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Ronda Rich: The tears that would not fall
ronda rich
Ronda Ronda Rich is the author of "Theres A Better Day A-Comin." - photo by File photo

Ronda Rich

Syndicated Columnist

Huge tears pooled in my eyes but, amazingly, for 15 minutes, they did not fall.

They were stoic. Just like my friend, John Jarrard. As I sat at a table in a sequined dress for a black-tie event, I watched the video that honored that wonderful man. There are many stories I could tell about him but the one that stuck stubbornly in my head for those 15 minutes was the day I met him and began a lasting friendship.

I was a college sophomore, working at a radio station that played soft rock, although I had been an air personality previously at a country station. That afternoon, I was the only one in the office. I sat at my old gray metal desk, halfway back, writing copy for a commercial. We had one of those old glass doors that you pulled open with a large metal handle.

The door was opened by a young blind man with a cane, tapping his way in. His blonde hair fell to his shoulders and was styled in a beautiful shag, the layers falling becomingly around his face. He wore dark glasses, jeans and a T-shirt.

“Hello!” I called out. He grinned. He always had a terrific smile. He tapped his way to the direction of my voice. When he reached my desk, we exchanged introductions.

“This is my hometown, but I live in Nashville now,” he explained. “I’m a songwriter. I’m just getting started and I haven’t had a song recorded yet but I believe I will.”

Since I love country music, we fell into conversation and he handed me a cassette of songs he had written. “I thought perhaps y’all would play some of my demos.”

I took the cassette from him, explaining, “We play soft rock, but since you’re a hometown boy, maybe we can make an exception.”

Sometimes, the good Lord puts people together unexpectedly. Many are the good friends I’ve made like that.

So, it was with John Jarrard. From the beginning, we were devoted friends bonded by country music, Southern gospel and NASCAR racing. John loved them all. I took him to a couple of races but this I will always remember: Standing at Talladega with him in the garage when the cars took off for a practice session. The ground rumbled as we stood at the number 3 truck where Dale Earnhardt had just stopped for a long conversation. As John felt the ground moving and heard the high horsepower engines, he threw his head back, “Man, this is the greatest! Wow!”

That night, John and his wife joined me and my date, Alan Kulwicki, at an event for the Alabama Deaf and Blind school. With his guitar, he performed several of his songs. By that time, he had had many album cuts – not singles – for folks like Alabama and Conway Twitty. His first single, which was making a fast run up the charts, was sung by Charley Pride called “I Don’t Think She’s in Love Anymore.”

Before he ended his gig with that song, he told of our friendship and how I had told him that I was with Darrell and Stevie Waltrip at dinner one night at a Western Sizzlin’. After Darrell paid the bill, he came out of the restaurant, singing that song.

“Folks,” he said, “I’ve had songs sung by some of the biggest stars in country music, but you know you’ve made it when Darrell Waltrip sings your song!”

John went on to write 11 number one songs and numerous top 10s and album cuts.

Sadly, complications from diabetes took him to heaven at the age of 47. It was my privilege to watch as the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted him. Our friendship had completed its circle.

Now, without question, the world will know that John Jarrard made it. All the way to the Hall of Fame.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the new “St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery. Visit to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.

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