By Tami Boone
Since his graduation in 1985, Clinton High School graduate Don Poythress has been busy making a name for himself in the music industry. And on September 21, 2023, Poythress’ talent was recognized by his home state when he was inducted into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame as a singer/songwriter.
Poythress was born in Meridian, Mississippi, which he says he considers an honor, because it is the birthplace of two greats-Jimmy Rodgers and Elsie McWilliams. He moved to Clinton at age three, and Clinton is where he spent his youth.
Poythress said that Clinton was a great place to grow up, recalling that one could ride a bike across town with no worries. For him, it was a place where he was able to foster and cultivate his love and talent for music and songwriting.
While in school, Poythress recalls that he was blessed to have “some truly great mentors and supporters of his music.” He recalls being mentored and taught on the piano by RuthAnne Williams from the age of three, and says that she told him as a young boy that he was going to play at the Grand Ole Opry.
Poythress says that, at age four, Williams helped broaden his horizon by helping find his first guitar teacher, Don Inkster, who, at the time was just a young man himself. Because Poythress was so young, it was difficult to find someone to teach him.
By ninth grade, Poythress began playing in a band with his friends, Jim McDonald, Kimball Gober and David Cummings. His Sumner Hill Junior High School principal, Dr. Samuel McGee, encouraged his talent and even supported and attended Poythress’ first gig.
After graduating from CHS, he spent his first year of college at Mississippi College.
While Poythress was at Mississippi College, Dr. George Pittman, one of his professors, taught and encouraged journal writing, which is when Poythress wrote his first songs – and his songwriting grew from that point on.
Poythress says that he has been interested in being a songwriter ever since he knew it was a thing.
“It seemed like a dream job, sitting around drinking coffee all day and writing songs,” he said.
Poythress completed his freshman year at MC and then transferred to Belmont University in Nashville, where he stayed.
In 1989, when Poythress did indeed first play at the Grand Ole Opry, his childhood piano teacher and mentor, Williams, was there to cheer him on.
From that point on, Poythress’ career blossomed. He has penned songs that have been recorded by Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Tim McGraw, Clint Black, Trace Adkins, Diamond Rio, Daryll Worley, Sir Cliff Richard, Brian Littrell (Backstreet Boys), Lincoln Brewster, Blake Shelton, Travis Tritt, Earl Scruggs, Kari Jobe, Philips Craig and Dean, Jake Owen, Jason Crabb and many others.
His song “A Little More Country than That,” recorded by Easton Corbin, went to number one on the country music charts and was nominated for CMA and ACM song of the Year. Kelly Pickler’s hit song, “Things that Never Cross a Man’s Mind,” was also written by Poythress.
Poythress’ Dove Award-winning song, “The Promise,” as sung by The Martins, was awarded top recorded song in the Southern Gospel Category in 2004. He also won a 2011 Dove award for Jason Crabb’s version of “Joseph” in the Inspirational Song of the Year category. And his third Dove Award was for Karen Peck and New River’s “Revival” in the Southern Gospel Category.
Also a performer, Poythress has, in addition to taking the stage at the Grand Ole Opry, performed at The Ryman Auditorium and The Louisiana Hayride, and he is a regular performer at The Bluebird Café. He has taught songwriting workshops at Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, Nashville Songwriters Association International, BMI, ASCAP, The Christian Musician Summit and many other places.
“I’ve been extremely blessed to make a living doing something I love. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the kindest and most talented people in the world, and for that I am so thankful,” Poythress said. “But, what I’m most thankful for is my wife, Aubrey, and my two sons, Oren and Aaron. They continue to encourage me as I try to follow what the Lord has next for me.”
Poythress resides in Nashville and is the worship director at a local church.
Poythress says his next project is a collaboration with the late evangelist Reinhard Bonnke that should be out in 2024. It will include artists like Mike Weaver, Merideth Andrews and Aaron Shust.
Visit DonPoythress.com to see Poythress’ full discography.