Loving lyrics win contest

April 25, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. - As a member of his family's gospel music ministry, Kenny Johnson Jr. has written many gospel songs.

However, it was a country song he wrote for his girlfriend for this past Valentine's Day that made Kenny a winner in The Herald-Mail's third annual lyric-writing contest.

"Just in case she didn't like the song, I bought her flowers, candy and jewelry (a ring)," said Kenny, 17, of Bunker Hill. "She ended up liking the song."

As did the contest judges, who made the country song "How Far in Love," a unanimous pick.

Hagerstown guitarist and actor Christopher Bell-Boudreaux, who plays with the bands The Freddie Long Band and LipStick, said he liked Kenny's clever phrasing and double-entendres.


He also liked the way the song's story came full circle.

Fellow judge Rob Hovermale, coordinator of visual and performing arts for Washington County Public Schools, said the lyrics have a nice hook, such as "Seeing just how far in love we could get."

Carl Disque, a Hagerstown lawyer and saxophonist, liked the song's structure, hook and clever use of lyrics.

"I liked the middle. That's the toughest thing for any beginning songwriter," Disque said.

The song also was "very evocative of a memory," Disque said.

The judges also liked the emotional depth of 12-year-old Megan Lancaster's two entries, "I Remember" and "My Family."

Three teens entered the contest, which was open to Tri-State area youths ages 12 to 18.

Kenny said he'll probably spend his $50 prize on more CDs.

He has more than 250, including modern country, traditional country, gospel, bluegrass, classic rock 'n' roll and some '70s and '80s rock.

He listens to a variety of genres to help his song writing.

"I eat, sleep and dream music," says the home-schooler.

After graduating, Kenny hopes to start a country band and move to Nashville, Tenn., with aspirations of making music his career.

He's considering attending a song-writing college.

Kenny began singing and playing music at about age 3 as part of his family's ministry with his parents, Kenny and Tina Johnson, and his younger brother Dave.

He learned to play guitar and write music around age 12 or 13. He plays rhythm guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bass guitar, Dobro and lap steel guitar.

These days the gospel ministry is mainly Kenny and his dad, who travel around West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania playing music and spreading the word of Christianity for donations they use to pay for gas.

The song he wrote for his girlfriend, Sarah Morgenstern, was completed in two days and tells the tale of how the two met and fell in love.

"I just wanted to write a song to tell her how special she is," he said.

Winning lyrics

"How Far in Love"

Lyrics by Kenny Johnson Jr.

We fell in love last summer at the county fair

And sometimes when I close my eyes it's like I'm still there

I wouldn't say that it was love at first sight

But with a girl like her, I didn't look no more than twice

I'd steal a kiss from her when no one else could see

But it ain't stealin' when she's given them to me

I'd swear that she's an angel, without the wings

I thought that love like this was only in my dreams

On the bank of a shallow creek

So in love we didn't speak

Holdin' on to each other we could not let go

It's times like that with her I never will forget

Seeing just how far in love we could get

I wiped away a tear that fell down from her eye

It's hard to see your baby hurt so bad inside

She laid her head on my shoulder, and let her troubles fade away

Her emotions tell me more than words could ever say

Dancin' across an empty room

Softly whispered I love you

There was no music playing, except for the song in our hearts

It's times like that with her I never will forget

Seeing just how far in love we could get

It's times like that with her I never will forget

Seeing just how far in love we could get

We fell in love last summer at the county fair

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