Dallin Larsen: Well, good evening, everybody. Welcome to tonight’s episode of Life Lessons. Tonight, we’re talking about hope and life in a spiritual realm, perhaps. I’ve heard it said that you become like the five or six people you hang around. I’ve enjoyed hanging around this guy a little bit and hope to hang around with him a lot more in the future. I love his story. And he and his wife, Christi, sent me this book Live Forever. Mylon Le Fevre is joining us this evening. My friend from Texas, Mylon, welcome to Life Lessons.
Mylon Le Fevre: Thank you, sir. It’s an honor to be with you.
Dallin: You know, as I’m reading this book, my gosh, this is pretty impressive to see that you’ve performed with people like The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Little Richard, Jethro Tull, The Atlanta Rhythm Section, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Tina Turner, The Beach Boys, my gosh. I mean, the list goes on and on. It’s pretty neat to hear and to read those stories. But, you know, as impressive as that is, the story that happened after that is even more profound. Let’s talk about you, Mylon. Tell me a little bit about your upbringing.
Mylon Le Fevre: Well, I was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. My dad was in the Navy, second World War, and I was born in 1944. By the time [my dad] got home, I was two years old and we moved on to Georgia. My parents were gospel singers and later on, they had the first syndicated Christian musical TV show in the world. They went 126 cities syndication. But in the beginning, we were just poor people singing. My parents sang about Jesus, and so I did it too. We grew up in church and it was pretty cool. I didn’t know any different. I thought everybody’s parents were musicians. So, when I was a kid, people came over to our house and they jammed. I got my first ukulele when my fingers were strong enough to fret, and then I got daddy’s mandolin later on. Then I graduated to bass…as I got older, the strings got bigger. It was a fun way to grow up.
Dallin: So, who is the most musically talented in your family? Does it come from your dad or your mom, or are they both pretty musically inclined?
Mylon Le Fevre: You know, they were both musical. My dad and my uncle and aunt were the original, what they called the Le Fevre Trio. They sang at the Grand Ole Opry in 1921 and in the hills of Tennessee. They played bluegrass music. You know, I like all kinds of music. I was a rocker, but I like bluegrass when it’s done well, and they did it well. Mama was more of a…she played church. She had a style that was unique. My uncle played fiddle, and my daddy played banjo. Some of my earliest memories that I loved was jamming until
everybody was tired at night. Oh, man, I sat on the porch thinking, “I want to be one of those guys so bad.”
Dallin: Was it natural for you? I mean, did you pick it up really easily?
Mylon Le Fevre: Well, I didn’t ever take any lessons. I devoured from just watching. The guitar and the bass came natural to me. The musicians that I got together with, my friends, were so much better musicians than me. And since I was the one writing the lyrics and the songs, those dreams were more important to me than playing guitar. When you play in front of 20 or 30,000 people, they hear if the front man is not a communicator; that’s more important than being a singer or a musician. Somebody on that stage has to get those people to get in that dream. That song may last three minutes or may last 20. But if people aren’t involved and they don’t go there with you, then they’re just there watching you. I wanted to make music you could feel, and so that was my job—to communicate. I always had an ax, always had a guitar hanging around my neck, which I used to kick off a song or something. But I had guys that could play it better than me.
Dallin: You know, I would say some musicians play the music and some musicians feel the music, and you can tell the difference in the audience. And you’re that type of a musician and songwriter. I guess that takes us to you enlisting in the Army at the age of 17.
Mylon Le Fevre: Well, the year that I joined the Army I was still in high school because in those days, if you didn’t join, you got drafted anyway. But if you joined, then you got to choose what part of the service you went into. And so, I wanted to get in quickly. I knew they were going to shave my head. I wanted to have a lot of hair. You understand these things. So, I was trying to get that over with. I really didn’t like the Army, but it was really good for me. They forced me to discipline myself or they would discipline me. It helped me grow up a lot. But I was trying to get it over with so that I could go back home. So, I joined to get that responsibility to my nation over with. I got out after a while, but while I was in there, I had written a song.
My mom was really the only one who listened to my music. I mean, nobody cared. But, you know, my mom said there was a convention to be held in Memphis and that’s where Elvis lived, of course. He liked Southern gospel music, and that’s what my mom and dad made, and they were going to perform at this convention. We didn’t know this, but he wanted to do a gospel album. He had Colonel Tom Parker build him a stage and a little booth, and he put some recording equipment in there and had his producer come in, and he recorded all these gospel songs to see which ones he liked. Mom asked me to come and sing this new song I had written, and I told her, “I’ll ask my sergeant.”
So, I started hitchhiking on Friday night and man, it was cold and rainy, and I didn’t get a ride. I was about to give up. It was about 10 o’clock at night. I was out on this little two-lane road. They didn’t have any expressways in those days. I didn’t know where I was. And no cell phones or GPS, you know, just out here in the middle of nowhere. And I was crying, I admit that. I was crying and I was thinking, “This is crazy. I can’t get there. I’m afraid I might get pneumonia out here. I’m going to turn around and go back.” And I prayed, God help me. I went to church all the time and I was religious, but I didn’t have a whole lot of faith. Basically, my daddy made me go to church, and I probably wouldn’t have gone if he hadn’t. I saw lights and a man picked me up and took me to Knoxville.
I got into Memphis about, I don’t know, twenty minutes before my parents went on stage. I hadn’t had any sleep, and mama said, “We’re doing that song.” And so, I’m sleepy and tired but you know, we did the song and I didn’t know Elvis was there.
Dallin: How many people were out in the audience would you say?
Mylon Le Fevre: Oh, 17,000. It was completely sold out.
Dallin: Wow! And it’s probably a good thing you didn’t know Elvis was there, but he was there.
Mylon Le Fevre: He was there, and he liked the song. And he had just gotten out of the Army. I’m sure it had something to do with it. God gave me favor with him, of course, but he had just gotten out of the Army. He was a poor kid who, you know, had some dreams. And he saw me as just a kid. I was soaking wet. I went on stage looking like I was living under a bridge. Man, it was bad. But he liked the song. That’s what counts. And he had a set for me later on and brought me in that little room. He was so gracious and shook my hand, and he did this for me. You’re a businessman; you’ll understand this. He looked at the Colonel when he told me he liked my song and that he was going to record it. He looked at Colonel Tom Parker and said, “Don’t take the kid’s publishing.” Well, I didn’t what publishing was. I thought, you just write songs and you sing them. I was seventeen. But if you look on that How Great Thou Art album, there’s ten songs by Elvis Presley music and there’s one by Mylon Le Fevre music. And whether you’re the publisher or not, the publisher gets the money is the bottom line. And they might pay the composer, but they might not; and, quite often, they don’t, and I didn’t know that. But he protected me from the big machine. He could have taken that, and I wouldn’t have known the difference. And I’ve earned royalties from that song since 1966.
So, I bought a Corvette, I bought a Harley, I bought a speedboat, acoustic guitar, Levi’s, and some leather Converse All-Stars…paid cash for everything. It was like being struck by lightning. And if you’re a little kid with pimples, you don’t get a date. You have no social life. All of a sudden, the girls are playing the dance.
Dallin: And, you know, Mylon, I can just see on that two-lane road, it’s raining. You’re all by yourself. You’re in tears. You’re still a young boy, and you’re about ready to turn around. And yet you looked up. You said a prayer, and this is like a tender mercy for you, these thin threads in your life. And had you not gone to Memphis and Elvis had not heard that song, I don’t know what your life looks like now. So, you started performing, writing music, and you got caught up in the rock and roll scene.
Mylon Le Fevre: Well, you know when you are poor, you don’t have many options. Money won’t really buy you the great and wonderful things. You can’t buy salvation. You can’t buy love. But it does give you options that you don’t have if you don’t have any money. So, when Elvis cut that tune, all of a sudden doors opened. People start to hear my songs that would have never heard them. And so, the Lord opened doors for me, and he started bringing people. I mean, the Beatles, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend. I had just come out of the trailer. I was only a few years removed from poverty and all of a sudden, these people were treating me like an equal. And I got in trouble, and I got in trouble quick. I mean, I wasn’t just smoking a little dope; I was, you know, I got out. And what I found out was I thought the greatest disappointment in my life. I always believed when I was a kid if you ever made enough money, you’re going to be statistically, euphorically happy. We were all taking a ton of drugs. There were people singing about love. But love is not a feeling. The Bible says God is love, and I understand that. And there was a lot of sex going on, but there wasn’t a lot of love. It was a lonely place. And the people who lived that last mile—I mean, I’m 75 now and I just started—most of them are gone. And a lot of them can still play guitar on the song they wrote, but a lot more, mentally, the lights are on, but nobody’s home. They’re just not there anymore. They’re just burned out and worn out and gone. Thank God, he was merciful enough to me where I got through all of that.
Dallin: Drugs and those entanglements are powerful. So, what happened? I mean, you live in that lifestyle and you realize it’s pretty empty at the end of the day. How did that shift in you happen?
Mylon Le Fevre: You know, we met a guy named Alvin Lee who had a band called Ten Years After. We did five tours together over a period of two years, and we became very close friends. Alvin and I wrote a bunch of songs together just because that’s who we are and what we do, you know. We went on vacation in Jamaica for a couple weeks, and we wrote some really good songs down there. He said, “Look, I want you to come over to England. You need to get away.” I was a heroin addict at the time, and I needed to get clean. The cocaine and heroin were around constantly, and I wasn’t strong enough to go back on the road and be around all the musicians and the dope and everything.
So, I moved to England in ’69, and Alvin and I started recording. He built a studio in one of his stables at his castle. Steve Winwood had a band called Traffic. He played keyboards for us. We had a drummer named Ian, and Ian had a band called King Crimson. One of the drummers was Mick Fleetwood, who was George Harrison’s brother-in-law. Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones played guitar on a couple of tracks, played bass on one, and me and Alvin took turns. When that record was over and we were touring Europe, we got ready to come to America to tour. I took too much heroin, ended up in the hospital, and it affected me, man. I was without oxygen to my brain for too long, and I couldn’t remember the words to the songs even though I’d written them. And I was just, like, not the same guy. I mean, God healed me. I’m okay now. But it took a while and my personality changed. And you know what? That saved my life. That’s as close to hell as I want to go, man. My whole life was in a depressing state because the drugs had just taken their toll.
I really believed there was a God, but I didn’t believe God if that makes any sense. I didn’t know what I believed. But God was merciful. I asked him, you know, “What am I going to do, Lord?” He sent this guy who had been a friend of mine from Sacramento, was a deejay and a producer, and he hired me to sing on a record he was producing. I started asking questions, and he started telling me what the Lord had done for him. He invited me to a concert. It wasn’t my favorite style of music personally, but they did what they did well. And what they did was they worshiped and praised the Lord. They were singing about God. I just knew when these people started praising that something powerful showed up and something wonderful started to happen. I just remember saying, “God, I need help, and you’ve been so patient with me.” I was embarrassed to even be praying again. I guess I’d prayed so many times, but I only prayed when it was when the car was sliding on the ice, you know what I mean? This is the first time in my life I ever said, “God, I want to give you my life. I don’t even know how to. I don’t know what that means, but if you will help me, I will do that.” And something happened that night, and I made it up. I asked God to forgive me, and I asked Jesus to come into my heart. And I know that sounds really trite, but that’s what happened. The best thing that ever happened to me was developing that one relationship. God is love. My wife and I can share love because of God. I mean, you know, God’s good, and he set me free.
Dallin: It’s an amazing story; talk about a 180. For people out there who say, “Man, maybe I’ve just gone too far. My life’s a mess and too far down the track.” Give him [or her] some hope or just a little bit of advice as we bring this to a close. How does how does someone else do it?
Mylon Le Fevre: It’s just a matter of getting to know the Lord, and here’s the cool thing about God: He will meet you where you are. He is not legalistic. He is merciful. The thing that amazes me the most, I think, and not just before I gave my life to Christ, but since then, these last 40 years…have I sinned since I got born again? Yes. Have I made mistakes and done dumb stuff and childish stuff and stuff that was just unwise and wrong? [Yes.] But the thing that is amazing to me is the patience of God. He’s so patient. He’s so merciful. He’s so kind. He knows you don’t know how to be perfect. All he demands is that you believe he is. Every good thing that’s in my life today, my relationship with Christi, my relationship with you, Dallin, is built around our relationship with the Lord. For me, I was desperate. I hope you’re not as desperate as I was the night that I asked God to forgive me. I had messed up everything. I had messed up my marriage. It hurt my child. I mean, life was crazy. Man, it was dark. I was in a dark place. But when I asked God to forgive me, he did forgive me. Life keeps getting better and better.
Dallin: I was thinking about talking to you tonight. I went back to when I was 18 years old and I spent six months in Israel, you know, and I read this poem for the first time as an 18 year old, and it’s been years since I read it. And I thought about you and your life and me and my life and so many other people that I think can relate to this poem. So, I’d like to end this this Life Lesson by dedicating this poem to you and everyone really that’s having the human experience. It was written by Myra Brooks Welch. You’ve probably heard it:
“’Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”
“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.”
Thank you, Mylon. I’m grateful that God touched your hand and touched your life. And you’ve been an instrument in sharing with so many people around the world. It’s an honor to visit with you tonight on this Palm Sunday as we prepare for this upcoming week. What a glorious week it is.
Mylon Le Fevre: Thank you. I love you, brother. God bless you, man.
Dallin: God bless everybody. Have a good night, everyone.