Local musician plays for a cause

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2007

Melvin McPherson has done a lot of things in his lifetime. He&8217;s been a truck driver, made cabinets and even recorded albums in Nashville. But now, the resident of Dayton says he has a new cause to pursue.

All the proceeds from his donations go to what was formerly known as Sav-A-Life, which is now CareNet Pregnancy Center of West Alabama, whose mission is to provide information to people about abortion alternatives and proper parental care from a Christian perspective.

Even on a Thursday night a lone gentleman taps his foot on the floor and a family with a baby rocks him in rhythm with McPherson&8217;s playing. Armed with his guitar, signature cowboy hat and a speaker set atop a chair, McPherson plays gospel songs along with music from country greats like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and George Jones.

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McPherson, who was one of 11 children, first picked up the guitar when he was a teenager.

He later learned to play in the style of early blues musicians Howlin&8217; Wolf and Clarence &8220;Gatemouth&8221; Brown.

In 1968, he recorded a two-song 45 album with fellow musician Larry Fitts and two of his sisters, Genie and Karen.

He and his fellow band mates made their grounds playing at local bars and even had an extended two-year gig at the Log Cabin between Eutaw and Tuscaloosa.

Later he and his band mates went to Nashville to try their hand at recording professionally. One of McPherson&8217;s brothers was playing with Marshall Tucker and Lynyrd Skynyrd at the time and got them their first record deal playing with a gospel group.

When asked how he got the name the Singing Cowboy, he said it originated from when CB radios were popular. Two friends of his combined McPherson&8217;s singing with his trademark cowboy clothes to give him the handle.

Although singing and playing guitar had always been a part of his life, his desire to play in order to send out a message against abortion came in 1997, after undergoing heart surgery. McPherson said he was on a ventilator for 14 days.

He said the experience made him realize he may not have much to accomplish the things he felt strongly about.

In the past, McPherson has found creative ways to express his views. During the 2000 presidential campaigns, McPherson used his desire to speak out in a very public way. Specifically, he targeted Al Gore, who had made the statement that he did not vote for abortion. McPherson disagreed.

He took out a full page ad in The Mobile Press Register to show Gore&8217;s voting record in regard to abortion. Later, he said, people approached him to give him money for putting the ad out there. McPherson said he more than made back the $1,000 it cost him.

He also used his personal vehicle as a means for voicing his strong opinions on the subject. Using a wide, black Marks-A-Lot permanent marker, McPherson wrote &8220;If you voted for Gore, you voted for baby killers. Ask God to forgive you and vote Bush-Cheney.&8221;

McPherson said most of the time, passersby would give him a thumbs-up for his message, but occasionally there were those who disagreed. Nevertheless, McPherson persisted.

McPherson said he will continue to play at the Farmhouse Restaurant as long as owners, Gilene and Jim Wicks, will have him. He said he has regulars who come to see him play and always make a donation to his cause.

Kelli Wright is a staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached by e-mail to kelli.wright@demopolistimes.com.