Tribute song used as benefit for ailing relative

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Elizabethtown writer honors brother-in-law through lyrics

By Amber Coulter

Tim Atterberry was at the top of a Pine Knob hillside as he worked on the latest of the songs he writes independently.


He remembered trekking up the formation as a child with his brother-in-law, who now has been married to Atterberry’s sister for about 40 years.

Atterberry, an Elizabethtown resident, was on his way to a meeting near the Grayson County community of Pine Knob, the hometown of his brother-in-law, Ronnie Payton, when he began writing his latest song. Atterberry dedicated it to Payton, who was diagnosed in January with Stage 4 lung cancer.

Atterberry began singing a few lines based on the perspective of his brother-in-law, a man facing the twilight of his life, looking back at his past and ahead toward the next life.

“I think it made me feel like I was actually able to do something more than sit back,” he said.

Now, the family is selling CDs and downloadable versions of the song to help support Payton and his family. The song is available at cdbaby.com/cd/timatterberry3.

When he realized there was a song coming to him from the experience, Atterberry stopped at his brother-in-law’s hometown to see the man’s childhood home and the sites that shaped his early years.

Atterberry wanted to seek an atmosphere that would embellish his song with the authenticity of Payton’s life.

He finished writing “Set Free” that day and quickly sent a copy to the man’s children for their opinions, especially because the words discussed a man facing the imminence of death.

Payton has to use an oxygen tank and has been told he likely will survive a few more years with treatment.

Payton’s children approved of the song, and his son, Kevin, agreed to play all the instruments for the recording. He learned his first guitar chords from his father.

“I looked over the words and it was pretty awesome,” he said.

Kevin Payton and Atterberry recorded the song in a local studio five days later.

A benefit auction for the family is set for 5 p.m. Saturday in the Life Center at Bethesda Ministries at 2738 Ring Road in Elizabethtown. CDs and cards to download the song likely will be sold there.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.