Songwriter Ben Peters reigned among the most successful Nashville tunesmiths of the country-pop era, winning the Grammy for Best Country Song with 1972′s “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” Born June 20, 1937, in rural Hollandale, MS, Peters’ formative years were spent picking cotton, and after discovering an old saxophone in his grandfather’s attic he taught himself to play, ultimately running away to New Orleans in pursuit of a career in music. He joined his first band at age 14, later serving a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy after graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Upon his return from duty, Peters worked a series of odd jobs while writing songs in his off hours. Frustrated at his complete lack of success, he announced his decision to quit the music business just hours before publisher Shelby Singleton called with an offer to join his SSS International. Peters settled in Nashville in 1966, at first focusing on a solo career and cutting records for Capitol and Liberty before channeling all of his energy into songwriting. In 1967 he scored the first of his 14 number one country hits with Eddy Arnold’s “Turn the World Around.” He formed his own production house, Ben Peters Music, in 1970, and two years later, his daughter Angela inspired “Kiss an Angel Goodbye,” the biggest hit of Charley Pride’s long career.
Named Billboard‘s “Best Male Country Writer” in 1973, Peters next hit with Freddy Fender’s 1975 blockbuster “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” which was awarded Record of the Year honors by the Music Operators of America; combined with the success of Johnny Rodriguez’s “Love Put a Song in My Heart,” the Nashville Songwriters Association named Peters Songwriter of the Year in 1975 as well. Enshrined in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980, Peters also scored hits for Kenny Rogers (“Daytime Friends”), Brenda Lee (“Tell Me What It’s Like”), and John Conlee (“Before My Time”). He died May 25, 2005, following a bout with pneumonia.