Joy Rainey King of Herrin has been busy this week searching for deals on airfare to New York City, where she has been invited to a dinner hosted by the United Nations for the Global Officials of Dignity awards.
The June 20 program will honor people from throughout the world for humanitarian services.
King has been a longtime contributor to the Songs of Love Foundation. The organization believes in “the medicine of music” and has a staff that composes individualized songs from a patient profile for children and teenagers facing tough medical challenges.
A world-renowned poet, at the gathering King will be surrounded by elite doctors, artists and statesmen from around the globe. Little will they know that the 74-year old Southern Illinoisan in their presence is an aspiring songwriter that loves country music.
“I have the radio on a country station at all times. I like all the new artists, but my favorite will always be George Jones. It just doesn't get any better,” King said.
King says just about every new country song has a reference to the consumption of alcohol, so over the objection of at least one of her children, she included a line about “long neck bottles” in a recent composition.
“Every song seems to be about drinking beer,” she said. “If that is what Nashville wants, that is what you have to give them.”
Through her involvement with the Songs of Love Foundation, King met William Sherry Jr., a record producer in Nashville for the past 19 years. He has worked with superstar Gretchen Wilson and produced a children's album that was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2011.
Sherry convinced King to have demo tapes made of her best material. Two of her tunes, “No SUV Yet” and “Chandeliers And Country Music,” are now available for a 99 cent download fee at popular internet sites like iTunes, Amazon and cdBaby.
“I have been very pleased with the response so far. I've sold songs to people in Germany, Japan and Spain,” King said.
The songs are performed by veteran demo artist Sandi Kight, who has served as the opening act for Tim McGraw and Wade Hayes.
King will have a CD release party at Joe's Records in the Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion from 2 to 4 p.m. on June 28.
“This is a new venture for me,” King said. “I have a catalog of about 20 other songs that I feel are very good. I'm hanging on to them, just to see what happens.
King says she never knows when she will be inspired to write a song, but when the idea is sparked within the deep recesses of her brain, the words spill out within 10 minutes.
“Things come to me out off the clear blue sky,” she says. “I was watching an episode of 'Nashville' on television and heard a phrase that gave me the urge to write “No SUV Yet.” I never know when it is going to happen, but when it does, I have to get it on paper.”
The revelation that she should start writing country songs happen at a peculiar moment. She was attending a luncheon at Harvard University as an emissary for the International Congress on Arts, Communications, Science and Technology. A light went on as she listened to one of the keynote speakers.
“I just felt like it was something I should start doing and things snowballed in a hurry,” she said.
Writing is nothing new for King. Her poetry has been published world wide.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was to have a book of my poetry published in Mongolia,” she said.
Her work has also been included in a book that included contributions from 18 other American authors, including Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. A true international success, she says four of her books of poetry have been published in Italy.
King was born and raised in Memphis. She moved when her late husband's job with the Ashland Oil Company required him to relocate to Paducah. Later, a promotion to terminal manager at an asphalt plant forced the family's migration to Marion.
It was a magical moment in a cabin high in the Smoky Mountains long ago, during a family vacation, that she was first moved to record her feelings.
“The place was so peaceful. The words started coming to me so fast. It was a wonderful outlet,” she says. “I never thought I'd be a writer, now I've had my work published all over the world.”
King says she spends most of her time these days writing poems and songs. She is also a regular mall walker and dances three nights a week with a group of senior citizens.