Marsh Fork High School
Songwriter still waits on big break
Dean Bone who graduated from MFHS in '56.
By Mannix Porterfield
December 19, 2009 09:25 PM
— You can read a lot into Dean Bone’s life on the back of cut-up cereal boxes.
What once formed the dark interior of pasteboard containers that held familiar breakfast fare now preserve the crude drafts of his music.
For the past four decades, the Dry Creek man has been scribbling songs on the gray-colored boxes, each verse in hand-lettering with the proper guitar chords appearing just above the words.
In case you want to strum along on the guitar, or tickle the ivories, while humming the tune.
“I started out country, then turned out gospel songs, but I will put a country one in there once in a while,” he said.
As a young draftee, he served with the Army in Korea and his feet, at times difficult to warm, serve as a reminder of that icy country. For several years, he worked in the maintenance department for Ford Motor Co.
A son, Roy, recorded “Back To West Virginia In The Fall,” but he hasn’t had much success getting someone of national prominence to give one of his creations a blessing.
Not for lack of effort.
With his youngest son in tow, Bone approached the Statler Brothers about recording the West Virginia song but was told they depended on their own writers and weren’t interested.
“Then I went to Nashville,” he said. “Took nine of my songs at one time. Place called Pamper Music. Said they’d get back with me in a couple of months. Never did get back with me. Went to Tree Publishing and they shut the door in my face.”
Undaunted, he then called on the steel guitar player for George Jones and the instrumentalist advised him to go directly to the country-music legend, but Bone let the matter drop there.
Back in January, he went to the Veterans Administration hospital in Richmond, Va., for hip replacement and grew disgusted by the gratuitous violence on a movie shown via DVD player in the van on the ride.
“It was awful,” he said. “All that shooting. They’d hit a man and he’d go through the air four or five feet before he fell. I prayed to Jesus, ‘Can You give me a song or something? I don’t want to listen to that stuff all the way down here.’ He gave me this song, ‘Way Back in West Virginia.’ I come from good ol’ West Virginia. Some call it God’s country. I call it God’s creation.”
Then, without invitation, Bone broke into song in the interview, singing out loud, “I’m thankful for the mountains. I’m thankful for the trees. Way back in West Virginia, I really feel free.”
Since the mid-1960s, he has penned more than 500 songs, drawing inspiration any time of day and in a myriad of places.
One of his songs pays tribute to the South, and Bone says he got a warm reception when he sang it once in Ohio (which, for those who failed geography, doesn’t lie in Dixie).
“I wake up in the night with something on my mind and I’ll get up and write them,” he said.
Bone feels it’s important not to delay an “anointing” on a song, which is why he scrambles for a pen and cereal box to put down the words and melody, then tries it out on the piano.
A sample gospel song:
“I love Jesus more than the mountains. I love Jesus more than all the seas. I love Jesus like an elder brother. I love Him most of all because He saved me.
“I love Him when I’m happy. I love Him when I’m sad. I love him when I’m sick, or when times are bad.
“God is no respecter of persons. He’s always on my mind. That is why I feel mighty fine all the time.”
While he can’t seem to get an ear of a publishing company, or an established artist, Bone keeps writing and he appears each Tuesday on a local radio station program, performing his songs and playing piano and guitar. Across his adult life, he has preached 26 sermons.
“I can do better on the telephone, or do better in somebody’s house,” he said.
“When I get in church, I’ve got to read along. A preacher has more anointing. I get anointed more when I sit down at the piano.”
Bone is still awaiting an answer to a prayer he has issued time and again.
“I’ve been praying about it for years and years,” the 72-year-old man said. “I said, ‘Lord, open some kind of door for me.’”
Until that door opens, Bone shows no sign of slowing up in the song-writing department.
“I love West Virginia,” he said. “I should be in Florida in winter time on account of my feet. I’ve got a song about that, too.”
Courtesy of Bob Jarrell