anyway.” She said,
“Well, George Strait is thinking about doing it, and he’d like Alan Jackson to record it with him.”
That was all the persuasion Cordle needed. He said, “Yes, absolutely. Tell ‘em to go for it!”
As Cordle and Schell were writing “Murder On Music Row,” they were expecting a backlash from plenty of disgruntled industry personnel who wouldn’t like the song. However, the two men never received any negative reaction. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “Murder On Music Row” was honored as the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year” in 2001, even though it was never promoted as a single. Radio programmers played the tune directly from George Strait’s CD collection “Latest, Greatest, Straitest Hits.” Additionally, George and Alan won the 2001 CMA “Vocal Event of the Year” award for their collaborative efforts.