There Are Songs in That Guitar: A Songwriter’s Holiday Reflection

by Clay Mills
Dec 21, 2020

This is my Songwriter’s Holiday Reflection

This holiday season, I find myself looking back and remembering people that have been an important part of my life. The winter holidays are a wonderful time for cultivating gratitude. Looking back, there have been people who have been there for me since day one, and there have been those who were only in my life for brief moments, but still altered it forever. I give thanks for all of these people along the way. Some know this, and some I’ll never have the chance to tell them.

I want to remember an old friend of mine, Henry Gross.

Henry and I were around each other for only a couple years. I met him through his wife, who was the real estate agent when I bought my first home. Henry is a singer/songwriter, and among his list of accomplishments, is writing and singing the song called “Shannon” (a song I used to sing along to on the radio as a kid). The first time I met Henry, I was drawn to his guitar collection. He had so many cool old guitars, and I fell in love with some of his Epiphone guitars from the 1960’s. So, Every time I visited him, I would ask to play them. But beyond that, Henry was gracious enough to teach me about these magical pieces of wood and steel.

One day, I got a call from Henry saying he’s found me a 1967 Epi Cortez.

It was owned by Bob Dylan sideman Bucky Baxter, who was reluctant to let it go, but Henry convinced him I needed this guitar. I still don’t know why Henry was driven to do this. As I was handing over $750 to Bucky Baxter, I felt like the luckiest guitar-playing songwriter on the planet. Although, with a young baby and wife to support, this was a lot of money to me. I’m not sure why I even did this!! Bucky handed me the guitar and I plucked a few notes on it, smiling big. Then Henry said, “There are songs in that guitar.”

I didn’t think much about his words at the time. I was a struggling songwriter trying to write my first big song, and Henry Gross suggested I needed this guitar.

Somehow he knew this guitar was right for me, and that guitar spoke to me on an emotional level. Within nine months, I had written my first hit song with this guitar: a song called “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio. Then, “She Thinks She Needs Me” by Andy Griggs, and “Fall” by Clay Walker. It seemed as if picking up this guitar was magical. Like it was connected to my heart. There really were songs in that guitar. I couldn’t see it, but Henry Gross saw it.

So, this holiday season, I want to offer a Songwriter’s Holiday Reflection and give thanks for people like Henry who teach us and give freely.

Hopefully, I’ll meet up with Henry again and get to personally offer him my thanks—at the very least, maybe this blog will get passed along to him. He was right. That guitar has songs in it! I’ve included a few songs you can listen to below. All were written on my 1967 Epi Cortez guitar!

Write On! Live On! ~Clay

Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It – Darius Rucker

One Day You Will- Lady Antebellum

Beautiful Mess- Diamond Rio

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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