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Bill Nash on “Saint, Sinner, Singer”

Career Highlights

Bill’s mother, Clara, was a talented pianist who formed a choir at their church in 1954, and another group at home. The Nash Family Trio was comprised of Clara and her sons, David and Bill, and performed gospel songs. While the boys both had nice voices, and enjoyed singing for people, Clara had more than a hobby in mind: she wanted to help lift the family out of poverty through their performances. The group started singing at Rotary and Kiwanis club meetings, and eventually, got some gigs on radio and TV.  Eventually, the group was signed by Columbia Records when Bill was 13, and recorded two albums. The trio came to a halt when Uncle Sam sent David a draft notice for the Vietnam war.

Bill kept singing on his own, and in 1967, he was signed to Mercury Records by a talented producer named Jerry Kennedy. When he arrived at Kennedy’s office in Nashville, they talked about what songs Bill would record. Jerry picked up the phone and asked to speak to the janitor. “Bill’s here and wants to hear your song,” he said. Bill didn’t know what to think about a song-writing janitor, but soon the man entered the office, guitar in hand. He played and sang his song, “For the Good Times,” which Bill thought was fantastic and couldn’t wait to record. When the janitor left the office, Bill asked Jerry what his name was. “Kris Kristofferson,” he replied. Bill recorded it the next day, the first of many stars to record the hit song.  

In 1980, Bill met and married Kim Belknap, who had also grown up singing with her family. She was 19; Bill was 35. They had two sons, formed a singing/songwriting duo and wrote songs for many famous recording artists. One of their biggest successes came in 1994 when country star Reba McEntire was looking for a couple new songs to add to her Greatest Hits II album. Bill, Kim, and another friend had written a song called “They Asked About You,” which they thought would be perfect for Reba. Bill dropped a demo tape off at her office and hoped for a miracle. They later learned that Reba listened to 5,000 songs, and would pick only two to include on the album. A couple of months later, Bill got a call from her management saying that theirs was one of them.  

Billy Jr.'s Miracle

In November of 1982, Bill and Kim welcomed their first child into the world, Billy. Bill clearly remembers how he felt about being a dad. “He was the brightest spot (right after Jesus and next to Kim) ever in my life!” They adored Billy, and loved watching him grow and develop. When he was a little more than two years old, he started getting sick frequently. His doctor prescribed medicine and told them it was nothing to worry about. When the illness continued, the Nashes took Billy to a specialist. What the doctor found brought their world crashing down around them: Billy had acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a 50% chance of survival. Bill and Kim were crushed. The doctor gave Billy his first chemo shot, then a grief counselor entered the room to help them “prepare for death.” They told the woman they weren’t ready for that, and Kim threw the booklet she gave them in the trash. Ten days later, Billy would start his chemo protocol. During that time, all their family and friends heard the news, and began praying for little Billy. When the Nashes returned to Texas Children’s Hospital ten days later, Billy received a spinal tap and a bone marrow test. Bill had to hold his son down for the procedures. “I can’t help but share the sheer agony I felt as I held him on that bed.” After what seemed like an eternity, they were called into the oncologist’s office. What he said utterly floored them: “We don’t know what has happened, but all of Billy’s test results have come back normal.” Bill and Kim couldn’t believe their ears! “Normal?” they both asked, incredulously. God had answered the many prayers for Billy with a miracle. While he still had to go through a modified chemo protocol for three years aimed at preventing the cancer’s return, he stayed healthy, in remission, and is to this day.  

Billy’s healing had a profound effect on Bill’s faith. It had been difficult for them to attend church when they performed in clubs until the wee hours of Sunday mornings, but they decided to commit to one and draw closer to God. After trying a few, they landed at Lakewood Church where John Osteen was the pastor. Little did they know at the time that one of Bill’s aunts knew John’s wife, Dodie, and had asked her to pray that Bill would get back on track with God. Dodie had been doing so for years. “Lakewood truly was an oasis in the desert for us, an oasis of love...” Bill recalls. 

Champions Kids Camp 

Songwriting contracts came and went over the years. By the early 2000’s, Bill and Kim were without one and feeling burned out from the pressure to keep coming up with hit songs. They prayed and talked to friends about other possibilities and decided in 2002 to hold a week-long summer camp for kids who’d been through trauma of varying types: foster care, poverty, illness, the loss of a parent or sibling, etc. After locating a venue, volunteers, and 33 kids to attend, they found that encouraging kids in need even more satisfying than the music business. 

At the very first camp, there was an eight-year-old boy named Nathan who had emotionally withdrawn after losing his brother to cancer. He wouldn’t speak a word. The Nashes and camp volunteers smothered him with love and attention, but Nathan still wouldn’t talk. On the fourth day of camp, Bill was in the pool, when one of the kids did a “cannonball”, splashing him and finding it hilarious. Before long, kids were lined up to drench “Uncle Bill.” Nathan stood watching the fun and Bill called out to him to try it, explaining how to a cannonball. He did it and Bill made sure he went underwater and back up before Nathan came up, so he’d be drenched. “Man, you really got me!” Bill exclaimed. Out of Nathan’s mouth came the first words they’d heard him speak: “I did it!” he shouted with joy. Bill will never forget it. “The unspeakable joy that overtook me at that moment was almost insurmountable.”  

The Nashes have held their “Champions Kids Camp” every year since, with as many as 200 kids attending. They incorporate lots of music into the camp and fundraise for it throughout the year. The Nashes say it’s more satisfying to love and build up kids than anything else in their careers.   

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