West Virginia Music Hall of Famer John Ellison reflects on his ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ Life

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – If you saw John Ellison on stage for “Live on the Levee” in August, you would never believe that he’s 80 years old!

“If you take care of your body this is how you look when you’re 80 years old,” Ellison laughed.

He eats right, doesn’t smoke, and said he never drank or touched drugs in his life. And he rides his bike five to six times a week, eight miles every time.

“I call it my private time, I get on my bike, put my headphones on, and I’m away from my grandkids and my kids and I just ride,” Ellison said. 

During that “Live on the Levee” concert, Ellison was presented with proclamations from the State of West Virginia and the City of Charleston.

Ellison is best known for writing the song “Some Kind of Wonderful” in 1967 and first performing it with the Soul Brothers Six. It’s been recorded by more than 60 artists, including Grand Funk Railroad, Joss Stone, Conway Twitty and Rod Stewart.

Ellison was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2015 and has performed all over the world like the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy. But his roots are in the mountain state. He was born in Montgomery, West Virginia and spent his early childhood here.

“It’s just truly an honor to have Mr. Ellison back in Montgomery,” said Mayor Greg Ingram. 

In October, Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram and the city council honored Ellison with a key to the city for his contributions to music. 

“His testimony and what he did in this world and what he’s done and to know that he was born right here on the banks of the Kanawha River in Montgomery, West Virginia we’re just so happy and proud of him,” Ingram said. 

The city is planning to put up a sign recognizing Ellison’s birthplace and the famous song he wrote. Ellison said he hopes to motivate people in his hometown and do whatever he can to promote the area.

“My message is, ‘Hold onto your dreams, there are a lot of dream killers in the world. Don’t let anyone kill your dream because dreams become reality,’” Ellison said. 

Ellison’s family moved to McDowell County when he was eight. His father worked as a coal miner, and he experienced extreme poverty and racism.

Music was his ticket out. He taught himself to play guitar at 13 with a guitar his older brother brought back from the army. He moved to Rochester, New York at 17 and has been playing ever since. 

“Someone from the coalfields of West Virginia ventured out and pursued their career and made it!” Ellison exclaimed. 

Ellison is kind of a Renaissance man and he has other interests besides the music business. He’s also branched out into the food business. He makes a seasoning called “Some Kind of Wonderful” seasoning. The Piggly Wiggly on Bigley Avenue in Charleston has sold the spice for several years and uses it to season its rotisserie chickens. 

“People ask us what did you guys do to your rotisserie chickens and we’re like ah, it’s a secret,” said store president and owner Jeff Joseph.   

Joseph said the spice sells well and Ellison sometimes even comes in to promote his seasoning when he’s in town. 

“We’re at the point now where because we’re one of the only places in this area that sell it, we’ve got people from out of state calling us asking us to box a bunch of it up and ship it to them,” Joseph said. 

Even though his early years in West Virginia were tough, Ellison tells WOWK 13 News Anchor Rob Macko his heart is still here. He even wrote a song called “West Virginia State of Mind” on a hill overlooking McDowell County. 

“You know, no matter where I’ve gone, Rob, and places I’ve been, I don’t really feel connected until I cross the state line,” Ellison said. 

Ellison splits his time between Florida and Ontario but he comes home to West Virginia several times a year. 

John and his wife Margaret celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They have four children and 16 grandchildren. 

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Download the FREE WOWK 13 News App

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

Trending Stories