About Sharon Leighton Joyner
San Juan Capistrano, CA
I was born in Kearney, Nebraska in April of 1937. My mom and dad in vaudeville and they worked with “The Harry Hugo Players” a vaudeville troupe who performed all over the mid-west. My mom took two months off and went to Kearney to have me, and to visit her parents. From that point on, until I was of school age, I was either backstage, onstage or on the road.
When I was school age I was boarded with friends and relatives during the school year and on the road during vacation time, never finding roots.
My father deserted me and mom when I was eight and at the age of nine, we moved from Sparks, Nevada to Hawthorne, Nevada. One Sunday, I was invited to church with a friend from school. I heard a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon and when the altar call was given I ran all the way to the front and skidded into the steps of the stage, blubbering all the way.
This was my first encounter with Jesus. From that point on, (not really getting fed on the Word), I spent the next several years with one foot in heaven and one in the world. I think they call that a “Mugwump.”
In my teen years, after my mom remarried, we lived in Bell Gardens, California. I became interested in country music and began performing with a group call Bell Gardens Teen-Age Talent Unit, doing shows for Parks and Recreation, hospitals and reform schools. I sang and danced and did some trio work with some other girls. At one of the bigger shows we were offered a chance to get a recording contract and appear on TV. My mom said ABSOLUTELY NOT! She didn’t want me in show business.
In 1953 I moved to New Jersey to live with my aunt Mary Jane’s family, where I graduated from North Hunterdon Regional High School in 1955. I sang in the “Jabberwock” (an all school production) two years in a row, was in the Junior Play and finally had the starring role in the Senior play called “The Willow and I”. My teacher said if they gave out Tony awards, he would have given me one.
After graduation I moved back to California where I met my future husband. Sadly, that marriage ended in divorce after only five years. I had two children from that union. But most of my adult life was spent in show business.
After my divorce, I got involved in Little Theater where I met John Leighton, and we fell in love. He was a very talented man who was “squeaky clean” (although not a Christian.) His wife had left him and he began to pursue his dream of becoming an entertainer. So we forged out together with our friend (his roommate) Jerry Patterson forming a Folk Music group called The Neighbors.
When John got transferred to Hawaii, we married and I went with him. There we began looking for a career in country music. I worked with John as part of a duo, “The Leightons,” and after our return to California, we added two musicians to form a band, which we called “The Leightons and the Country Sounds.”
In 1966, Marvin Joyner became our fan club president and best friend. When John became ill with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease,) Marvin wanted John to have the record album he’d always dreamed of. He got a backer and we went to Nashville and recorded the album which was called “We Got Love,” after the title song. It became a DJ hit and got lots of airplay and several #1’s all over the country. Unfortunately, it came too late.
As the disease progressed, and it was obvious he was dying, John asked Marvin to become my manager. He also asked Jesus to be his Savior. And knowing he might not make it, he asked Marvin to take care of his “redhead.”
John died May 19, 1974, and I thought I was going to die as well. But, at his request, I went on with my career, added two more musicians and renamed my band “Country Sunshine.” Marvin took John’s request very seriously and on September 23, 1974, we were married.
April 10, 1977, Marvin accepted the Lord after being bombarded with “I Found It!” bumper stickers (a Campus Crusade for Christ campaign) and prayer. I rededicated my life to Christ (or added heart knowledge to head knowledge, I’m not sure which,) and we began attending a little church in Santa Fe Springs, California near our home.
I continued working with my band at The Nashville West in El Monte, California. It has since been torn down to make way for a shopping center, but, I started there with John and continued through his illness and death, due to the wonderful man who owned it. Conrad Sanden always called me “#5” because he had 4 kids and “adopted” me.
During our vacation in January 1978, while attending a couple’s retreat with our church, I got a phone call from Con’s fiancée, Effie who was a Christian. She said he’d had a heart attack and wasn’t expected to live. She asked if I would pray for him. When I hung up, I dropped to my knees and asked the Lord to please spare him.
The words just tumbled out of my mouth. I said, “If you will spare him, I will give my notice and spend the rest of my life singing for You. I just want the chance to witness to him . . . I don’t want him to go to hell!” God honored that prayer, spared him, and I kept my promise in February of 1978.
Marvin also retired in 1978 (from the railroad), after 20 years, due to heart problems. After we both retired, Marvin and God took me out of the bars and had me cleaning toilets instead, then managing apartments and then self-storage managers. Marvin is still semi-retired.
Due to heart problems he can only work so much. He has had numerous problems and procedures but is still hanging in there.
In 1981 I began writing and singing country gospel music, children’s worship songs and testimony songs. In
1994 I went to work for The JESUS Film Project®. In 2004, the Lord provided the money, and I was able to record six of my originals songs toward some CDs of the music He has given me . . . about 60 songs to date. Now, He joyfully fulfills my life ministering and sharing through me with wonderful folks at The JESUS Film Project®, leading worship at church, women's groups, small groups and doing special music here at work, at church and at other churches. One of the titles of the songs I’ve written is called, “He Made My Joy Complete.” And He definitely has.
Back in 1985 we had gotten involved with square dancing. Being the ham that I am, I decided to become a caller; which I am still doing in my spare time. I only call for private parties, weddings, church events, etc. and Marvin is the “Caller Hauler.”
We find it a blessing knowing God works in and through us, no matter what we are doing. It is exciting to have the opportunity to represent and minister to partners and supporters at my job, too. We are doing some traveling and we are involved with organizations like the Country Gospel Music Association who helped make it possible for me to record. If you pray, keep us in your prayers.
Our combined families have grown. We each had two children when we married, although one has gone to be with the Lord. We have since added 9 grandchildren to our brood, the latest, born June 25th, 1996.
Our home since 1998 is in San Juan Capistrano and we have been in San Juan off and on since 1991 to be closer to work and church.
Oh, by the way, I thought you would like to know . . . Johnny Blankenship (my former bandleader) and I sang at Conrad and Effie’s wedding and also at his memorial service when he died. When he became ill, we visited him two days before he died. He was on a respirator and was unable to talk.
Before we left, we prayed with him and he pointed to a pad and pencil. I handed it to him and he wrote on it. With tears in his eyes, he handed it back to me and smiled. It said, “I love Jesus!” What a blessing that was. Oh yes, and SO DO I!