By Lorraine Walker
Dusty Wells is, officially, the Sales and Marketing Director for Word Entertainment/Warner Music Group. He is a singer/songwriter who traveled with The Rambos and Dottie Rambo for eighteen years. He has been singing all his life and recorded two projects in the 1980’s. Wells is an accomplished speaker, writer and mentor to aspiring artists. However, anyone whose life has been touched by Wells knows that his greatest gift is as a Balcony Encourager.
Music is a vital part of many people’s lives and most of us don’t have the privilege of being one of the performers like Dottie Rambo who share their talent and hearts with their audience. Some of us on the receiving end of the music, message and emotion clap politely or nod our heads. Others enthusiastically show their appreciation through their whoops and smiles, standing to their feet and applauding with all their might. As important as immediate response is to the performer, it is also important for people to be encouraged by those in the balcony, especially those who give of their lives to share Christ in a ministry. Balcony encouragers can share their particular ministry to anyone in need of affirmation or a positive word. The Bible often exhorts us to be an encouragement to those who need to be reminded of the joy to be found in Jesus.
Dusty Wells is the embodiment of a balcony encourager, cheering on artists and audience alike. He’s one of the most affirmative people you can find on social media. However, Wells’ journey to the upbeat, positive person he is today has not been an easy one and he has learned some hard lessons along the way. From a rough, abusive childhood that many might use as an excuse to take a wrong path, Wells emerged a strong, vibrant Christian through the grace of God and the help of some very special people.
“Growing up in the home that I did, I learned at a very young age that life is just plain old tough and I honestly had no idea that anything was different elsewhere until I got older,” Wells begins. “The people we associated with and the apartment complex-trailer park we lived in at times just seemed normal; so I think that old saying ‘you are who you surround yourself with’ truly was a part of my life. Now, as I look back, I know that my life was not the greatest, but there was so much worse going on and even today, my childhood abuse is nothing compared to what I have seen and heard.”
Wells continues, “Of course my mom was a product of her own environment and how she grew up, so she was just following that example. She was a hard worker and she always taught us to be survivors. Now she may have taught us in the wrong way with certain things, but she really did teach me to survive and make the best out of all that we had to deal with. I was not a Christian until I was 14, so I learned a lot of life’s lessons the hard way without Christ. But once He found me, I knew there was so much more to the life I had been living.”
Wells still had some lessons to learn in his growth as a Christian. “When I was 27 years old, I had a dear friend of mine who worked at a Christian Bookstore in Kansas City that I would call on. She totally got in my face and life, and absolutely ruined me – for good,” Wells continues. “She talked to me about the broken image and becoming the man of God that He intended me to be. She confronted me in love and truly helped love me back to life by showing me and sharing with me how much Jesus really loved and adored me.”
“Yes, I had been a Christian for 13 years at that time, but I had so much dysfunction of the past that she truly got in my face and helped me axe some ugly roots and start rebuilding. She was absolutely precious to me and I talked to her weekly for the next 25 years of my journey. She went home to be with Jesus last year and I miss her so; but she taught me the art and beauty of being real, sensitive, vulnerable and honest with my life.”
Dusty Wells has to be one of the most real people in the Christian music industry, never afraid to share his heart and always open to those around him. Sometimes it seems that he is always so positive that his present life must be a bed of roses. Not so, says Wells. “I deal with junk and crud just like everyone else. I have experienced so much in my life, that I honestly just strive to push aside the junk and try to trust that there is a reason for all that we have to walk thru. I do get quiet, I have to be alone and I get moody.” Wells laughs, “Yes, I sure do! Ask anyone who knows me well. But I usually will separate myself for a few hours, have my pity party, scream, yell and cry and then come back in full force ready to try to conquer the world. Or at least try to show others that I want to.”
One of the current challenges that Dusty Wells and his family of four children have to walk through currently is the ill health of his wife. Wells talks about this difficult trial. “This is a tough one. In fact, it is a question to God that I struggle with daily. My wife LaVonne, whom I have been married to for 31 years and is my backbone for so much, has recently been diagnosed with a rapid form of Parkinsons. LaVonne is the Godliest saint of a woman whom everyone loves. She is an incredible mother to our four children; she understands my call and mission, and has been so faithful.”
The questions swirling around this crisis have not yet found resolution for Wells. “I don’t understand ‘why her’?” Wells admits. “This is so new to us, that we are still a little in the shock and scared part of how to deal with it. She is showing signs of it daily, but she is a fighter and we are all walking with her, trusting and believing that God will heal her. Our kids have been incredible, yet I know they are scared just like me. But we also know that God will get glory in all of this. I don’t understand it, I hate it, but I have to believe He has a plan for it all.”
Wells’ faith has developed through other trying circumstances as he experienced God’s plan working throughout his life, beginning with a Christian couple who reached out to a poor, lonely, abused boy from the wrong side of town. They asked the fourteen-year-old if he wanted to go to church. He went and that led him to a belief in the Lord that changed his life. “This precious couple that led me to the Lord also really instilled in me such a love for Christian music. The very first concert I ever went to in Twin Falls, Idaho was either The Blackwood Brothers or 2nd Chapter of Acts. So diverse and different huh? They were so close together in concert, that I honestly cannot remember, but what I do remember is how the music of both different genres truly touched my heart and spoke to me. They brought music and songs about Jesus, who loved, loved, loved, me!” says Wells.
“Of course, The Rambos were truly my favorite artists due to this precious couple introducing me to their music when I got saved at 14,”says Wells. “I collected all of their music and finally met them when I was 24. The first time I saw them live was at a High School auditorium and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was that night at the concert in Portland, Oregon, back by the record table after the concert; we knew that we were supposed to all work together. A special bond took place and several years later I went to work for them full time. I spent nearly 18 years off and on with all of them, and to this day I am in touch with Reba, Dony, Buck and the rest of them as often as I can be. They truly are like family to me.”
Dusty Wells fondly remembers those years and the lady that made such a huge impact on his life. “My time with Dottie was so special, and I have so many memories. There is not a day goes by that I am not reminded of something she said or did that still impacts my life. Dottie taught me to love people right where they were at, to really look into their eyes and care for what they were dealing with and walking in. ‘Hate the sin, but love the sinner’. She taught me the value of our name, she always told me that at the end of our lives, all we really have is our name and the value it has for others who knew and remembered the name. ‘What do people think and say when your name is mentioned?’”
“Dottie taught me about the guarding of the heart and protecting the gift, which I preach and talk about all the time,” Wells continues. “I used to love it when we would be getting ready to travel; she would always grab my hands and say ‘Oh great angels put your hands in ours and your arms around us and protect us as we go about our Daddy’s business.’ I still say that when I am out on the road or in my own travels.”
“She was the real deal; a woman who lived in so much pain, but she pushed herself out of the pain to grab hold of that anointing,” Wells shares. “I feel very blessed and fortunate that God allowed me to help take care of her, just like her music took care of me when I was a young kid with so many questions. I so miss her.”
Dusty Wells not only learned a love for people from Dottie Rambo but she also nurtured the gift for words within him, both writing and speaking. “I love to write and share ‘heart’ as I always say and talk about,” says Wells. “I’ve always loved to write and tell stories when I was a kid; my brain was filled with all kinds of fairy tale dreams of a life. Once I became a Christian, for some reason I started writing and journaling and keeping diaries. Thank goodness that has always been a part of my life. I love writing out my feelings, my questions, my memories, my hopes and dreams. I am a huge instigator of telling others they need to do the same thing. So much of my own journey of forgiveness has been writing down my heart and feelings.”
Sharing what he has learned with others is a huge part of Wells’ balcony life. He mentors others and as the Bible encourages, he helps to ‘stir up the gift within’. “I am huge supporter and encourager of mentoring, especially in this crazy music world,” says Wells. “We have to have mentors and people who we are accountable to. I have been so fortunate and blessed through the years to have both mentors and accountability people in my face. I know and understand the importance of that.”
“So many times people think they can be the Lone Ranger and face all kinds of difficulties, struggles, temptations, etc. alone. They usually fall flat on their face!” Wells exclaims. “All of us need people who surround us and help us walk thru life! In regards to helping, encouraging and assisting artists and songwriters, I think the key for me is I have good ears and a heart that really does care. Also, I have 30 years of being in the business and I have worked along some of the most successful artists in the industry.”
“It’s my great passion to help those who are called to get the music out there. I take it very seriously and I am also careful to place balance in all of it. I have always been a big listener and I learned from some of the best; so I hope I can pass along some of that to other fellow listeners.”
As Wells listens and mentors artists and moves in the ‘crazy music world’, he sees and hears a lot of different singers. Some of his favorite artists whose music he enjoys are those he has had the opportunity to spend time with, those whose heart he has heard. “I have so many artists who I am friends with and I love so many types of music, but some of those that I just feel such a strong connection with are: of course Reba and Dony McGuire, Beyond the Ashes who are Anthony, Kellan and Dustin; The Nelons – I love Jason and Kelly; Wes Hampton – what a voice!” Wells continues, “ I love, love Ernie and The Signature Sound guys, they are such really fun guys. Also Stephanie Booshada, the Lanny Wolfe Trio, Ann Downing – I love The Downings; Karen Peck, The Hoppers, Taranda Green….” Wells laughs, “Okay, I am so going to get in trouble! I could go on and on; I have way too many that I enjoy.”
“I think the thing that I love and admire most about artists are the ones who are not afraid to be real, who want to truly share depth and heart with others, and who have gotten to that place where they know what they do is not just about awards, money, accolades, big crowds, etc; which is all important and okay, but they do it because they know they want to touch peoples’ lives right where they are.”
Many fans would love to be in Dusty Well’s place and have the opportunity to get to know artists one-on-one. Wells loves to enjoy the company of some of his friends in the industry. “I have so many that I love to hang out with, way too many to name,” says Wells. “I love going on the road with different ones when I can. For me the connection is that there is gypsy in so many of us! I love being able to visit with the fans and people who come to the concerts; I love hearing the music and watching the response. I love standing back at the product table and hearing their stories and watching their faces when they meet the artists. I love the camaraderie that I feel when I am out on the road with the different groups.”
As Wells travels the roads with artists and friends, there are often humorous incidents that they all remember for years. Wells shares, “I have so many funny stories! One of my favorites that I have not told in years, is this one time Dottie and I were at a large church in California, and a lady walked up to me in front of Dottie, and just went on and on about how good I looked since she had first seen us in the 60’s; how she liked my hair dyed brown instead of the white she had seen on the record covers and she thought I was shorter than what she had expected. Then she asked why I didn’t sing with Dottie any longer! Of course she thought I was Buck!” Wells laughs, “She just went on and on while Dottie sat there and laughed so hard. We were both crying and when I finally told her I was just a friend and worked for them, she then said, ‘Well I thought for sure you had had way too much plastic surgery!’ Oh, we used to laugh about that all the time.” Wells continues, “I play jokes all the time on the road; it is so much fun being on the road. Dottie and I used to pretend we would see famous people all the time!”
From working with the Rambos in the past to his present position with Word Entertainment, Wells is surrounded with all different types of Christian music. He is hard pressed to say what music he enjoys the most. “I have no particular favorite music honestly…except I love to listen to music that touches my heart. I want songs that say something and mean something to me. I love those artists who are not afraid of being real. I love those songs that move us to do more and challenge us.”
Wells himself performs occasionally and also sings with his church’s worship team. The local church is important to the Wells’ family. “I feel it is absolutely one of the most important things that we can do, to be involved in whatever we can at church, even if it is only a few times a month. “I feel like being involved in a local church is a absolute must for those on the road! You give so much of yourself that you have to receive back into yourself what God wants you to give out. Many singers will come up to me and tell me they want to go out full time and make a career out of music. My first question always is: ‘are you involved in your own home church?’ If they say no, I tell them to not ask my opinion until they are involved. Sounds harsh, but I am such a strong advocate for the church.”
As a balcony person, Wells has touched many lives and has a powerful ministry through his positive affirmation of artists and those in the music industry. None of us really know how we have affected the eternal souls of those we come into contact with, but Wells says he hopes that people remember him for his love. “I want people who have met me to remember that I absolutely love Jesus with all my heart, that my family is the most important part of my life and that I am crazy in love with them. I want people to know that I understand and embrace the truth of His word in our lives, that I have a heart and burning passion for music and what it can do for others who are so broken. I want them to see that if God can use me, He can use anyone! We just have to be willing, obedient and not be afraid of where we will go on the journey. We have to trust Him.”
For more information on Dusty Wells, visit him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dusty.wells.50?fref=ts
Also see his page on Southern Ministry Agency at http://mannagospel.com/?page_id=10
First published December 2012 by SGM Radio website
For current features visit http://www.sgmradio.com/
For another feature on Dusty Wells about Marketing Gospel Music see the September issue of SGN Scoops here http://www.sgnscoops.com/2014/09/16/september-2014-sgnscoops-magazine/
Tags: balcony person, Christian Music, Dusty Wells, Lorraine Walker, SGM Radio website, sgn scoops, Word
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By Craig Harris
Once again, Craig Harris provides terrific photographs from the last day of NQC 2014 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Hope you’ve enjoyed these albums! Let us know… firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Christian Music, Craig Harris, gold city, gospel music, Kingdom Heirs, national Quartet Convention, nqc, Renaissance Quartet, sgn scoops, Sneed Family, Triumphant
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Photos by Craig Harris
Craig Harris once again provides on-the-scene reporting in pictures from the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, TN. These photographs are from the Friday evening concert. Enjoy!
Tags: Christian concert, Craig Harris, ernie haase and signature sound, Gospel concert, jeff and sheri easter, national Quartet Convention, nqc, sgn scoops
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Photographs by Craig Harris
Once again, SGN Scoops’ reporter Craig Harris gives us a look at the evening performances during the National Quartet Convention. Thursday’s events also included the Singing News’ Fan Awards.
Tags: brian free, brian free and assurance, Christian Music, Craig Harris, Dixie Echoes, Dixie Melody Boys, Ed O'Neal, gospel music, Greater Vision, Lauren Talley, national Quartet Convention, nqc, Randy Shelnut, Rodney Griffin, sgn scoops, singing news fan awards, the isaacs, The Taylors
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The first night of NQC in Pigeon Forge as captured by SGN Scoops…
Tags: Christian Music, Dixie Melody Boys, Ed O'Neal, gospel music, Monday night at NQC, national Quartet Convention, nqc, sgn scoops, Tribute Quartet
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I remember when I was 11 years old at the 2001 NQC. I was so excited to see the quartets I loved and the chance to meet them.
I got to meet some of my heroes that week like Jake Hess, Tim Riley, Howard and Vestal Goodman, Ray Dean Reese, Ed O’Neal, Bill Gaither, and others!
The moment that stands out the most from that week was when I got to meet my favorite singer of all time, George Younce, who was with the Old Friends Quartet at the time. He was so kind and joked around with me like George would always do.
About a year or two after that, he called to encourage me to keep on singing and follow the Lord’s guidance. He has made a lasting impact on my life.
I believe God used George Younce to influence me to sing in Gospel music. I will never forget that NQC!
Submitted by Aaron Perkins, Sound Technician/Bass Vocalist at The Taylors
Please submit your NQC memories to email@example.com
Tags: Aaron Perkins, Christian Music, George Younce, gospel music, Jake Hess, nqc, sgn scoops, The Taylors, Tim Riley
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By Matt Baker
While I was on the road full time, I made some great friends in the gospel music industry. Some friends were people I loved to cut up with and still do. Some I gained great amounts of wisdom from. Some poured incredible amounts of encouragement into my heart and life. The singer featured in this article has been all three of those to me. Aaron Hise of the Whisnants has anchored the lead part for the group for many years now, and he is a big reason that the Whisnants have enjoyed great success on the stage, as well as the airwaves. I had the chance to ask him a few questions recently:
Matt Baker: You’re a northern Indiana boy. How did you end up in North Carolina with the Whisnants?
Aaron Hise: While I was living in southern Illinois, I was filling in for a local quartet. One night we sang with the Poet Voices and Phil Cross asked me if I’d be interested in singing full time. Of course, I said yes. So Phil and I exchanged numbers and I never thought I’d hear from him again. Well, that was Friday, and on Monday morning Phil called and explained that Tim Greene of the Greenes was sick and they needed someone to fill his position. So I thanked Phil and immediately called Tony Greene. As I spoke to Tony he explained the details of what they were looking for and what they needed. Again…this was Monday morning. Tony then overnighted four CD’s and marked the songs I needed to learn.
I drove to Boone, North Carolina, on Wednesday morning. That afternoon we ran through a couple songs, got on the bus that evening and sang in Pearl, Mississippi on Thursday night. I stayed with the Greenes for four and a half months and loved it! While my venture with the Greenes was coming to an end, the gentleman that was currently with the Whisnants came off the road. Tony mentioned it to me and said he’d call Jeff and set up an audition. I had my audition in December of 2000, got the job and I’ve been here ever since. To this day, I’ll always be grateful to Phil Cross, Tony Greene and of course Jeff Whisnant for giving this Indiana boy a chance.
MB: Who were some of your early Gospel music influences and heroes?
AH: Being from Indiana we didn’t get a lot of Gospel Music but when we did it was mostly quartets. My very first concert I attended was in 1983 at the South Bend High School in South Bend, Indiana, featuring the Kingsmen and the Cathedrals. I was hooked! To this day, I’ve always admired Glen Payne. Not only for his voice, but how he carried himself on and off the stage. My Dad, Ron Hise, will always be my hero for instilling a love and respect for Gospel music into my life. His love for sharing Jesus through this music became a love of my own through his influence.
MB: You’ve been with the Whisnants for quite a while now. Do you have a favorite place/venue to sing at? Why?
AH: There are several different venues that I love, but one of my favorite places will always be the National Quartet Convention. Singing at an event where so many of the Gospel greats have sung before still excites me to this day. We are also blessed to be a part of many Bible Conferences through out the year. One in particular, Mims Baptist Church in Conroe, Texas, is another favorite. Being a part of their Conference every January always starts my year out right, they are a true blessing.
MB: Most folks who follow Gospel music know that you’re married to Suzanne (Taylor) Hise of the Taylors. How did you two meet?
AH: Suzanne and I met at a concert in Kankakee, Illinois, where both of our groups were singing that night. I told Susan Whisnant that I was going to talk to Suzanne and I’m glad that I did. A month later at the National Quartet Convention we met up again and went out a couple of times. At the time, Suzanne was still in college and like myself, very busy. So we decided to slow down and get to know each other as friends. I knew she would be graduating from Liberty University that May. So I messaged her and asked if I could take her out for dinner to celebrate. She said yes and we started dating. Suzanne said yes again when I asked her to marry me on November 8th, 2012. We were married May 21, 2013.
MB: Because of your busy schedules, time together at home is precious. What are some of your favorite activities that you both enjoy to make the best of your time at home?
AH: We are like most Gospel Music couples in that we love our time at home. We enjoy going to see movies or staying at home to watch our favorite TV shows. We love to take road trips to Pigeon Forge, Asheville, or even the Coast. We love going out on dates to our favorite restaurants. Suzanne loves to cook as well, so she usually tries to cook dinner at least once a week while we’re home. She’s a great cook!
MB: What’s your favorite Whisnants’ song that you get to sing and why?
AH: My favorite song that I have had the privilege to sing is “I’m Trusting The Blood.” When Joel Hemphill sent us the song, I knew I wanted to sing it. I’m a simple guy and I love simple songs that still have a message and say something. Sadly enough, there are people that are putting their trust in things to gain salvation. Worldly deeds are not going to get them to heaven. The bible clearly says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin”. I truly love this song and we sing it every night.
MB: Share with us your funniest road story.
AH: There are too many to list, Matt! Here’s one: We were singing at a church that was having a special celebration in their family life center. Like any church event there’s always food involved. During intermission, a gentleman came to the product table while eating a hot dog. While he was walking back and forth admiring the CDs, he literally dropped ketchup, mustard, onions, and chili all over my product table. Needless to say, he didn’t buy anything!
MB: Night after night, folks come by your table and share testimonies of how The Whisnants’ music blesses them. Share a story with us that motivates you each weekend out on the road.
AH: Recently, we had an 87-year-old man come forward and give his heart to Christ. After the concert, the pastor told us that this same man had told him that he would never give in to Jesus Christ. While singing, “I’m Trusting The Blood” that man came forward and said “I Give Up.” That is one night that I will never forget!
MB: You started out in Gospel Music while you were very young. What advice would you give to an aspiring Gospel singer?
MH: Have a love for this music, a love for people, and most importantly a love for the Lord. Pray that this IS what the Lord wants to you do. Do your best to listen and learn from your favorite singer or singers. Oh yeah, and practice.
MB: You’ve got one last song to sing. What song would it be and why?
AH: “And Life Is Worth The Living, Just Because He Lives.” In that line alone, we have all been given the hope that our Savior is alive and coming back for all of those who place their trust in Him!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short chat with one of my favorite singers. And judging by all those Number One songs they’ve been blessed to have, many of you who read this and listen to Gospel music, have made him one of your favorite singers as well. Keep Aaron and the rest of the Whisnants in your prayers as they minister each week across the country!
Find out more about Aaron Hise and The Whisnants here: http://www.whisnants.com/
Matt Baker writes for SGM Radio website.
First published in August 2014 on SGM Radio website.
For current features, visit http://www.sgmradio.com/
Tags: Aaron Hise, Christian Music, Gospel artist, Matt Baker, southern gospel, Suzanne Taylor, The Whisnants
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This week, SGN Scoops caught up with uber-busy Misty Freeman Callaway of the popular Gospel singing family, The Freemans. The group hit the charts this year with the single, “Lead Me Home” from their latest recording, Voice In The Desert.
Misty admits that her list of things to do on her days off might be different from other people in the industry. As a wife, mother of two, and owner of a busy hair salon, Misty says that when she gets home she hits the ground running.
Fast Five “Things I Do On My Days Off” by Misty Freeman Callaway:
1) Laundry and lots of it, especially kids’ clothes.
2) I’m usually getting kids off to preschool and I head to the salon to take care of my hair clients two to three of the days I’m home. Some weeks I go straight from the bus to the salon back onto the bus. No days off!
3) Grocery shop and cook. After eating fast food and bus snacks for a few days I’m ready for healthy home cooking.
4) Spend time with my husband. Since he doesn’t travel with me, we have to work really hard to connect during the week. We love to go on dates but most weeks our goal is to just get the kids to bed early enough for us to make popcorn and watch a movie alone…before we both pass out!
5) Attend and serve in our home church as a family.
Thanks to Misty for sharing some of her spare minutes with us to answer the SGN Scoops Fast Five. For more information on the Freemans please visit their website at http://www.the-freemans.com
By Vonda Easley and Lorraine Walker
Tags: Christian Music, gospel music, Lead Me Home, Lorraine Walker, Misty Freeman, Misty Freeman Callaway, sgn scoops, southern gospel, the freemans, Vonda Easley
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By Marcie Gray Imagine walking down a hallway filled with familiar faces and voices, some of whom you have listened to since you were a small child, some whom you have met, and perhaps, a few you may be privileged to call friends or family! Just inside the gates of The Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee lies a journey through the history of Southern Gospel music, just waiting to be explored. Established in 1994, and opening its Hall of Fame and Museum doors in 1999, the Southern Gospel Music Association (SGMA) is a professional preservation association of artists, songwriters, industry workers and fans, founded to preserve, protect and promote Southern Gospel Music, its history and heritage. The artists within have dedicated their ministries to delivering a message built around biblical truths and spiritual values, and what a legacy they have left and are still leaving! It’s like homecoming week every time I walk through the SGMA Hall of Fame. As I enter the doorway, the first thing that catches my eye is a shaped note typewriter, surrounded by various song books and a chalk board with a music staff on it. Originally, Southern Gospel music was sung by quartets, many who used songbooks with notes identified by their shape. The tour continues as I sit in a church pew and listen to an animatronic quartet singing “Give the World a Smile.” There is literally something to look at in every corner as I wander through the museum. A collection of vinyl records, a replica of The Blackwood Brothers’ bus, instruments and clothing from legendary artists and collectibles, each having a story of their own to tell, are displayed throughout the museum. The centerpiece of the museum is the Hall of Fame, where bronzed plaques of legendary faces line the corridor. One hundred and fifty-five faces grace the walls of the corridor. Each individual who is inducted is honored with a plaque that bears their picture and a list of achievements in the Southern Gospel industry. Danny Jones, Editor of The Singing News and Executive Director of the SGMA shares, “The Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame is the home to more than 3,000 Southern Gospel artifacts, not to mention a place where 155 members of the Southern Gospel community are honored. Earlier this year, as we were getting the museum ready for Dollywood’s opening day, I cleaned all 155 of those 40-pound bronze plaques that hang in the Hall of Fame. It was impossible not to re-read what each plaque said and truthfully, the memories of many of those special people came flooding back to me. It almost like I could talk to George, Glen, Jake, Rex, Brock, J.G. Anthony, Roger, J.D. —and more—again. Suddenly they didn’t feel so far away now that they’ve gone on to their eternal reward. “As I cleaned each plaque I was reminded of how each of those men and women are on the Hall of Fame roster shaped this thing called Southern Gospel Music. Long-time fans need to come to the Hall of Fame and just relive those days. New fans need to come to the Hall of Fame and learn about those made Southern Gospel Music what it is today. It’s more than a roomful of plaques–it’s a roomful of incredible memories.” One of our own SGN Scoops contributors and one of those who have helped shape Southern Gospel Music, Lou Wills Hildreth, was inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame in 2007. In early February of this year, SGMA President Arthur Rice was minding his own business in Florida, preparing to board a cruise ship with The Kingdom Heirs when his cell phone rang. On the other end one of Dollywood’s fine maintenance men was calling to let Arthur know that a water pipe had burst inside the Hall of Fame and was spewing water throughout the building. Though the water flow was stemmed before any harm could be done to any of the artifacts housed there, substantial facility damage requiring significant repair work was experienced. In the ensuing days, the Dollywood maintenance and construction teams worked diligently to return the Hall of Fame and Museum to its “pre-flood” condition in time for the 2014 opening day festivities. We recently talked to Travis Bridgeman of the Advisory Board of the SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum. “In September 2013, I was elected to the Advisory Board,” says Travis Bridgeman. “I had the privilege to walk on the red carpet during SGMA Day at Dollywood for the 2013 Hall of Fame Induction. I am an administrator for the SGMA Facebook and Twitter pages. I post news and facts about the Hall of Fame, as well as recognize the birthdays and anniversaries of the deaths of Hall of Fame members. As a member of the advisory board, I also make recommendations to the executive board to help them with policy and promotion.” Bridgeman continues, “Our theme for this year is Raising the Awareness, which is our campaign to make Southern Gospel music fans and artists aware of the contributions of the Hall of Fame members and how they can keep their memory and our music alive. The SGMA operates the Hall of Fame and Museum from the support of its membership. It is important to join the SGMA to help us preserve the heritage of Southern Gospel music for the generations that have no first-hand knowledge of the pioneers of our music. Each month, over 30,000 people visit Dollywood and have an opportunity to walk inside the only brick-and-mortar museum paying tribute to our legacy and the genre of Southern Gospel music. It is the living link to our past, and stands as an example of the excellence we should strive for today.” The SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum welcomes more than one million visitors annually to read and observe displays and memorabilia from a century of gospel music. Thousands of items from some of the greatest singers, writers and musicians are displayed. The facility includes a gift shop, which carries one of the country’s largest Southern gospel music selections. The SGMA also specializes in vintage and difficult-to-find Southern gospel music products. The SGMA current membership ranks in the thousands with members from almost every state and several foreign countries. Members come from all walks of life joined by a love for the music, an appreciation for the positive, uplifting lyrics and the music’s central message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The artists in this industry have traveled thousands of miles, often through adverse conditions, to entertain, minister and create a musical genre for which the SGMA is committed to preserving. In 2014, inductions will be conducted during the week of the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Some of the inductions will take place during the nightly NQC programming while other inductions will take place during the Singing News Fan Awards. These inductions are included at no extra cost in your NQC admission. If you have not yet visited the SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum, a wonderful time to do so would be during Dollywood’s National Southern Gospel And Harvest Celebration, which takes place from September 22, 2014 through November 1, 2014. During those six weeks of wonderful Southern Gospel music, there are opportunities to see your favorite artists in concert, all included in the price of your Dollywood ticket! Visit http://www.dollywood.com/themepark/entertainment/Harvest-Celebration-Gospel-Performers.aspx to view the schedule of artist appearances. You can be an important part of helping the SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum to preserve the rich heritage of Southern Gospel music we all love. Visit http://sgma.org/ to find out how you can join the SGMA family. Annual membership is $20, and a lifetime membership can be received for a gift of $1,000. You can also contact the SGMA at (865) 908-4040. From all of us whose hearts are touched by Southern Gospel music and the history that has shaped it into what it is today, we want to say “Thank you” to the SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum Directors and staff. Thanks to your efforts, the legacy of those who came before us will be remembered for generations to come. Photographs and Written by Marcie Gray First Published July 2014 in SGN Scoops digital magazine. For the current issue of SGN Scoops, visit the SGN Scoops website at http://www.sgnscoops.com/
Tags: Arthur Rice, Danny Jones, Dollywood, hall of fame, Marcie Gray, Pigeon Forge, Southern Gospel Music Association, Tennessee, Travis Bridgeman
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“I’m so looking forward to being with my sweet friends, Jeff and Sherri Steele tomorrow morning for Sunday morning worship!” says TaRanda. “What a privilege to sing and share my life story with others, so that everyone can know there’s hope in the midst of troubles and peace can be found in every circumstance. Above all, Christ’s love prevails! Can’t wait to see you all in Cullman, Alabama in the morning!”
Tags: Aaron and Amanda Crabb, alabama, Christian artist, Christian concert, gospel music, Jeff Steele, Jubilee, Taranda Greene
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