Janie West Metzgar was left in a potato basket (wrapped in newspapers and a small blanket) on the steps of a Baptist orphanage that provided her with a sacred Christian environment in which to flourish. The staff at the orphanage gave her the last name of “West.” Janie and her brother were left on the “west” side of the chapel steps in the morning prior to their daily Chapel services. That name seemed to fit the little girl with curly hair and a big voice and so she became Janie West. Janie was a music prodigy by the time she was only twelve years of age. She voraciously read the Bible and wrote spiritual poems and music. Because she was an orphan and thought that every day of her life was precious, she kept extensive diaries of her life on a daily basis from the time she was old enough to read and write. *See ASCAP SONGS
In her diary she writes, “I always felt God’s Spirit inside of me. I felt like I was going to burst inside if I didn’t write down all the poems, ideas, and songs that God gave me after reading his Word for hours. The Bible became my best friend and my music became the sister that I always wanted. My music was my companion in times of distress, discouragement and spiritual need.” She remarks in her diary about her conversion to Christ, “I listened to all of the Baptist doctrine that I was taught in the orphan’s home. I listened to lengthy explanations of Baptist theology in my classes. However, I never really understood the greatness of God until beside my bed one night I was praying. My heart was so heavy to see my brother Archie. I had found out that he was critically ill with whooping cough and measles. I was utterly frightened, thinking he might die and then I would be completely alone without anyone. Kneeling beside the bed, I felt Jesus put his hand on my shoulder and suddenly I burst into tears and cried out, ‘Jesus save me. Forgive me of my sins. Please take me into your family.’ A great comfort came over me as soon as I said those words. It was right then and there that I realized that I was a child of God, and Jesus was my spiritual brother and Jesus would never leave me alone.”
Janie writes, “The first song I ever wrote after my conversion to Christ was, ‘Jesus Breaks Every Fetter.’ I felt that the song was too simple and was very child-like. Then I was reminded that Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ After reading Luke 18:16-17, in my Bible again, I left the song in its original form and did not attempt to change the words that the Lord gave me.” During the period from 1927 to 1935, Janie West would compose and write some of the greatest Gospel songs in history. The Southern Baptist songwriter wrote over 20 of her greatest hymns during what is called the “early period,” by Musicologist Andrew Shreeves of ASCAP in New York. This body of works appeared first as spiritual poems in the 1920’s. Later by the 1940’s her music was already in sheet music form in what is called “shaped notes” in various hymnals. She made two trips to Nashville in those early years and met B. B. McKinney who was a music editor for Broadman Press. The rest is music history as other publishers and hymnals followed.
Janie West graduated from high school early at age 16. She was a brilliant music and English student. Granted a scholarship to attend Baylor Baptist Bible College, she enrolled and stayed at Baylor (Now Baylor University www.baylor.edu) from 1931-1935. Gaining much needed knowledge in music and in English, Janie took a job teaching in a one room school house in Freestone Country, Texas just outside the little town of Fairfield. There she would teach and minister. She would continue to write songs. It was in Fairfield that she met her husband William Douglas Metzgar. Her time at Baylor was perhaps the most significant time of her music education. It was during the “early period” that she interned with Reverend Luther G Presley, a black minister from Chicago that influenced her melodies and songs. Presley was also influential in encouraging her to become a songwriter of Gospel hymns. She writes in her diary, “I learned two things at Baylor. First, I learned to pray. Second, I learned to write songs. After waiting on God in ‘anxious prayer’ for sometimes hours in the chapel at Baylor, Janie West would become inspired to write down the words to her poems and songs. On all her original poems and lyrics, she wrote, “freely published as unto God,” and then signed her name Janie West and in the “later period” added Janie West Sanders after finding out her real last name.
Baptist dollars paid for Janie’s upbringing in a Baptist orphanage. Baptist dollars paid for her daily needs, allowing her to eat, to sleep, have an education, and to pursue her spiritual callings. Janie’s brother joined the Army and was a career military man who rose to the Army’s highest rank for an enlisted man. He became a Master Sergeant, decorated in WW II for bravery under fire and was awarded the Purple Cross. Janie was diagnosed by doctors, early in her life as having leukemia. She suffered untold pain throughout her life. Her migraine headaches were so severe that she would sometimes throw up for long periods of time and had to lay quietly in a dark room for several days to get over these headaches. Her leukemia was in remission during long periods of her life when she truly felt that God had healed her from the sickness. During those years, she was a mother, pastor’s wife, missionary, music minister and counselor to literally hundreds of people who still love her and her music to this day.
It was during those times of great physical pain that she wrote some of the greatest Baptist hymns. Her life’s battle with cancer finally ended after a six year period of great suffering on August 16th, 1977. She died at almost the exact same hour as Elvis Presley. Without Baylor, Janie West would not have had the music education that allowed her to write the songs that later became so famous. Without Baylor she would not have had the songwriting, piano, and music opportunities to become a published writer in Nashville with Broadman Press. Her early body of work can be viewed along with lyrics and the artists who have recorded her songs at www.janiemetzgar.com"
Throughout the life of Janie West, she was associated with so many famous people. During one of the great church conventions that she attended in Memphis, Tennessee, Janie West was privileged to meet Elvis Presley and his family who attended the First Assembly of God church in Memphis. She wrote in her diary that Elvis was a “black Pentecostal singer in a white body.” While in Memphis, Janie also met with Sam Phillips of Sun Records. She left several of her songs and poems with him. Mr. Phillips wrote her a hand written letter about her songs. He said, “Janie, these songs are more than hymns. These songs are anthems of the church.” He wrote a P.S. at the bottom of his letter which states,” I have a kindred spirit with you and respect what you’ve done with your music.” Sam Phillips was right about Elvis and he was right about Janie’s songs. Researchers for ASCAP in recovering many of her song copyrights for ASCAP found newspaper articles archived that detailed the "orphan who met with Elvis" and the article appeared in both the Memphis papers as well as the Waco newspapers. Getting a meeting with Elvis and Sam Phillips in those days was entertainment news.
The most notable artists that have recorded her songs are Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, The Smokey River Boys, Jim & Jessie, Loretta Lynn, and the list goes on. In the gospel field, her songs have been recorded by the great Black Gospel mass choirs, the Oral Robert’s University choir, Vestal and Howard Goodman, the Blackwood Brothers, the Jordanaires, the Fairfield Four, The Cathedrals, and hundreds of other artists. Recently, Joyce Rogers, wife of Adrian Rogers who pastors the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis has recorded an album of Janie West’s songs. Dr. Rogers pastors the largest Baptist church in the State of Tennessee. Janie was a very simple person. She had two passions in life. One was prayer. The other was music. She led the women’s ministry & helped with the choir at the Dallas Revival Center church in Dallas, Texas according to the Dallas newspapers. The choir was one of the most notable performance groups in the City of Dallas.
After leaving Baylor, Janie married her life long companion in ministry. He was William Douglas Metzgar. W. D. Metzgar or “Bill” as he was called by friends, was also called into full time ministry. Mr. Metzgar’s great grandparents were orthodox Jews who fled the occupation in Germany. They left Europe for America on the same day that Polland was invaded in WWII. The Metzgar’s owned a corner grocery store in Hamburg, Germany and left with only the “clothes on their back,” to come to America. One of William Metzgar’s relatives was born onboard that immigrant ship en route to America. That ship would pass through Boston harbor and the Metzgars would travel down the eastern seaboard and settle in Freestone County where they became farmers of “black bottom” East Texas river bottom land for their entire life. The original Metzgar home place and log house is still standing on the property of Owens & Ruby Metzgar just 13 miles outside of Fairfield. W. D. Metzgar as Janie’s husband would be converted to Christ under the ministry of itinerant evangelist Robert Hankins during a revival held in the school house where Janie West Sanders taught school. Janie and William Metzgar had five children. Janie Metzgar’s complete body of works created in what is called the “later period” can be found at
During one of her early trips to the Nashville area, Janie West had the opportunity to go with her Baptist friends out to a 43 acre piece of property called, “Prayer Mountain.” This piece of property is located just 35 minutes east of Nashville off Interstate 40. The property is mentioned in the Encyclopedia as a part of the “Great Awakening.” Prayer Mountain was associated with the “revivalism movement” in the United States. This movement was an approach to religion that emphasizes the individual’s need to pray. It was the kind of revivalism associated with frontier camp meetings in tents, outdoor religious services, revivals in one room school houses on the frontier, street preaching, and fervent, emotional prayer meetings that would go on all night and would continue into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes these prayer meetings would go for weeks at a time and were referred to as “revivals” or “camp meetings.”
The “Great Awakening” is what the movement is officially called by historians. It began in the 1720’s and took place in the Congregational and Presbyterian churches in the Southern part of the United States. It later swept through the Southern Baptist church as Evangelist Billy Graham blazed a path of revival throughout the State of Tennessee. Seventeen major religious denominations have their national headquarters in Nashville, including Janie West’s beloved Southern Baptist Church. It was while she was walking and praying at Prayer Mountain that she wrote the song, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.” Many preachers of great fame have come and prayed on this mountain. Dwight L Moody, Billy Sunday, Charles G Finney and so many others. All had “visions and spiritual experiences” on this mountain that are unparalleled in church history. People who pray on this mountain are said to receive unexplainable healings, visions, and have “out of body” experiences. It is on Prayer Mountain, just outside the small town of Liberty, Tennessee that many believe Jacob’s Ladder actually touches down on the center mountain of seven mountains located in the area.
The prayer grottos and altars built with human hands out of waterstone, are filled with thousands of prayer requests that are left there each year. Over 10,000 pilgrims come to Prayer Mountain annually. Janie West was one of those pilgrims who came and was especially anointed by the experience. The mountain is considered one of the most sacred pieces of Baptist history in Tennessee and is recognized by the Tennessee Tourism Department as a sacred religious site. Christians refer to the prayer mountain area as the “Holy Land Of The South.” Those who journey there feel like the mountain is “holy ground.” And, they come to drink the water that gushes from the rocks on Prayer Mountain. The free flowing spring water forms a beautiful inlet on the property where “water baptism” services are held almost daily.
It was after her visit to Prayer Mountain that Janie West wrote “Where The Roses Never Fade,” and “When I Walk Up the Streets Of Gold,” and one of her great gospel hymns, “Jacob’s Ladder.” Janie’s husband was called into the ministry shortly after they married. William Douglas Metzgar became the tent manager for faith evangelist and tent preacher, Jack Coe, Sr. Mr. Coe preceeded Billy Graham and had crowds in excess of 50,000 people at his tent meetings. The Dallas newspapers are full of pictures of these great crowds that came to see the young faith healer pray for the sick. His story is told in its entirety at the following web site.
Janie West Metzgar led the music and taught in the morning services. It was during the time that the couple spent with Jack Coe Sr. that Mr. Metzgar was ordained in the Assemblies of God church. He would remain in that church his entire life and serve the church as a missionary, pastor and Foreign Missions Board member in Springfield, Missouri. Even though her husband was an ordained Assemblies of God minister, Janie never moved her membership from the Baptist Church. She was committed to the Baptist faith throughout her ministry with her husband. She was also extremely fearful of the commercialization of the gospel. She refused to allow anyone to sell, buy or use her music for commercial gain of any kind. In her mind, any commercialization of the Gospel message was considered shameful and wrong. So, she refused to take royalties for her music compositions.
As a result of her writing, “freely published as unto God” on her many hymns, poems and songs, much of the body of her writing was listed as “anonymous” for many years because she refused to have anyone credit her in any way with her writing for fear of the commercialization of the gospel. Much of her work fell into public domain as a result. Others made claims to her music and unscrupulously took the credit and royalties for her works. She writes in her diaries, “I see the day coming when the gospel may become a business. I fear that the real Gospel message will be lost in the desire for money. O God, never allow my music, my life or my talent to be used in a commercial way. I have dedicated my talent to God. Others will have to recognize it for what it is. I will not promote myself or my music in any way.” In fact, during the “quiet period” of her life, she never allowed anyone to even mention her songs or her songwriting publicly.
During the early years of her marriage, she and her husband did missionary work and were closely aligned to the Church Of God In Christ which was the African American denomination closely related to the Assemblies of God. Janie West Metzgar, much to the embarrassment of her husband spent a great deal of time marching in the civil rights movement, supported Dr. Martin Luther King with her donations (amounts are listed in her own hand in her diaries), and was a great advocate for civil rights. Janie West became a supporter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) shortly after it was formed in 1957. She supported the rights of all Christians to vote, to be treated fairly and equal under the law. It was her custom to wear large “sandwich” type signs over her small 104 lb little body and walk with these signs that stated on the front, “MLK (Martin Luther King) died” and on the back, “Jesus died too.” She was extremely supportive of the August 28th, 1963 speech Dr. King gave in Washington now referred to in history as the “I Have A Dream,” speech. Janie West was a leading advocate for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Voting Rights Act that followed.
Her poems and songs during this era produced, “I’m Not Ashamed To Speak For Freedom, Give All Your Burdens To Jesus, I Have A Dream” and the great tent meeting classic that was used by Jack Coe, Oral Roberts, and others entitled, “Job’s God Is True.” These black gospel spirituals along with “Covered By The Blood,” and others have been copyrighted by her son, Legends Hall Of Fame Producer, Robert Metzgar. Her many songs and contributions to gospel music are published today by Aim High Music/Zomba-BMG Publishing (ASCAP) in Hollywood, California. Because much of her music fell into “public domain” some of Janie's songwriter royalties have been lost forever. They were truly “freely published as unto God.”
Thousands of faithful Baptists write to her web site every year even though Janie West Metzgar has now been deceased 25 years. They write to tell her in person how deeply they are touched by her ministry in song. Most often they want to contribute offerings and gifts to her legacy. The words of her songs, recorded and sung by some of the most famous people in music history have provided comfort to the dying at hospitals, to the loved ones left behind at funeral services and to Christians everywhere who love and appreciate the music of a young Baptist orphan, who found her life and ministry in music while on this earth.
Janie was an orphan without a family. However, her extended family was like the Who’s Who in the music business. Just a short list of the people she mentions in her personal daily diary are Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers, Howard & Vestal Goodman, Larry Ford, The Deweys, Big “John” Hall, The Statesmen, The Blackwood Brothers, The Stamps, J. D. Sumner, The Oak Ridge Boys, William Golden Sr., Jimmy Snow, The Statler Brothers, T. Texas Tyler, Connie Smith, Christy Lane, Jerry B Walker, Kenneth Copeland, Billy Graham, John Hagee, Dr. L L Morris, Loren Cunningham, David Roever, The Speer Family, David Wilkerson, The Cathedrals, Conway Twitty, Elvis Presley, Sam Phillips, Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, The Hemphills, Gordon Lindsay, Jack Coe, Keith Green, President John F Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many more. Each of these people in some way touched her life and inspired her to continue her fight against breast cancer and live to write another song and support the rights of those she felt were neglected by society as a whole.
*Recent updates through 2014 are as follows. In 2013, the National Association of Print Publishers honored Jane West Metzgar for having songs exceed the one million mark in actual print copies in various hymnals. Twenty five years after Janie's death, her songs continue to be used through the Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Presbyterian and other church hymnals. Her most printed song JESUS BREAKS EVERY FETTER written by Janie when she was only 12 years old is the most sung and printed song of her many songs in print. Six time Grammy winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir released several of her songs in 2013 from their recorded works and touring the United States. Her black gospel influence in the songs that she has written continues to propell the greatest living choirs, artists and winners to record the songs of the little curly haired orphan girl from Fairfield, Texas. Vestal Goodman's recording of Jesus Breaks Every Fetter and the Cathedrals recording of Where The Roses Never Fade are the two all time selling hits from the Janie West Metzgar (ASCAP) catalog of music. For information on all of her songs simply go to her website Janie West Metzgar and her story, diary and songs are all there online for other songwriters and performers to dream like she did of one day being a part of something bigger than she was as an orphan. You can email her son by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and he will respond to your requests within 48 hours.
Janie West Metzgar’s son, Robert Metzgar, lives in Nashville and maintains the Janie West Metzgar (ASCAP) catalog of songs and her web site. He is the lead singer in the bluegrass group, the Smokey River Boys. The group was elected into the Legends Hall Of Fame in the year 2003. When asked, he says, “I’m sure my mother has been elected into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Heaven. I hope she’s there singing with all her friends and one day I hope to join her.” Robert Metzgar attends the Judson Baptist Church in Nashville and he visits the property where his mother was inspired in prayer years ago outside of Prayer Mountain, Tennessee. Prayer Mountain USA, is a Southern Baptist Ministry Organization that is dedicated to one thing, “prayer.” Prayer Mountain has become one of the most sacred religious sites in the State of Tennessee for all denominations. Last year, an order of monks associated with Mother Teresa’s ministry in India located their International Headquarters for their Catholic ministry on property close to Prayer Mountain. The site is as sacred to Jewish Rabbis, Catholics and others as it is to Baptists. A small memorial has been erected there in memory of one of music history’s great Baptist songwriters. It says, “Where The Roses Never Fade” dedicated to the memory of Janie West Metzgar 1915-1977, “Mother, Orphan, Musician.”
Tax exempt religious and ministry
Contributions to the estate of Janie West Metzgar
Should be sent directly to Prayer Mountain USA
“In memory of”
Janie West Metzgar
Send to: Janie Metzgar Scholarships
Director: Prayer Mountain USA
A Southern Baptist Ministry Organization
330 Franklin Road
Brentwood, TN 37027-3282
800-767-4984 (toll free)
Licenses to record her many gospel songs
Should be sent directly to the following
Janie West Metzgar (ASCAP)
Aim High Music/Zomba-BMG Publishing (ASCAP)
330 Franklin Road
Brentwood, TN 37027-3282
800-767-4984 (toll free)