Jackson County

Gautier mom believes prayer helped son land part on CMT’s ‘Sun Records’

Helen Wilson, in her yard in Gautier, is proud of her son’s latest acting accomplishment. He landed a part in CMT’s ‘Sun Records,’ a new eight-part series about the birth of rock and roll.
Helen Wilson, in her yard in Gautier, is proud of her son’s latest acting accomplishment. He landed a part in CMT’s ‘Sun Records,’ a new eight-part series about the birth of rock and roll. Sun Herald

Helen Wilson of Gautier is an open-minded and cultured woman. She is also spiritual.

So last year, when her son, J. Thomas Bailey, 42, seemed frustrated and discouraged with his acting career, she turned to prayer. This year, he is in the new CMT series “Sun Records.”

Wilson holds that it wasn’t a coincidence that Bailey’s career took such a good turn.

He will play Johnny Cash’s father in the drama about the birth of rock and roll in Memphis during the civil rights era. Sun Studio is where hillbilly country met rhythm and blues as rock and roll emerged and stars like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis stretched their legs.

CMT is pushing trailers for the series, directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Roland Joffe (“The Mission” and “The Killing Fields”).

And Bailey’s Ray Cash — Johnny’s stubborn blue-collar dad — will be in the series premiere Feb. 23 at 9 p.m.

“Sun Records” will air after new episodes of the already popular “Nashville,” which CMT picked up after ABC cancelled theshow last year.

A letter to God

When Wilson went to visit her son for Thanksgiving in Nashville in 2015, she found him down about his career in a way she had never seen before. He has loved acting since high school and had spent the last 10 to 15 years in Nashville auditioning while also working in a bookstore to support his family.

“He has definitely worked at it and, from time to time, got small parts,” she said. “He continued to try.”

He was just particularly frustrated that fall, she said.

I believe God will work when we ask Him to. I give the credit to God.

Helen Wilson, mother of actor J. Thomas Bailey

It weighed heavily on her heart. So in January 2016, she included a prayer for him in her annual letter to God — a tradition her church observes at the beginning of each year. At the end of each year, the minister returns the letters so members can see what they wrote.

She had written the greatest miracle that could occur in her life was “that her son become successful in all his career dreams ... and realize a life he deserves, filled with joy.”

She forgot about the prayer in the letter and went about her life. Bailey got the part during the year and they were excited.

Then she got the letter back.

“I opened it and was overwhelmed,” she said.

He got what she had prayed for.

‘I believe’

“I believe God will work when we ask Him to,” she said with a smile from her front yard in Gautier. “I give all the credit to God.”

And her son?

“He thinks that I’m probably full of it, but that’s OK. He doesn’t share my belief system,” she said.

His wife believes in him, she said.

“She is so good,” Wilson said. “She has stood by his side and encouraged him, believed in him and bolstered him. To me, she’s a great example of the power of love.”

So Wilson sees her son’s role in “Sun Records” as his step into the film industry. He’s on his way.

And the timing of the big break — was it a coincidence?

“Coincidences are miracles,” she said, “in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”

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