Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nettleton Manor singer-songwriter says, ‘It’s just a God-given talent’

June 13, 2007

There's a singer-songwriter who lives in Nettleton Manor. Helen Misel learned to play the guitar when she was four, and has been writing her own songs for more than 45 years.

"It's just God-given talent," Misel said, in explaining why she started writing when she did.

When she was growing up in Cowgill, Mo., everyone in her family played music -- all nine kids, and her father played fiddle. Her older brother William taught her the guitar sitting on his knee.

By 16 Misel said she was playing professionally, in veteran's hospitals and in political rallies.

She was 35 when wrote her first song, for her mother, who had lost her 19-year-old son -- Misel's brother -- in the battle of Iwo Jima.

The song was called "She's Some Gold Star Mother, And He's Some Mother's Son."

"Gold Star Mother" was a title given to American mothers who had lost children in combat in World War II.

Misel said the song that "everybody says is my best song ever" is one called "Hello, God."

She wrote it after visiting the museum of Christian artist and Precious Moments creator Sam Butcher.

Misel said she saw a shrine devoted to Butcher's deceased young son.

"I couldn't handle it," Misel said of the emotions the display stirred up in her, and she went home and immediately wrote the song.

In the mid-1960s she played at DJ conventions in Nashville, three years in a row. One of those years Misel visited the Grand Old Opry, where she met offstage several famous musicians, including Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and Johnny Cash.

"He was stone drunk," Misel recalls of Cash. "They were all good people."

Misel moved to Nettleton Manor in 2001, to be near her daughter, Diane Berning. She still plays music, on her electronic keyboard and guitar.

Misel's love for music is evident in her apartment, where large black musical notes decorate the wall above her keyboard.

She's not only playing music still -- in church and at the retirement residence -- Misel still writes music. Just last Sunday she performed a new one at Bonner Springs United Methodist Church, called "He's My Friend."

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