The Truth... What is it?





Another Special Life in Christ

These testimony lives are not stories of "role models". Jesus is the role model!
These are lives wonderfully touched & changed by Jesus!

  

"Daddy-boy's" girl said, Lord, Let Me Leave a Song!

The impact of a father on a child can be incredible! Ernest Melson would have a daughter that, at his death, would reflect on him as, "the most God-like man a child could know." When the great depression hit Texas, Ernest had his "Melson's Veribest Bread" bakery to hold the family off from disaster. In his early teens (around 1913), Ernest had become a fiddler of local renown, playing with a group at dances, etc. He found Jesus, and his life changed at age 18; and he married Karla Owens. Ernest's daddy, High Melson, was a musical, barnstorming alcoholic atheist who kept the musical family in whirlwind activity in Texas. High made a death-bed profession of faith in Jesus.

On 14 July 1920, Ernest and Karla saw the birth of their only child, a daughter, in Kemp, Texas. At age 5, she went down front in her church and asked Jesus to be her savior. When the great depression hit around 1930, they had moved to Sanger, Texas (about 1925) near Dallas. This 10 year old daughter had become used to the good but isolated life living in a family bakery (mom was awake selling in the daytime while daddy slept; and daddy up all night baking)...a child always had to be quiet...no friends over making noise. The girl was a hard worker in the business, too. Most importantly, she daily witnessed her father giving away day-old bread and a word from the Bible to the bums, hobos, and the destitute who had marked this little bakery as an oasis of free food. She saw him trade bread with the towns-folk for items that he knew he'd never use. The family was immersed in their church (she later recalled that she grew up like a preacher's kid). She adored "Daddy-boy"!

Then the deaths began to add up. At age 5, they set out for Christmas at the Owens' in Leonard, Texas. Word came to Sanger that Mr. Owens died during the night. By the time they arrived in Leonard, Mrs. Owens had died, too. At almost age 16, her beloved "Daddy-boy" expired after a horrible 4-year battle with cancer...she never remembered him ever complaining. But he extracted a promise from her that his bright-minded daughter would get a college degree, take some singing lessons, and take care of her momma. She became the adult and momma became the dependent. About 6 years later, her husband, Bedford Russell, would die in WWII in Africa. On the rebound, she married a Mr. Buck; and a son, John..."Bucky"..., was born on April 26, 1946, exactly 10 years to the day after her daddy's death. She divorced in 1944. She would then marry a church musician in about 1950. Eight years later, she moved from Tulsa to Nashville and landed under the mentoring influence of Jim Denny for about 6 years (he died about 1964). The sweet little girl from Sanger with the sweet alto voice and winning smile and personality had hardened on the inside. She got into alcohol and the social scene. In the midst of huge success, she became inwardly more and more lonesome even while friends & coworkers admired her ability to roll with the punches of life. This third marriage was now on the rocks, and her son was off at NYU...the "empty nest". Bucky hit it big with the song, GTO; and his momma felt even less needed.

Having moved to a little place 25 miles out in the country and become a recluse, she decided to end it all that rainy night of Thanksgiving of 1964 with a sleeping pill overdose. Miraculously, Red Foley and Mel Tillis decided to go out to see her that rainy night and saved her life. She had a long rifle and tried again Easter night of 1965. The first bullet "dud fired", bounced off her head and rolled down her shoulder. She put her head back over the muzzle and pulled the trigger again...another dud fire lead bounced off, and she caught it in her hand. It came to her mind, "Lord, I think you're trying to tell me something!" It was a life turning point. She swore she'd never attempt suicide again; and for the first time in a great many years, she just broke down and cried and cried.

In the 6 years writing for Jim Denny with Cedarwood Publishers, she wrote and co-wrote over 300 country music and popular songs, some 150 being published and produced. At one point, her songs were coming out at a rate of one hit per week. Well liked and extremely successful in the man's world of country music writing and publishing, she also free-lanced her unique, husky-alto voice as a backup singer. She had earlier met Mahalia Jackson and heard her sing "Amazing Grace"...at which point she knew that she was meant to be a gospel song writer. After Jim's death and her divorce from Art Wilkin, she founded (1964) her own company, Buckhorn Music Publishers in Nashville (named for her son). Her first big contract signer that year was an unknown marine friend of her second cousin, Kris Kristofferson. They became fast friends and were the force that propelled Buckhorn to success. Still lonely and unhappy, she delved into Yoga, cards, séances, fortune telling, and Buddhism. But, by 1967, there were no hits; and Kris passed up renewing his contract. So she headed for 3 months for Europe by boat to go through the Mediterranean and pass where her husband had died in WWII. While there, she spent a week in Israel. As she missed America, she began to have an intense desire to know more about God.

On coming in to Nashville, she was met with the exciting news that Kris' song with Buckhorn, "Why me", was a monster hit. Then her business partner died and her mom died. Mr. Long's estate desired to sell his share in Buckhorn, and she faced a real struggle coming up with the backing. Then she was called to Texas for 6 weeks to the sickbed of her Godly Uncle Buford Owens. The return to Nashville was met with the realization that there had been mismanagement of the company during her absence. Finally, this strong-willed, independent, self-sufficient, determined woman came to the end of herself and thought for the first time, "I've got to have some help; its more than I can handle!" She opened the telephone book and soon found a number for a prayer line with a pastor's recorded message about God's love. The next day, she called that pastor for an appointment and drove over in her expensive clothes and brand-new Cadillac. After his initial surprise at her trappings of wealth, he began to understand her distress. He told her, surprisingly, to thank God for her troubles and to let God handle them...and he prayed with her. She went home and relaxed into a prayerful attitude. Right then, it hit her to write out a prayer; and from the tip of her pen came out the gospel song for which she will be ever famous, "One Day at a Time". It was the fall of 1973, Kris happened into Nashville; and they put the finishing touches on the song. However, they chose a newcomer to record it: Marilyn Sellars. It was an instant country and then pop hit. Six months later the Thrasher Brothers recorded it as a gospel song and the rest is unparalleled gospel music history: a BMI Award winner; 1975 Gospel Music Association's Dove Award; 1976-77 English pop star Marie Gibson's recording hit #1 in South Africa; #1 requested song in Liverpool England; and, to date, between 200-500 artists recordings. But, this is a beginning...not the end.

Her recent years of musical drought shifted genre, and a wellspring of gospel songs flowed: "The Scars in the Hands of Jesus", "It All Belongs in the Hands of the Father", "God is Love", "Behold the Man", "2000 Years Ago", "Trial Trip", "Speak Louder", "Without You", and "I Have Returned". Raised a Christian, Marijohn was coming back full circle to the Lord. A highly successful song writer who sang through her teens, it occurred to her that she had enough good gospel songs for an album. Aaron Brown happened by and "discovered" this situation and contacted gospel music mover and shaker Billy Ray Hearn in Waco. His company had not budgeted for her work, so she (knowing now that God wanted her to write & record gospel music) produced the album "I Have Returned" herself. Though knowing that she had found her way back to Jesus, she was very resistant to any public profession of her faith. Her album hit number one on the Christian Broadcasting Network, and she was invited to appear on the 700 Club and sing 3-5 of those songs. As it turned out, 80 million viewers heard her on-the-air profession!

As of Jan. 2002, Marijohn Wilkin is "still around" in Nashville, and she graciously gave me a freshly autographed copy of her autobiography, "MARIJOHN Lord, Let Me Leave A Song..." (1978, by Darryl E. Hicks, Message Press, Nashville, TN). She did graduate from Hardin-Simmons University class of 1941. She never took those singing lessons, though trying several times. And she did take care of her mom as her daddy had made her promise to do!

 

 

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(posted 12 Feb. 2002; updated 27 April 2006)

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You have just read a very brief example of the powerful, supernatural transformation of a person's life which is possible through the acceptance of Jesus as your savior. Are you tired of life as it now is for you? He will accept you just as you are right this second! Consider accepting Jesus now [check it out]!