West Virginia Music Hall of Fame inductee John Ellison performed for the children of Piedmont Elementary School and was presented with a legislative citation on Friday.
Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, presented the citation that ended by saying, “whereas since being inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2015, Ellison has returned numerous times to play shows and events for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and visit schools to give motivational talks to students. He brings a positive message to young people and a life story that demonstrates that hard work and a positive attitude can change your life. Therefore, John Ellison is hereby recognized and honored.”
Ellison said that, of all the achievement awards he’s ever received, the West Virginia legislative citation tops them all.
Ellison was born in 1941 in Montgomery in a house his father built from driftwood on the banks of the Kanawha River. After the river flooded and washed away his house and belongings, the family moved to Landgraff, where Ellison’s father was hired to work in the mines.
Inspired by Chuck Berry, Ellison discovered at a young age that he could sing and decided, after working and going to school in McDowell County, to move to New York and escape the cycle of poverty in his family.
With only a few dollars and all his belongings in a paper bag, Ellison went to New York and formed the band Soul Brothers Six. After the band’s first single, “Some Kind of Wonderful,” Ellison signed to Atlantic Records.
In 1974, the song was a Top 10 hit for Grand Funk Railroad and, since then, his iconic 1960s anthem has been recorded by more than 75 artists and has taken Ellison all over the world.
It is one of the most recorded songs in music history.
Ellison, now 78, still performs all over Europe and has also created a successful food spice business with his “Some Kind of Wonderful” Spice.
Ellison has returned numerous times to his home state to perform at benefits for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and to give motivational talks at schools.
“My message to everyone is that God has given all of us something, and we have to dream,” Ellison said. “We have to have faith in ourselves and, as long as you believe in God and have faith in yourself, no one can stop you from being whatever you want to be and doing whatever you want to do in life.”
Ellison performed six songs for the children at the school on Charleston’s East End and left them with a motivational message: “You guys keep one thing in mind,” he said. “Always follow your dreams, and don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Be a dreamer.”