Remembering the Queen of Tupelo and the man from Wales

Mal Pope and Kay Bain sing “Amazing Grace.”

You’ve probably heard — God works in mysterious ways.

That’s not Biblical by the way.

The phrase actually comes from a hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” which was written in 1773 by William Cowper from England.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the saying and it came to mind, when I was told the story about Kay Bain and Mal Pope.

Most around here know Kay. and earlier the team of Buddy and Kay Bain, and the “Mornin' Show” on Tupelo's WTVA-Channel 9.

I worked at WTVA in the mid-1970s and got to know the Bains. Buddy died on May 24, 1997, and Kay continued her hectic “Mornin' Show” schedule along with many other functions.

If my memory serves me right, Buddy on his death bed asked Kay to “continue.” She did.

Many don’t know Buddy and Kay Bain and the Buddies opened shows for Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and many stars of the Grand Ole Opry.

After over 40 years, Kay did retire from the show on a Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Those days the show was called “A New Day with Kay” and it aired Sunday mornings.

Maldwyn “Mal” Pope, born May 18, 1960, is a Welsh musician and composer, who is notable for his contribution to music theatre portraying Welsh national identities and themes. He lives in the village of Mumbles, Swansea.

I learned about Kay and Mal meeting from two good friends of mine, Jim Karrant and Darrell Marecle. Both like me, love music.

Mal was in Tupelo the first time, about 1998, to compete at the Annual GumTree Art Festival Songwriters Competition.

Many of my musical friends have judged in the past. Cary Hudson comes to mind. Cary was born in Sumrall, a few miles from Hattiesburg. He and his used-to-be wife created the band Blue Mountain. After they split, he embarked on a solo career - which he continues today.

Darrell met Mal during the first visit and remembered him as “talented, genuinely a nice guy and funny.”

If you’ve never hung around professional musicians, some are the salt of the earth, really nice people and some are buttheads.

Mal is a really good guy.

He visited Darrell’s studio and won the contest that year.

The following year he was asked back to judge the contest which he gracefully agreed too. Jim picked him up that year, 1999. Mal stayed at Jim’s house.

Of Course, the Gum Tree always happens around Mother’s Day so Kay had invited Mal to be on her show. Jim was responsible for getting him up and to WTVA. This was all set up by the late Pat Raspberry, a musician herself, who worked at the Tupelo Convention Visitor’s Bureau.

Mal borrowed Jim’s Rainsong Guitar. Mal, being tossed through a few time zones and having to get up and be at WTVA by 5:30 a.m., was a little bit dazed.

The show went fine. Kay and Mal really hit it off. “A New Day with Kay” ended with the two singing “Amazing Grace.”

Jim drove Mal back to his house. The Welsh musician and composer couldn’t quit talking about Kay and how much she reminded him of his “Mum.”

Jim said, “She’s the queen of Tupelo.”

Little did the two know what had just happened.

Jim left Mal at the house, because he had to go to work. When he returned home, Mal beckoned Jim to come hear a song he’d written on the Grand Piano —”Queen of Tupelo.”

“I was stunned,” Jim said. “He just told about his experience in Tupelo and meeting Kay. It’s a great song.”

In 2000, Mal returned to the All American City but not for Gum Tree. This time Jim, a methodist, told him about a lady at the church, who members were having a fundraiser for. She needed a bone-marrow transplant.

So Mal, without hesitation, returned and performed at the Orchard. Darrell was there too. He was running sound for the mega-church.

Jim, once again, carried the man, who has written songs for Cliff Richard and The Hollies, duetted with Bonnie Tyler and Aled Jones, and toured with Art Garfunkel and Belinda Carlisle, back to WTVA.

Kay was amazed hearing “Queen of Tupelo” live and once again the show ended with the two singing “Amazing Grace.”

As Darrell, Jim and Mal sat around, Mal off-handed said, “If you’re ever in Swansea, look me up.” That would be Pope’s last visit to Tupelo.

In 2001, he released a CD The Ring and included with 13 other songs, the “Queen of Tupelo.”

On a side note, a few years ago Darrell got an offer to go to Wales with a buddy of his so intended to catch up with Mal. Mal was working on something else, so the reunion didn’t happen but Darrell did get to visit the land the Welch man knew so well.

I left at 5:30, didn’t know where I was going

She talked to me like my Mother, made me feel right at home

When I came to sing my song, she set up the microphone

She and Buddy been together for a 100 years

Must have been hard to carry on through the veil of tears

The music helped her make it, what she sings is what she is ...

The Queen of Tupelo

God does work in mysterious ways. Amen.

Have a blessed and very happy Mother’s Day.

Thanks Darrell and Jim. See you in the morning for breakfast.

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