Larry Jon Wilson (October 7, 1940 – June 21, 2010) was an American country singer, guitarist and musician. He recorded "Through the Eyes of Little Children" and "I Betcha Heaven's on a Dirt Road".
Larry Jon was born in Georgia and went to military school there: an experience, he said, that failed to damage him too severely. He attended the University of Georgia, and in the late 60s and early 70s lived in Florida. From 1963 to 1973 he worked in Langley, South Carolina, for United Merchants and Manufacturers as a technical consultant in fibreglass manufacturing.
Wilson loved music, but, it wasn't until his dad died that he got his first guitar at the age of 30 and taught himself to play and turned to music seriously. It was in the Coconut Grove neighbourhood of Miami, watching the singer-songwriter Fred Neil that he decided to follow a career in music.
He liked to say he was born in 1975, the year he gave up his job selling boat varnish and landed in Nashville. He quickly became known as a singer and writer of intensely private, painfully moving tales of southern life. He signed to Monument Records and his first album, New Beginnings, proved a revelation among the hipsters and critics of Nashville.
When a film crew came to document country music's burgeoning "outlaw movement", they made straight for Larry Jon's door. The film Heartworn Highways (1981) featured his mesmerising performance of Ohoopee River Bottomland. During these years, Larry Jon and Townes van Zandt lived and toured together.
He made four records for Monument, each bearing his unique mix of country, folk and soul. Too funky for the country crowd, too heartfelt for pop radio, he fell between the cracks. "I never stopped," he said, "I just downsized. Made my way to the Gulf coast and said forget it. I didn't want to be part of a business where lawyers earned more than the artists they represented."
Despite Wilson's accolades and fans, no hit record emerged. Wilson left the music industry in 1980. He returned in 1989 when other songwriters encouraged him to attend the Frank Brown International Songwriter's Festival in Perdido Key, Florida and by 2003 still accepted occasional engagements. Wilson remained devoted to his music, rather than to the marketplace. A compilation album was released entitled Country Got Soul for the London-based label Casual Records. Larry Jon's gothic funk song Sheldon Church Yard was the first track. In the album's liner notes, Kristofferson observed: "He can break your heart with a voice like a cannonball."
Larry Jon later played with the Country Soul Revue on the album Testifying. In 2007, 1965 Records finally convinced him to make a new record. The resulting self-titled CD was released in 2008 and collected a stack of five-star reviews. Larry Jon came to London that summer and played a series of sold-out shows. Among his admirers was Charlie Gillett. "Just when you think you've heard it all," he told me, "you hear Larry Jon."