Question of the Week: Jim Stover

Jim Stover, co-author of the #1 Kingsmen hit and Song of the Year “Wish You Were Here,” is one of my co-workers at Crossroads. We recently took the time to sit down for a few minutes to discuss the song. Listen in:

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/QOTW-Jim-Stover.mp3|titles=Question of the Week – Jim Stover]

Daniel: Well, I’m here this morning with a songwriter whom many of you may never have heard of— but you’ve heard of at least one of his songs: Jim Stover, co-author of the song “Wish You Were Here,” which was a big hit for the Kingsmen back in the early ’90s. Jim, could you tell us a little bit about the writing of that song?

Jim: Yeah, I’d be glad to, Daniel. I have a friend that I’ve known since high school, Michael C. Williams. One day, back in 1990, he came by the store that I managed. He’d always drop by to visit me, in and out of my life, every so often. So while he was there, I asked him, “Are you writing anything?” ‘Cause he wrote, and I wrote.

He said, “Nah, I can’t seem to come up with anything.”

And I said, “Well, do you want to come over?” So I invited him to come to my little apartment I lived at, and we got out our guitars, and I said, “Well, what do you got?” He played what he had of what was to be “Wish You Were Here.”

A little backstory there: Michael had lost both of his parents within a short span, a couple years of each other, ’87, ’88, along through there. So he sang the verse, “I can just see them walking on the shores of Heaven.” And he sang up to the point that he had gotten to, and he couldn’t go any farther with it; he’d had it it for quite some time, a year or better. I don’t know the exact time.

So, you know, I played along with him, “I like that,” you know, and while that was happening, a songwriter’s wheels are turning, so I thought, “Where would I take that song?”

So actually, he had up to half of the chorus, and it stopped, and that was the end of it: “Wish you were here, it’s such a beautiful place / Wish you were here, nothing but warm sunny days.”

So after about three passes, I said, “Well, this is what I would do with it,” and I sang the part, “Well, it never rains, no one complains, we haven’t seen a tear / We’re havin’ a great time”—’cause I said, “It sounds like a postcard to me.”

So he liked that, and we sang that a time or two, and then there was no second verse. So I got him started there. Actually, this is the part—I remember composing some words, “I can see them walking with Peter and Paul / They’re talking with Jesus, He is Lord of all.” So we quit after that, you know.

So it was some months later Michael came by that same place where I worked, and he was all excited. He said, “The Kingsmen recorded the song!” He’d finished the rest of it. And that was it—I mean, the Kingsmen cut the thing, it was the title of their project, and it went on to great things. We both feel extremely blessed that the song has been used by so many.

Daniel: Didn’t it become a #1 hit?

Jim: It did. Actually, it was the Song of the Year in 1992. So it was a couple of guys from West Asheville, NC, sitting in my little apartment, and God took that little work and did some great things with it. I had somebody contact me just a couple of weeks ago; he said that it was gonna be on their project, and they needed a mechanical license. So I told them how to get it. So that’s the story behind “Wish You Were Here.” That song continues to this day, almost 20 years later, to be played on the radio continually, and to be recorded by other people. And that’s a total gift and blessing from God, one that I know I can say I don’t feel I deserve, and I think Michael would say the same thing. We’re just a couple of guys that do believe, do trust God, and love Jesus. We stumble and fall and all of those things, but He took that thing and He used it.

Daniel: Very neat! Now I’ve noticed on your YouTube channel that you’ve written a number of other songs. Any highlights from your other songwriting?

Jim: You know, there are several things that stand out.

Back in the early ’70s, I had a contract with a very wonderful publishing house called “House of Gold”; it was Bobby Goldsboro’s publishing company. One of the first things I wrote was under that contract, Davy Jones recorded—Davy Jones of Monkeys fame. So that’s a milestone in my career, I guess you’d say. And it was an A-side single for him back in 1972; the song was called “I’ll Believe in You.” And you’re right, it’s up there on YouTube.

Another thing that is a blessing to me to have occurred was that the lyrics to one of my sings, called “Heroes in Blue,” a song that I wrote at the request of my sister, a police chaplain; she said, “I’ve been asked to sing at the awards banquet; do you think you could write me something special?”

I said, “Well, I’ll sure try!”

So that’s the song that came out of that. I wrote “Heroes in Blue.” That was about 1992. About six years later, there was a shooting at the Capitol Building in Washington. A couple of police officers, Capitol Policemen, were killed. Sue got her project up there, into the hands of our congressman, Charles Taylor, with a letter of consolation to the families of those officers. Unbeknownst to us, he read the lyrics to that song into the Congressional Record on July, I think it was 28th, 1998. We didn’t find that out ’til some years later, six, seven, eight, nine, ten years later. I forgot even how, but that was kinda neat, having your lyrics read into the Congressional record.

Daniel: All right! And then one last question. I actually am honored now to work you; can you explain what your day job is?

Jim: I’m honored to work with you, too, Daniel.

Daniel: Thanks!

Jim: You’re a fine young man, and you can print that!

Well, for the last fifteen years, I’ve had the blessing to be employed by Crossroads Music. For the last eleven of those fifteen years, I’ve been the radio guy, you could say. They gave me a title when I took the job, but I’m not big on titles—”Director of Radio Promotions.” And I get to promote the singles for all the many wonderful artists we have.

So for a guy that loves music—I wrote my first song when I was about 14 or 15, and all along the way made my living doing secular type work, business type settings—to be immersed in music like this, and get to work with all these talented people, and artists, and songwriters, it’s been a great blessing. And I’ve been able to use any gift God gave me to translate into helping the Gospel get out by way of radio.

I’ll just take this moment, real quick, to compliment and commend all the people here, the production staff, the company leaders, every department, your department, the studio, the sales department, every one of them—and outside, of course, our artists, and the songwriters, and my many, many radio friends. A lot of our success is because of them, and I do appreciate every one of them, and I tell them that month after month. It’s a regular feature for me is to say, “Thank you, thank you very much!”

So that’s what I do. What do you do here? (both laugh)

Daniel: Work on websites and other things . . . well, thank you very much!

Jim: You’re welcome!

Daniel: Thank you!

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18 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Thank you for the interview, Daniel. I especially enjoyed learning of the history of “Wish You Were Here.” This is one of my favorite songs, and as a minister, I’ve used it as a poetic reading at many graveside servcies. It was also sung at my Mother’s funeral.

  2. Those Stover boys do good work. Jim helps write a good song, and Russell makes good candies. 😀

  3. In the “piece of useless trivia” catagory…Davy Jones lives next to my cousin that I eat Christmas dinner with each year in PA. He lives a life of relative simplicity in a town of less than 1000 people and raises horses and still sings.

  4. Great SONG! Great interview! Thanks Daniel and Jim. AWESOME!

  5. I want to publicly thank Daniel for asking me about this and running the piece, and also, to express my gratitude to those who have commented. I appreciate each one of you. Merry Christmas!

    • Not a problem, and thank you for doing it!

    • Beautiful song and it has blessed many people. One of my favorite songs and loved hearing it by the great voice of Tim Surrett. Thanks to you guys Jim for sharing your talent and thanks for another informative interview Daniel.

    • Mr. Stover:

      Michael Crawford Williams is my cousin. Just the other day a man contacted another cousin of ours to inform him that he had received a call from Sue Stover (any relationto you?) and she had heard a rumor that Michael had passed away. Do you have any information regarding Mike’s (as we called him) death? Our family had a reunion in Asheville in 2009. Mike was there and he sang that song. Mike sporatically kept in touch with our cousin, Larry, however Larry lost contact with Mike for about two years ago. Mike has a sister in the Asheville area but we do not know how to contact her.

      I would very much appreciate any information or possible contacts you could provide.

      Sincerely, Kathy Arce

      • To Kathy, and other members of Mike’s family who posted here,
        In a communication with our performance rights organization, I was given the information that Mike passed away on or about May 11, 2011 with a last known address of Charlotte, TN.
        He’s safe in the arms of Jesus.

    • Michael C. Williams who co-wrote “Wish You Were Here” was my cousin. The information we have just recently gotten seems to say he died last winter. He sang that song at our family reunion in Asheville, NC, 2009. Not knowing he had written it, I just sat there and cried my eyes out. He later sent me a CD with songs he had written, including “Wish You Were Here.” I will treasure that always.

      I was able to keep up with Michael for a couple or three years after that and then lost contact with him.

      It was sad to find out “through the grape vine” that he had passed a while back. He didn’t not have a very good life growing up.

      He has a sister but none of us know where she is. His brother passed away earlier, and of course, his parents too.

      He was a lovable person but he assured me that he was saved when I talked with him at the reunion and after that.

  6. Wish You Were Here has kept many a deep dark despairing night away. And I’m sure, Jim, that God put you in my life many many many oh so many (lol) years ago for just that song along with all the friendship, and that goes for Michael, too.
    I love and miss both you guys.

    Your Gal Annie

  7. I spent over an hour doing a websearch trying to fidn out the name of the author of “Wish You Were Here.” Finally found Michael C. Williams name on the back of a CD accompaniment. But glad to get the whole story that included Jim Stover. Thanks for this and comforting song!

    • I too loved hearing the history behind this song. My uncle was Michael Crawford Williams. I didn’t know him very well but he passed last winter and I have so many things to learn about him. I I herniated things that to me seem like useless Knick knacks but to Mike must have been extre special.

      • Noah, you don’t know me and ovviously I don’t know you, but I am a cousin of Michael Crawford Williams and the last time any of the family saw Michael was back in 2009 when we had a big family reunion here in Asheville. One of the cousins heard he may have passed away, but we thought it was recently. However there seems to be no death notice anywhere that we can find. Any information of where he passed or under what circumstances would certainly be appreciated.

  8. Noah, I put together the Williams reunion DVD pictures of all relatives from both the Robinson & Williams sides of the family. The video contains very old pictures and some incredible lineage connections that might help you piece together information about Michael and the family. It’s about an hour-and-a-half Ken Burns-effect iMovie video with music loops. My father, Jerry Deal, probably still has a DVD. Doing 60-plus reunion videos on my iMac in 2009 burned out my hard drive, so I no longer have the source files. The video combines great genealogy done by Martha Brookshire dating back to the late 1700s, with pictures from the 1800s and early 1900s. I had never met Michael until the reunion, but both he and I got there early and spent a lot of time talking. As a 22-year journalism veteran, I found his life and stories interesting — the perfect subject for a human-interest story — so I felt compelled to chat with him. I really enjoyed the couple of hours we talked and the music he shared. He was incredibly entranced by the reunion video. He sat and watched it — while almost in a daze — for three loops.

  9. Michael Crawford Williams: the only way I can contact you now is through this Gospel website. I know you are gone from this life. You, Tripp and Keith Stevens; my childhood cousins and playmates. What fun we had playing in basements (such a treat for a Florida girl) and catching lightening bugs! But, each of you made your mark and for reasons unknown and much too complicated, your lives ended earlier than any of us anticpated. But, we haven’t forgotten you. You are part of the Williams’ legacy. I will carry you with me as far as I go. And, we were there at Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Wilb’s, on their front steps and coasting in the wagons down the walkway leading to the tall pines. What a special memory. You are not forgotten and we will see you again somehow. You and I will once again play a duet on the piano and sit on the piano bench at the Thanksgiving table. I know that music was such a part of your life and I hope you have music where you are.