RIPLEY – On the first and third Saturdays of the month, the Old Church Opry House in Ripley features country music.
These days, that means Joan Turner, 68, steps up to the microphone to sing classic songs by Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Jeanie Pruitt.
“I’m listed as a special guest,” Turner said, “but I’m a regular special guest.”
Performing is nothing new for Turner, who started singing in and around Ripley in her 20s. She was a member of the Johnny Jumper Band, the Darren Smith Band and a number of other groups.
She continued singing until her early 40s, when her husband told her it was time to let music go.
“I gave it up,” the Ripley resident said. “I was so disappointed. I got completely away from music. I couldn’t listen to music for a long time.”
A fire destroyed her home, taking with it the songs Turner had written over the years.
“I gave up my hope of having a music career,” she said.
Instead, Turner devoted her energy to writing. Using the pen name Shannon Riley, she published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in magazines and on the Internet. She started her own publishing company, Southern Rose Productions, where she published some of her work.
When her husband died 16 years ago, Turner kept her focus on writing. Music didn’t start sneaking back into her life until about a year ago.
Turner is a fan of Chris Thomas King, a Grammy award-winning bluesman who performed the role of Tommy Johnson in the movie “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?”
She loved King’s music, but hated his Web site. She volunteered her expertise to fix it up and King accepted.
“Henry Turner, no relation, saw my writing on the Web site and asked me to work for him,” she said.
Henry Turner owns a recording studio in Baton Rouge, La., and he’s a concert and event promoter. Joan Turner helps with booking acts and publicizing shows. It’s a full-time, paying gig, and there’s little time left for writing poetry or fiction.
“When I write, it’s mostly reviews and articles for music magazines,” she said. “Right now, I’m doing an article about north Mississippi blues musicians, which will be in an upcoming edition of Indie Music Magazine.”
While working for Henry Turner, she mentioned that she used to be a singer. He asked for a sample.
“My audition was over the phone,” she said, laughing.
He invited her down to his recording studio. She had three original songs ready to record, then made a discovery out of her past.
“I was going through a storage shed on my mother’s property and I found two tapes that had five of my songs,” Turner said. “I didn’t lose everything in the fire, after all.”
A country album featuring Turner’s original songs is scheduled to be released in November. The album will be called “Southern Rose,” the name of her publishing company.
“That’s the name I have used for 20 years or so,” she said. “It made sense.”
Turner said she’s having a big time getting in front of audiences again after so many years out of the spotlight. What was lost, now is found.
“This is really wonderful. Music has always been a big part of my life. It was a big disappointment to let it go. I’m really loving this second chance,” she said. “People should never give up on their dreams. You never know when that second chance is coming.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal