Question of the Week: Jim Stover

Jim Stover, co-author of the #1 Kingsmen hit and Song of the Year “Wish You Were Here,” is one of my co-workers at Crossroads. We recently took the time to sit down for a few minutes to discuss the song.

Daniel: Well, I’m here this morning with a songwriter whom many of you may never have heard of— but you’ve heard of at least one of his songs: Jim Stover, co-author of the song “Wish You Were Here,” which was a big hit for the Kingsmen back in the early ’90s. Jim, could you tell us a little bit about the writing of that song?

Jim: Yeah, I’d be glad to, Daniel. I have a friend that I’ve known since high school, Michael C. Williams. One day, back in 1990, he came by the store that I managed. He’d always drop by to visit me, in and out of my life, every so often. So while he was there, I asked him, “Are you writing anything?” ‘Cause he wrote, and I wrote.

He said, “Nah, I can’t seem to come up with anything.”

And I said, “Well, do you want to come over?” So I invited him to come to my little apartment I lived at, and we got out our guitars, and I said, “Well, what do you got?” He played what he had of what was to be “Wish You Were Here.”

A little backstory there: Michael had lost both of his parents within a short span, a couple years of each other, ’87, ’88, along through there. So he sang the verse, “I can just see them walking on the shores of Heaven.” And he sang up to the point that he had gotten to, and he couldn’t go any farther with it; he’d had it it for quite some time, a year or better. I don’t know the exact time.

So, you know, I played along with him, “I like that,” you know, and while that was happening, a songwriter’s wheels are turning, so I thought, “Where would I take that song?”

So actually, he had up to half of the chorus, and it stopped, and that was the end of it: “Wish you were here, it’s such a beautiful place / Wish you were here, nothing but warm sunny days.”

So after about three passes, I said, “Well, this is what I would do with it,” and I sang the part, “Well, it never rains, no one complains, we haven’t seen a tear / We’re havin’ a great time”—’cause I said, “It sounds like a postcard to me.”

So he liked that, and we sang that a time or two, and then there was no second verse. So I got him started there. Actually, this is the part—I remember composing some words, “I can see them walking with Peter and Paul / They’re talking with Jesus, He is Lord of all.” So we quit after that, you know.

So it was some months later Michael came by that same place where I worked, and he was all excited. He said, “The Kingsmen recorded the song!” He’d finished the rest of it. And that was it—I mean, the Kingsmen cut the thing, it was the title of their project, and it went on to great things. We both feel extremely blessed that the song has been used by so many.

Daniel: Didn’t it become a #1 hit?

Jim: It did. Actually, it was the Song of the Year in 1992. So it was a couple of guys from West Asheville, NC, sitting in my little apartment, and God took that little work and did some great things with it. I had somebody contact me just a couple of weeks ago; he said that it was gonna be on their project, and they needed a mechanical license. So I told them how to get it. So that’s the story behind “Wish You Were Here.” That song continues to this day, almost 20 years later, to be played on the radio continually, and to be recorded by other people. And that’s a total gift and blessing from God, one that I know I can say I don’t feel I deserve, and I think Michael would say the same thing. We’re just a couple of guys that do believe, do trust God, and love Jesus. We stumble and fall and all of those things, but He took that thing and He used it.

Daniel: Very neat! Now I’ve noticed on your YouTube channel that you’ve written a number of other songs. Any highlights from your other songwriting?

Jim: You know, there are several things that stand out.

Back in the early ’70s, I had a contract with a very wonderful publishing house called “House of Gold”; it was Bobby Goldsboro’s publishing company. One of the first things I wrote was under that contract, Davy Jones recorded—Davy Jones of Monkeys fame. So that’s a milestone in my career, I guess you’d say. And it was an A-side single for him back in 1972; the song was called “I’ll Believe in You.” And you’re right, it’s up there on YouTube.

Another thing that is a blessing to me to have occurred was that the lyrics to one of my sings, called “Heroes in Blue,” a song that I wrote at the request of my sister, a police chaplain; she said, “I’ve been asked to sing at the awards banquet; do you think you could write me something special?”

I said, “Well, I’ll sure try!”

So that’s the song that came out of that. I wrote “Heroes in Blue.” That was about 1992. About six years later, there was a shooting at the Capitol Building in Washington. A couple of police officers, Capitol Policemen, were killed. Sue got her project up there, into the hands of our congressman, Charles Taylor, with a letter of consolation to the families of those officers. Unbeknownst to us, he read the lyrics to that song into the Congressional Record on July, I think it was 28th, 1998. We didn’t find that out ’til some years later, six, seven, eight, nine, ten years later. I forgot even how, but that was kinda neat, having your lyrics read into the Congressional record.

Daniel: All right! And then one last question. I actually am honored now to work you; can you explain what your day job is?

Jim: I’m honored to work with you, too, Daniel.

Daniel: Thanks!

Jim: You’re a fine young man, and you can print that!

Well, for the last fifteen years, I’ve had the blessing to be employed by Crossroads Music. For the last eleven of those fifteen years, I’ve been the radio guy, you could say. They gave me a title when I took the job, but I’m not big on titles—”Director of Radio Promotions.” And I get to promote the singles for all the many wonderful artists we have.

So for a guy that loves music—I wrote my first song when I was about 14 or 15, and all along the way made my living doing secular type work, business type settings—to be immersed in music like this, and get to work with all these talented people, and artists, and songwriters, it’s been a great blessing. And I’ve been able to use any gift God gave me to translate into helping the Gospel get out by way of radio.

I’ll just take this moment, real quick, to compliment and commend all the people here, the production staff, the company leaders, every department, your department, the studio, the sales department, every one of them—and outside, of course, our artists, and the songwriters, and my many, many radio friends. A lot of our success is because of them, and I do appreciate every one of them, and I tell them that month after month. It’s a regular feature for me is to say, “Thank you, thank you very much!”

So that’s what I do. What do you do here? (both laugh)

Daniel: Work on websites and other things . . . well, thank you very much!

Jim: You’re welcome!

Daniel: Thank you!