MARIJOHN WILKIN (By Shaun Mather)
Born Marijohn Melson, 14 July 1920, Kemp, Texas
Marijohn Wilkin ranks with Cindy Walker as one of the greatest female country song writers. Her move towards writing songs in Nashville was long and painful. She lost her first husband in World War II, and endured an unhappy second marriage. It was after she hooked up with number 3, Art Wilkin, Jr, that she began writing songs, eventually winding up in Music City. Her career seemed to be heading nowhere until she joined Cedarwood Publishing, where she worked along such stars as Mel Tillis, Wayne Walker and John D. Loudermilk.
It's fair to say that one particular day in June 1959 was one of her favourites. On the same day both Stonewall Jackson and Lefty Frizzell debuted two of her songs - "Waterloo" and "Long Black Veil," respectively. Jackson's went to the top of the charts but it was Long Black Veil that showed her to be a different type of writer to the the run of the mill that sometimes comes out of Nashville. It's a recognised classic and was particularly well covered by Johnny Cash. Three years later, Jimmy Dean hit the top 3 with P.T. 109, an account of the 1943 sinking of John F. Kennedy's torpedo boat.
She also wrote some pop hits like Whip-Poor-Will, and Cut Across Shorty for Darrel Higham:-) She even recorded vocals with the Jordanaires and between 1960 and 1961, she recorded two solo albums for Columbia, including Country & Western Songs That Sold a Million - but not for her! She formed her own music publishing company, Buckhorn Music (in partner- ship with Bill Justis), which was where Kris Kristofferson got his start, along with Ed Bruce. Ironically, Buckhorn's first success was the surf era hit "G.T.O." (# 4), which her son, Bucky Wilkin wrote and recorded in 1964 under the name of Ronny and the Daytonas.
Sad times still hounded her though and she developed a bad drinking habit until she found religion. Together with Kristofferson she wrote One Day at a Time which hit for Marilyn Sellars (# 19 country, # 37 pop, 1974) and has been recorded by over 200 different artists. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975 and in 1978 wrote her auto- biography, Lord Let Me Leave a Song.
Marijohn Wilkin made headlines anew in 1995 when her "I Just Don't Understand", co-written with Kent Westberry for Ann-Margret, appeared on the Beatles' "Live At The BBC" collection. She has lately had success with Seventeenth Avenue Music, another publishing company she co-owns, which has had songs recorded by LeAnn Rimes.
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