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The Story Behind The Song
by Larry Williams
Like for many, the breaking news on June 10, 1991 was very troubling for me to hear. I was a radio DJ at a small town radio station (KGVM) that is located in the Carson Valley just a few miles east of South Lake Tahoe. Just two years earlier, I moved to Northern Nevada from Southern California to escape the hustle and bustle of big city life. My position at the radio station found me hosting an afternoon radio broadcast. Among my assorted duties was to engineer the afternoon newscasts and read copy pertaining to local news stories. This story was unlike anything I have ever reported.
The story of a little girl being kidnapped while walking to the school bus stop was something I had a hard time wrapping my mind around. Such things just don't happen. You certainly don't expect them to happen in a quiet family-oriented community like Lake Tahoe. By evening, the news was everywhere. At the heart of this story was this missing little girl and the impassionate plea's on the news from her mother Terry Probyn. It was heart-wrenching to hear.
Days would pass. Weeks would turn into months and still no real answers of what happened to little Jaycee. By November, the first snow was beginning to blanket the Sierra's. At the time, I was an avid ski buff. Much of the reason I moved to this area was because of the abundant ski resorts and outdoor recreation. I would often go skiing in the morning and then report to the radio station in the afternoon for my radio show.
One day, while enjoying a very quiet day on the slopes . . . I began to hum this melody in my head. It was inspired by the constant coverage that was still being seen day in and day out. For months, the residents and volunteers associated with the search effort would blanket the region with pink ribbons - Jaycee's favorite color. Posters featuring her picture were in every storefront window. You literally couldn't go anywhere about the town without seeing her picture or being reminded of her disappearance.
For me, being a big music aficionado, this day-to-day exposure translated into song. The melody I was hearing now began to take on the words "Jaycee - Jaycee Lee". I knew exactly what was happening. It was that hard to shake songwriting urge I often experienced back home when I was in a rock band. When I moved to Nevada, I was hoping to leave all of that behind me. With each trip up the chair lift, the song and its lyrics began to develop more and more. By the end of the day, a beautiful chorus and other key phrases were imbedded into my thoughts. When I got home, I wrote them down.
For days and weeks I would have to force myself to stop thinking of this song that kept persisting itself upon me. I was one of those people who just didn't want to get involved. By December, the thoughts of this family preparing to spend their first Christmas without their little girl . . . proved too much for my conscience to bear. I resigned myself to the fact that I simply had to write this song.
In the days that followed, I put the finishing touches upon the musical piece that would later become the song “Jaycee Lee”. The next big step was to approach Jaycee's family. I was very apprehensive to do so. I just figured with so much on their plate to deal with . . . and the holidays and all, the last thing I wanted was to be perceived as a bother. Fortunately, nothing could prepare me for the kind manner in which they welcomed me and embraced this song. Terry Probyn and her husband Carl loved the song and were very gracious towards me.
The next step was to search out a band that would perform and record the song. I had always enjoyed a local band by the name of Perfect Circle. They were a talented four-some who frequented the casino cabarets in our area. The lead singer Terry Gerard had a beautiful voice that, for me, was very reminiscent of Karen Carpenter. I am originally from Downey California and grew up just down the street from Karen & Richard Carpenter. As you listen to the song, you will certainly hear the Carpenter influence in Terry's vocals, the backing vocals, piano and flute arrangements.
Once Perfect Circle was on-board, it was then time to find a recording studio that would be kind enough to donate their time. Granny's House Recording Studio in Reno had a tremendous reputation as being the finest recording studio in the area. They have worked with many famous artists and musicians and were quick to clear their calendar for the all day recording session which took place on January 22, 1992.
As I got to know Terry and Carl Probyn better, I felt comfortable enough to ask Terry if she would like to utilize the bridge of the song to say a few words to Jaycee. This idea simply came to me one day and was never part of the original concept. She readily agreed and wrote a beautiful poem that can be heard in the middle of the song. It's one thing to write a song with meaningful words - it's another thing all together more amazing to sit in the control room of a recording studio and hear the mother of a missing child speak to her daughter through a song. It is a powerful moment that will bring you to tears.
The engineer for this recording session was Bjorn Thorsrud. He is a world class engineer of amazing talent and has worked with many famous artists. A video crew donated their time to video tape the recording session in anticipation of making a music video that would benefit the search effort. The next day, media was invited to participate in a press conference as the band, the Probyn's and myself formally announced the completion of the recording project.
The song was later mass produced to cassette tape and distributed at fundraisers where the proceeds from the $5.00 donation went directly to Jaycee's Hope - the foundation created by Terry and Carl Probyn to raise money to assist with the numerous costs associated with the continuing search effort. In addition, the song was made available to all radio stations in Northern Nevada. The cassette tapes were packaged very professionally, with liner notes and information consistent to what you see on this website. They were sold at fundraisers for a few years up until the time the Probyn's moved back to California. As the majority of local fundraising efforts were winding down in the mid 90's, fewer and fewer were sold publicly. With the advent of CD's and MP3 players, most people have discarded their cassette tape libraries. Because of this, there are likely very few of these cassette tapes in existence today.
In the months and years that followed the recording session, I was honored to continue my new-found friendship with the Probyn's. I tapped into the many media resources available to me as a radio DJ and secured such things as; celebrities to go "on-camera" to record P.S.A.'s (Public Service Announcements), large showrooms for dance-style fundraisers, a statement from the Governor of Nevada and other small but significant contributions that assisted the overall effort. It gave me such great joy to be able to help. But I am just one volunteer in a small army of concerned citizens who tirelessly contributed their talents and efforts to support this search effort. This community really came together and re-defined what community involvement is all about.
I have been absolutely blessed to have become friends with Terry and Carl Probyn. These are two of the most wonderful people you would ever want to meet. I am so pleased to now know that Jaycee is safe and back in the loving arms of her family. The song "Jaycee Lee" was written with this dream in mind. Its message represents the feelings of thousands of people who prayed for her safe return. For their family, there will likely be a tough road ahead. But as they have done for the past 18 years .. . . I have no doubt in my mind that this amazing family will be resilient and determined to face the challenges head-on and approach each precious moment with love, compassion and a deep faith in God. Because God answered their prayers - and brought Jaycee and her children back home.
"Soon the tears of joy will rain and we'll fulfill our dreams!"
- from the song Jaycee Lee