CATEGORY: Pontotoc County
HED:Pontotoc girl finds success in gospel music
By LaRaye Brown
PONTOTOC - While other 17-year-olds are staying away from home as much as possible, blasting their favorite music and engineering new methods of rebellion, this one is singing gospel music.
Two years after telling her parents she would become a recording artist, Jill Montgomery has sold a few hundred tapes and done more public appearances than senior parties.
It all started when, at age 10, she stepped to the front of Victory Baptist's children's choir to do her first solo.
"I don't think anyone requested that I sing. I just wanted to sing," Montgomery said.
She took singing lessons and confirmed her forte.
At 14, she thought it was time she became a recording artist.
"We had gone to Nashville a few years before. I decided that I wanted to make a tape of my own," she said. "I just wanted one."
Her parents made a few calls and found that it would cost $2,000 and they would have to order 200 tapes instead of one.
Teresa Montgomery said she and her husband, Mike Montgomery, told their daughter she would have to raise the money herself.
"We knew she was an only child and we wanted her to learn responsibility and independence," Teresa Montgomery said.
She added that she thought her daughter's urge to record music was a joke or a phase.
"I thought she was kidding," Teresa Montgomery said. "Being 14 years old, I figured she would change her mind."
But, Jill Montgomery saved all the money she earned working at Merle Norman, baby-sitting and doing housework.
When she told her parents she had earned enough money, Teresa Montgomery said they were surprised.
"We had opened a checking account for her, but I just didn't keep up with it," Teresa Montgomery said. "She would give me $30, $40 or $60 to put in the account. I knew she didn't write checks, but I was surprised when she said she had saved enough."
Then it was time to record. Montgomery said she spent two days recording her 10 favorite songs, including "He'll Do it Again," "Sheltered in the Arms of God," "When He Was on the Cross" and "I Believe He Died for Me."
Six weeks later, Montgomery had her first order of tapes.
"I took them to church just to give them to family and friends," Montgomery said. "Everybody else started asking how much they were. I thought I'd just give them away."
People insisted that she take money for them.
"I got between $3 and $10 for each one," Montgomery said. "I was thinking this is great. I have never experienced anything like that."
Subsequently, she has reordered eight times to fill the demand for her hand-clapping Southern gospel music.
The Morgans, a similar group in Bruce, heard about her and invited her to perform with them. That's how she joined The Morgans' Wal-Mart tour last year.
"We did over 100 bookings last year," Montgomery said. "I've got 12 for this year already."
That list includes Wal-Marts, weddings, churches and a variety of locally produced TV programs.
All those performances leave her with just enough time to participate in non-rebellious activities.
"I usually play pool at home or go to the mall and the movies and stuff like that," she said.
Montgomery also enjoys horseback riding. She works after school and is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
She doesn't plan to be a professional singer, however.
"I want to go to ICC (Itawamba Community College) for two years and then go to Mississippi State," Montgomery said.
She said she would eventually like to own and manage a dress shop.
Montgomery's next album will be released the first of April.
"I feel I'm doing it for the Lord and that's the main reason I'm doing it," Montgomery said.