Pop star dies in wreck

Published: Dec. 30, 2002 at 10:48 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2003 at 11:08 PM EST
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December 30, 2002

A 1970's pop star and Americus arts supporter died in a car accident Saturday night.

Fifty-three-year-old Meri Wilson Edgemon was killed after she lost control of her car on Highway 377 in Sumter County.

In 1976, she had a platinum record hit with her song "Telephone Man."

She stayed active in the arts all her life, and was current president of the Americus Arts Council and the Civic Chorus. Edgemon had just arranged and directed the music for the "Cotton Patch Gospel" performance at the Rylander Theatre, receiving a state award for the project. A national award is pending.

The following bio on Ms. Edgemon was supplied by Legend Records-

Meri Wilson, the youngest daughter of a US Air Force officer, was born in Japan. Her childhood was spent in the States traveling from city to city with her family wherever her father was stationed.

Meri's initial interest in music stemmed from her family's talent and interest in music. Her dad played trumpet, her mom taught piano, and her siblings could all sing and play an instrument. Meri was a child prodigy. At the age of two she began singing, learned piano, cello, and eventually the guitar and flute.

Eventually, Meri would go on to earn a BS in music at Indiana University and then a Masters degree in music education at Georgia State University. In the early 1970's, Meri moved to Dallas to hone her musical skills. She sang and played guitar as a soloist and later fronted a trio in popular Dallas dinner clubs such as Daddy's Money, Arthur's, and Papillion.

Meri's alluring looks also attracted the Kim Dawson modeling agency, where she did some singing and modeling. During the day, Meri was also doing freelance jingles, and sang in numerous commercials. It was during one of Meri's nightclub performances that she was "discovered" by a man who would have a profound impact on her career.

The man was Jim Rutledge who had been lead singer and drummer for Bloodrock (the Texas-based rock band which scored a Top 40 hit with 'D.O.A.'). Jim loved Meri's voice and introduced her to noted producer/songwriter Owen "Boomer" Castleman ('Leave It To Love', 'Boy In The Country', 'Judy Mae', 'Fort Worth I Love You').

Jim took Boomer to see Meri perform one evening with her jazz trio. The group ended each performance with Meri's original novelty song, 'Telephone Man'. The tune had evolved from an un-sent letter Meri had written to a friend about her experience with a telephone man who had come to install a phone in Meri's Dallas apartment.

Jim loved the tune but didn't know what he could do with it. Boomer's mother, Barbara, strongly encouraged her son to have Meri record the song. And of course, Boomer and Jim listened to the sage wisdom of Boomer's mom, and took Meri into a studio in 1977 where she recorded 'Telephone Man' and 'Itinerary' (another Meri original).

Boomer and Jim released a 45 of these two tunes on Boomer's own BNA record label. The 45 was initially serviced to radio stations in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama, where 'Telephone Man' received considerable airplay. It was then promoted throughout the United States and England, charting at #18 on the 1977 Billboard charts in the US, and had a considerable run in the top 5 in England. The single went Gold in both countries, selling over a million units in the US and a half-million units in England. The tune was also picked up in the US by the syndicated "Dr. Demento" radio program, where it has remained an "all time favorite" some twenty odd years later. In fact, 'Telephone Man' appeared on a couple of Dr. Demento's compilation albums as well as several other "greatest hits" -type albums.

Following the success of 'Telephone Man', Meri, who was signed to GRT Records in Nashville, released a full-length album entitled "First Take". This ten track LP, which includes 'Telephone Man', and another "silly song", 'Rub-A-Dub-Dub", showcases Meri's strong songwriting skills and exquisite voice.

"First Take" was produced jointly by Boomer and Jim, and includes a group of stellar musicians and backup vocalists including country great Janie Fricke (a classmate of Meri's at Indiana University). The LP was licensed for the European market by the England-based record label, Pye International. By 1980, Meri had relocated to Georgia, where she released another novelty single, 'Peter The Meter Reader' (which she co-wrote with Donn Bearman), a follow-up to 'Telephone Man', and a serious tune, 'My Heart Walkin' (which she co-wrote with pianist, Ray Kennedy).

At that time, she also recorded another "silly song" entitled "Dick The DJ". Although the title of the tune may be a bit suggestive, it is nevertheless a harmless but hilarious little ditty. "Dick" was followed in the late 80's by 'Santa's Coming' (a naughty seasonal tune), and then in the early 90's by "My Valentine's Funny' (a love song dedicated to an imaginary cross-dressing lover).

After completing graduate school, Meri become a choral director and throughout the decade, focused her attention on academia. However, Meri continued to write music and sing, and act in regional theater. In 1995, she quit her teaching job and concentrated her efforts once again on songwriting. Meri wanted to record another album.

In 1999, she went to Nashville, met with Boomer, and she wrote several additional novelty tunes, 'The Spelling Song', 'The 900 Song', 'The Phone Book', and 'Lonely Parts'. She also "updated" the lyrics to 'Telephone Man' and it became "The Internet Man (who ever knew that computer components could have provocative names?).

The single, 'Internet Man', was serviced to morning drive radio where it attracted the attention of Giant Records out of Nashville. Giant signed Meri to a "two-side" deal, but when parent company Time Warner consolidated their imprints, Giant became a casualty and Meri became a free woman. She then released her album with Nashville's Legend Records.

This album, which contains ten novelty tunes, was released as "Meri Wilson: The World's Funniest Telephone Man's Lady" on cassette and CD. For the past two plus decades Meri Wilson has entertained millions of people worldwide with her music with her introspective tunes as well as with her novelty tunes. Good times... fun times... seriousness... laughter... that's what listeners derive from Meri's music.

posted at 5:35PM by