Their friendship on earth started in the second grade when they played ball together at Enota Elementary School. It continued until 2001.
The story in between could be the lyrics of a country song.
And either one of these guys could have written them.
You may have heard of these songwriters: John Jarrard and Bruce Burch, two young men who made their first recording together in the bathroom of the Day’s Inn in Gainesville, Ga., where Burch was night auditor. They’d heard that the acoustics in a bathroom most closely approximated a recording studio’s. That may be the case, but the tape they made that night, they said, belonged in the bathroom.
Then they went off to Nashville to write their songs. Burch went first, in 1977, and Jarrard helped him move. “I took John to the bus station to go back to Gainesville and then cried like a baby,” Burch said. He was in Music City all by himself.
But about nine months later, Jarrard moved to Nashville, and they were together again.
This gig was going to be easy, Burch thought. After all, he’d already found a company that liked some of his songs and actually published them. Trouble was, he didn’t get any money. So he spread his wings, as fledgling songwriters do, and got outside work. He became night clerk at the Hall of Fame Motor Inn, a job Jarrard took after Burch became vice president of the Saucy Dog, a hot dog place. Later, Burch graduated to waiting tables at Houston’s.
Income was really important now that both had married women who were not willing to wait for No. 1 songs before they ate.
But the hits finally did come, first for Jarrard, whose “Nobody But You,” by Don Williams, reached No. 1. Burch’s No. 1 songs — “Rumor Has It” and “It’s Your Call” — were recorded by a redhead who’d checked in one night at the motor inn and later ate dinner at Houston’s. Burch met her both times. Her name is Reba McEntire.
Jarrard was more successful with songwriting, Burch said. He actually could boast of having 11 No. 1 hits. But he didn’t brag. He just celebrated with his friend.
Not long after moving to Nashville, diabetes took John Jarrard’s sight. He bought a cane and walked to work unattended. The disease took his kidneys — he endured two transplant operations — and then his legs. On Feb. 1, 2001, it took his life.
But that’s not the end of the story. Eleven years ago, Bruce Burch started a John Jarrard benefit singing that has raised more than $1 million for charities. He and several friends — Mike Banks, Philip Wilheit, Jim Mathis and Allen Nivens — also founded the John Jarrard Foundation.
So every September, successful songwriters travel to Jarrard’s hometown to sing and play, not for money, just for a friend they remember and for Bruce Burch, his best friend.
That’s what country songwriters do best while they’re on this earth.
— Hudgins, a former community newspaper editor, can be reached at email@example.com.