Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

Ramblin' Rhodes: Singer-songwriter captures persona of a country song

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There have been many songs that have expressed what country music and country life is all about.

SPECIAL
Jonmark Stone’s latest album Etched in Stone includes I’m A Country Song, an ode to country music, as well as My Father’s Son, which is a tribute to his father.

Don Williams’ I’m Just A Country Boy, Dottie West’s Country Girl, John Denver’s Thank God I’m A Country Boy and also Country Roads (Take Me Home), Hank Williams Jr.’s A Country Boy Can Survive, Barbara Mandrell’s I Was Country (When Country Wasn’t Cool), Luke Bryan’s Country Man and Alabama’s Born Country all are good examples.

Add to that list I’m A Country Song off Nashville singer-songwriter Jonmark Stone’s latest album, Etched in Stone.

“I speak simply and clearly, but I’ve touched your very soul,” Stone sings. “I’ve been from bar rooms to churches from the Ryman to the White House lawn. I think you know me. I’m a country song.

“And I’m American, and I sing of the free. No matter who they are or what they believe. And I’ve got a history that runs deep and strong. I think you know me. I’m a country song.”

Stone said in an e-mail that his composition was a single release for Georgia native David Rogers in 1983 and that two years later Marty Haggard (Merle’s son) recorded it for MTM Records.

Stone wrote 11 of the 12 songs on his Etched in Stone CD with stand-outs including Feed My People (a plea to care about world hunger), Carolina Charlie (about a childhood hero of Stone’s) and My Father’s Son (a tribute to his father, Mark Stone).

“If you only knew how much I lean on the wisdom I’ve seen in your eyes, and how much it changed my life,” Stone sings about his father who died in February 2001.

“Yesterday is a re-run black and white. I can see us sitting around the table at night, and you pray for the boys in Vietnam. I can see when I look behind you. I see the way you took the time to understand and help the boy become a man.”

Stone said he wrote the song before his father died and that his father loved it.

“I’m thankful it didn’t come too late,” Stone wrote in an e-mail. “Dad was a Baptist minister, a jock and not really a music lover. But he was unbelievably supportive of my singing and songwriting considering those facts. I will say that having Tennessee Ernie Ford record one of my songs (He’s A Legend In His Mind) gave me a lot of credibility in Dad’s eyes. Ernie even wrote him a very sweet letter at one point.”

Stone’s song Carolina Charlie is about Charles D. Wiggs Sr., a disc jockey for WCMS-AM radio in Norfolk, Va., who sang and played with a popular local country band. He was from North Carolina and had “Carolina Charlie” painted on his guitar.

“Charlie heard me sing in a statewide contest at 12 and decided to start using me as his child/dog opening act,” Stone noted.

“It was an experience that formed and changed me for life. I can’t imagine how different my life would have been if our paths hadn’t crossed.

“We lost Charlie in ’93, but I still carry him with me,” Stone added. “He spent more of his life making music than recording it. It’s tempting to say there’s nothing of his music to look back on. But when you play live like so many of us do for decades, there is a real satisfaction in making people feel better for a few hours and taking an edge off someone’s bad day.”

Another of Stone’s musical heroes is the late singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury, who died in 2002.

Newbury created Elvis Presley’s American Trilogy song and wrote such great hits as Sweet Memories (Willie Nelson, Dottie West, Don Gibson), Heaven Bless The Child (Joan Baez), Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings (Tom Jones) and She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye (Jerry Lee Lewis).

In 2004, Stone and violinist Marie Rhines released their tribute album When I Heard Newbury Sing that was recorded live at the fourth annual Mickey Newbury Gathering in Austin, Texas. The title of the CD is a cut on the album that Stone wrote.

“I wrote the Newbury piece in 1983 when I was working on a recording project with Mickey,” said Stone who played guitar on Newbury’s last two albums. “I played it for Mickey and Waylon (Jennings) that night at the session and then promptly put it away until around 1995 when we were working on another project and it was obvious that Mick was in (health) decline.

“I recorded the song as a demo and gave it to Mickey as a gift. The family played it at his funeral, and it has since taken on a bit of a life of its own with Newbury fans for which I’m grateful.”

Stone’s friendship with Newbury came about through his co-writing partner Judy Mehaffey, who now lives around Rome, Ga. Stone and Mehaffey, among other songs, co-wrote The Time of My Life recorded by both John Schneider and Helen Cornelius.

“Mickey was in town (Nashville) at a local hotel and Judy took me there to meet him. She had known him for years. She later gave me a stack of his albums and said, ‘This is who you need to listen to.’ It became my musical education in good writing and singing.”

ARCHIE JORDAN IN LINCOLNTON: The great songwriter and Augusta native Archie Jordan will perform at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 25, at New Hope Baptist Church, 5350 Highway 220 East, in Lincolnton, Ga. A love offering will be taken.

Jordan wrote or co-wrote such huge hits as What A Difference You Made in My Life, Let’s Take The Long Way Around The World, It Was Almost Like A Song, Happy Birthday Dear Heartache, Drifter, It’s All I Can Do and Jesus Is Your Ticket To Heaven.

For details, contact Herbert Bailey, Jr. at (706) 401-3940.


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