Marijohn Wilkin

Induction Year: 1975

Birth Name: Marijohn Melson

Birth Date: 07-14-1920

Place of Birth: Kemp, Texas

Death Date: 10-28-2006

Place of Death: Nashville, Tennessee

Though Marijohn Wilkin is often remembered as "the den mother of Music Row," a publisher who nurtured such songwriters as Kris Kristofferson and Ed Bruce, she had a formidable talent herself, penning classics like "The Long Black Veil" and "One Day at a Time."

Raised near Dallas, Marijohn Melson was a spunky kid who loved to sing and play piano. After high school, she turned down a Hollywood movie contract and went to college, where she sang with a Western band and studied education. After graduation, she got married, settled in Tulsa and taught music. On the side, she wrote songs.

Her first husband was killed in World War II, and she remarried shortly after. The marriage lasted just long enough for her to have a son, Bucky. By 1955, Wilkin had married again and moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Bucky got a job playing guitar on the Ozark Jubilee, ABC-TV's Saturday-night country music show. While there, she placed a few of her songs in the show. She also toured part-time with Red Foley's band. In 1958, her musical ambitions lured her to Nashville.

Signed by Cedarwood Publishing, she co-wrote two of her biggest hits that year, "Waterloo" and "The Long Black Veil." Over the next few years, Wilkin had success writing for everyone from Stonewall Jackson to Eddie Cochran to Ann-Margret, while singing backgrounds on Nashville Sound-era sessions and cutting solo records for Columbia. In 1964, she formed her own publishing company, Buckhorn Music. Their first hit was "GTO," a Top 5 surfing tune by her son's group Ronny & the Daytonas. A year later, Wilkin signed Kris Kristofferson as a writer.

Despite her success, Wilkin battled depression and alcoholism. When her third marriage failed, she became suicidal. In the early '70s, she found religion and turned her life around. It inspired her most enduring hit, "One Day at a Time" (co-written with Kristofferson). Most of her writing thereafter was devoted to gospel music. In 1978, she wrote her autobiography, Lord Let Me Leave a Song. After selling Buckhorn Music, she co-founded 17th Avenue Music.

Elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975, Marijohn Wilkin ranks alongside Cindy Walker and Dolly Parton as one of the most successful female country songwriters ever.

She died of heart disease in 2006 at age 86. "She was a tough, intelligent and funny woman making it in a man's world," Kris Kristofferson remembered.

"A Little Guy Called Joe"

(written with Wayne Walker)

Stonewall Jackson1960 #13 country

"Cut Across Shorty"

(written with Wayne Walker)

Eddie Cochran1960 
Carl Smith1960 #28 country
Freddie & the Dreamers1964 
Nat Stuckey1969 #15 country
Rod Stewart1970 

"Everybody's Dying for Love"

Jimmy Newman1961 #14 country

"God Will"

(written with John D. Loudermilk)

Johnny Cash1959 
Connie Smith & Nat Stuckey1970 

"Greener Pastures"

Stonewall Jackson1961 #26 country

"Hey Lucille!"

(written with Fred Burch, Jimmy Newman)

Claude King1963 #13 country

"How Is He"

Jeannie Seely1968 

"I Just Don't Understand"

(written with Kent Westberry)

Ann-Margret1961 #17 pop
The Beatles1963 (released 1994)
Jerry Reed1972 

"I Thought of God"

Porter Wagoner1964 

"Mary Don't You Weep"

(written with Mel Tillis)

Stonewall Jackson1959 #12 country, #41 pop
Mel Tillis1962 

"Old Showboat"

(written with Fred Burch)

Stonewall Jackson1963 #8 country

"One Day at a Time"

(written with Kris Kristofferson)

Marijohn Wilkin1974 
Marilyn Sellars1974 #19 country
Roy Drusky1974 
Judy Lynn1975 
Wanda Jackson1976 
George Hamilton IV1978 
Cristy Lane1980 #1 country
Merle Haggard1981 

"One Look at Heaven"

Stonewall Jackson1962 #11 country

"Out of Sight, Out of Mind"

(written with Mary Ingraham)

Porter Wagoner1966 
Sonny James1972 

"P.T. 109"

(written with Fred Burch)

Jimmy Dean1962 #3 country, #8 pop

"Ramblin' Rose"

(written with Fred Burch)

Jerry Lee Lewis1962 
Slim Whitman1964 
Eddy Arnold1971 
Ray Price2000 

"The Long Black Veil"

(written with Danny Dill)

Lefty Frizzell1959 #6 country
Kingston Trio1962 
Burl Ives1962 
Joan Baez1963 
Roy Drusky1964 
Faron Young1964 
Bobby Bare1964 
Johnny Cash1965 
The Band1968 
Hank Williams Jr.1971 
Del Reeves1973 
Sammi Smith1974 #26 country
Chris Le Doux1975 
John Anderson1982 
Marianne Faithfull1984 
Seldom Scene1990 
Don Williams1995 
Dave Matthews Band1999 
Daryle Singletary2000 
Jason & the Scorchers2002 
David Frizzell & Gene Watson2008 
Rosanne Cash2009 

"Tra Le La Le La Triangle"

(written with Fred Burch)

Patsy Cline1963 


(written with John D. Loudermilk)

Stonewall Jackson1959 #1 country, #4 pop
Roy Drusky1964 
Carl Smith1965 
Sonny James1970 
Ferlin Husky1970 

"Weep No More My Baby"

(written with John D. Loudermilk)

Brenda Lee1960 

Marijohn Wilkin

Induction Year: 1975