My 2021 Chet Flippo Award For Excellence In Country Music Journalism Acceptance Speech

Printed, unedited, in its entirety

Marcus K. Dowling
5 min readJun 4, 2021


Foremost, I would like to thank the International Country Music Conference for this mind-blowing honor. When Dr. Akenson told me I could make a few comments, I was awestruck, but then, in a series of fond yet bittersweet recollections, the words came to me.

“Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong.”

During my 43 years of life, John Denver’s 50-year-old country-crossover hit single has unlocked many mystical, magical meanings for my life.

As a bleary-eyed child — spending two-week summer vacations sleeping inside one of two double-wide mobile homes my aunt won on the Price is Right in 1975 — I would be awake five hours past my bedtime staring blissfully into the starry-eyed night at the Falling Waters Campsite in Falling Waters, West Virginia. The song’s hook played on the infomercial aired before the National Anthem as a daily network affiliate sign-off for some off-brand K-Tel or Time-Life style compilation box-set of 70s country records. Somewhere between Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn” and Anne Murray’s “Snowbird,” I’d warble Denver’s words because I knew the song snippets played on the commercial, by heart.