Native son wins Songwriters’ Contest

Published 8:50 am Friday, June 19, 2009

One of Butler County’s own took home top honors in the Songwriters’ Contest at the Hank Williams Festival this year.

T.J. Bender, a 2009 graduate of Fort Dale Academy, won first prize with his song “Down South.”

Bender, the son of Charles and Kathy Bender of Greenville, has been playing the guitar for most of his young life.

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“T.J. learned how to play a few chords when he was little, and he’s been working at it ever since,” Kathy Bender said.

The young man has been performing for the past several years with the praise band at Southside Baptist Church in Greenville. He’s only recently taken up songwriting. His grandfather was also musically inclined, his mom says.

“We are so proud of him, and I just wish my daddy was here to see this,” she added.

Along with a first place trophy and new acoustic guitar, Bender also won eight hours of recording time with Instant Karma Entertainment /IKE Records of Birmingham. He earned the right to perform his song on stage at the Pecan Festival in Mobile, and appeared on the stage at the Hank Williams Festival on Friday. The event, which has been on a hiatus from the festival, was revived this year by the Hank Williams International Fan Club, through the efforts of director Sherri Brackin.

“It was great to see a local person win,” said fan club president Mary Wallace.

“That’s always good for morale.”