You would have to go back to the Singing Nun 25 years ago to find a more unlikely pop-music star than Sharon Batts of Bedford, Texas. Sharon is the 9-year-old whose tiny voice can be heard almost anywhere on the radio dial, warbling a heart-tugging appeal to Jesus to help stop child abuse. The song, “Dear Mr. Jesus,” is drawing thousands of requests at radio stations across the country and is currently No. 63, and rising, on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. The song’s phenomenal success has taken just about everybody by surprise, including Sharon’s mother, Jan, who heads up Power-Source, the Bedford-based Christian youth group that made the record nearly three years ago. “When we first began getting requests for the record in early November,” says Jan, 39, “we didn’t even have it on a single. We immediately had some 45s produced. The last account I had was that we sent out over 80,000. But we’re still way behind on filling orders.”
Still unavailable in most record stores, Sharon’s hit wasn’t cut from the common vinyl. She made “Dear Mr. Jesus” in 1985, when she was just 6 years old. It was on an album titled Shelter From the Storm, which languished for two years, getting play only on Christian radio stations. Then, on Nov. 1, a Top 40 station in Tampa, Fla., gave it a spin, and the switchboard went crazy. The same thing has been happening all over, especially in New York, a city still raw from the alleged beating death of 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg only two months ago. One station, WHTZ-FM, reports receiving 3,000 phone requests a day from New Yorkers who want to hear Sharon sing.
Sharon, meanwhile, won’t make a penny from “Dear Mr. Jesus.” Her father, Jim, the editor of several trade journals, says all the profits will be poured back into making Christian music. That’s fine with Sharon, an honor-roll third grader who still goes everywhere with her favorite doll, Bessie, and is well fortified against the perils of fame and fortune. “It feels good,” she says, “to know that people like my song. But I have to be careful, because sometimes when people get famous they fall flat on their face.”