Watch: Makenzie Phipps Takes on Lacy J. Dalton’s 1982 Classic “16th Avenue”

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the release of Lacy J. Dalton’s classic country ballad “16th Avenue,” Makenzie Phipps has shared her stirring acoustic rendition of the classic.

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The 20-year-old Virginia-born singer and songwriter, who released her recent single “Drag” and also shared her moving rendition of Alan Jackson’s 2006 hit, “I Want To Stroll Over Heaven With You,” which followed her viral take on the 18th century hymnal “Amazing Grace,” said that singing through “16th Avenue” was one of the purest ways to pay homage to one of her heroes.

“I knew who Lacy was, but it wasn’t until one of my friends introduced me to her that I really got into her music and just loved her voice and her style,” Phipps tells American Songwriter. “She’s such an icon.” 

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Phipps, who also names the 1981 hit, “Takin’ It Easy,” and “Black Coffee,” as other Dalton favorites, adds, “Her music has definitely made me dig deep into who I want to be as an artist and not waver from that. I want someone to listen to my music and be able to say, ‘That’s unique. It’s different.’”

From the corners of the country / From the cities and the farms / With years and years of living / Tucked up underneath their arms, sings Phipps, tenderly etching the lines of the story Dalton first told four decades earlier, one of a forever-changed time in Nashville. The song referred to the area in Nashville that was being converted from residential homes to office space for the music industry within the 1960s.

Written by Thom Schuyler, who later served as chairman of the Country Music Association and headed RCA Records, the song popped into his head one day. Jotting it down, Schuyler threw the song inside a desk drawer and never thought much of it until he presented it to his publisher.

Asked to finish the song, which still didn’t have a chorus, Schuyler presented a demo to Jerry Smith, who was working with a number of young artists at the time. Smith brought “16th Avenue” and “My Old Yellow Car”—another track written by Schuyler—to Billy Sherrill, and both tracks were ultimately recorded by Dalton.

Columbia released Dalton’s “16th Avenue,” produced by Sherill, as the title track of her fifth album in September of 1982. The song reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, and Dalton was also asked to perform “16th Avenue” for the opening of the 1982 Country Music Association Awards.

“‘16th Avenue’ marked an era of simpler times where music was made plain and simple—very raw, very personal,” says Phipps. “I love that. Musicians got together, and they made good music—good music with great talent. And they hoped that one song would be the one, the one that opened doors, the one that changed their life forever.”

Lacy J. Dalton

Sherrill, who worked with Dalton early on, initially wanted her to write more pop music, which she admits wasn’t her favorite genre. She eventually found her deeper grooves in country and folk.

“I’m really more of a folk singer,” says Dalton. “Songs like ‘16th Avenue,’ ‘One Of The Unsatisfied,’ ‘You Can’t Take the Texas Out of Me’ and ‘Blue Eyed Blues’ still resonate and are more the type of songs I like to sing. However, songs like ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Takin’ It Easy’ were much more successful on the charts.”

In 2022, more came full circle around the 40th anniversary of 16th Avenue when Dalton received a Lifetime Achievement Award at The Grand Ole Opry and made her first appearance in the house in more than a decade.  

“Everybody was so warm and welcoming,” said Dalton of her return to Opry, “and the stage, sound, and lighting technicians were extraordinarily professional and—perhaps the best I’ve ever experienced.”

Now 40 years later, Dalton says it doesn’t feel like four decades have passed since she first released her classic.

“I have very little awareness of the passage of time,” shares Dalton. “I’ve always been much more focused on the present and looking to the future.”

Photos: Courtesy of 2911 Enterprises, Inc.

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