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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Find Out More Information About The Mark Trammell Quartet Homecoming Here
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Forty three years ago, God sought out a few individuals from Morganton, North Carolina for a special purpose. He knew they had a heart to minister to others. He knew they would tell others about Jesus. He knew they were up to the task, despite the long drives, the sleepless nights, and the struggles along the way. For more than four decades, these individuals have stayed true to the calling that God has placed on their lives. Through every bump in the road, The Whisnants know that God is in control and they can say with confidence, all is well.
Jeff Whisnant is the only original member of the group. As owner and manager for the group, Jeff sings baritone and runs sound on stage. He said, “We placed our ministry in God’s hands 43 years ago and have watched Him do miraculous things. There is no doubt in my mind that God has His hand on this ministry.”
Jeff’s parents influenced his decision to enter into the Southern Gospel Music industry, along with Eldridge Fox, former owner of the Kingsmen. Jeff’s wife, Susan says herdad is the one whom she says has been the greatest musical influence on her life. She said he taught her to love to sing. In fact, she sang with her dad up until she met Jeff. She fell in love with this genre of music when the Singing Americans came to her church years ago. She said the Nelons also inspired her, including songs such as “Oh, For a Thousand Tongues” and “Come Morning.” Susan stated, “That’s when I fell in love with Southern Gospel Music.”
Susan continued to say, her greatest life achievement so far has been raising their sons, Austin and Ethan.
“Being a mother is the greatest gift God ever gave me,” Susan said. “I’d do it again. I’ve got two of the finest boys that I could ever pray for. And I love my mom. My mom is probably is my best friend. Being able to be a mom and watch these boys grow and become men of God is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been able to do. On this Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for being able to be their mom and being able to be an example for them.”
When asked how she balances time between family and ministry, Susan said it was about the same. “The boys love being home,” Susan said. “When they were little, we’d just say that home is wherever mom and dad is, and if it’s on the bus, then that’s home, and if we’re in Morganton, that’s home. Wherever we are is where home is. It’s tough balancing it out sometimes. I missed my grandfather’s funeral about two months ago. That was tough, because we were booked. I was going to cancel and my dad said, absolutely not. You go do what you’ve got to do. It’s tough to balance, but at the same time, I could not imagine not doing it with my family. That has been a blessing.”
For the Whisnants, the best part of traveling on the road together is just that: being together. Susan said her favorite part of singing with the Whisnants is being with her family.
“We watch movies together and just spend time together,” Susan said. “I love it. We eat together. We do it all. I love it all. That’s the best part, just being with my family. I couldn’t do it if I had to dread getting on that bus, and I’m thankful I don’t dread it.”
Jeff added, “The Southern Gospel life is not an easy life, but it is an extremely rewarding life. As for traveling and singing, I am having the time of my life. Getting to travel with our family and the guys who work with us, I consider myself a VERY blessed man.”
Jeff and Susan will celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary on May 28. Their relationship with each other is evidence that they each have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Whisnants have had 13 number one songs, several Top 40 songs, and Singing News Song of the Year titles, including their latest nomination in 2013 for “All Is Well.” They have been nominated for Trio of the Year nine times and have received multiple individual nominations. Their list of appearances is extensive, including 18 appearances at the annual National Quartet Convention, as well as appearances on the Gospel Music Southern Style Program (INSP Network) and at the Gaither Video Taping in Nashville in 2007. By earthly standards, they have achieved success in this industry. But the greatest success is the fact that none of this matters to them.
“We’ve always said if we never had a charting song, if the radio never played our music, or if we never sang at a big venue, we would still sing, because that is what God has called us to do,” Susan commented. “Even if we were working full time jobs and singing on the weekends, we would do it because we love it that much. Back in 1988, we were interviewed and that was the one thing we said is that we want to be consistent and stay within the calling, being content with where we are.”
Susan also gives the following advice to young artists just starting out: “Stay within your calling. There are a lot of people that want to sing, but they can’t. If God’s called you to do it, He’s going to make a way. If that means singing in your church or wherever, stay within your calling. To a young group that is starting out, be consistent. Be content with where you are. Pray diligently that God will open the doors.”
Having traveled with the group most of his life, Austin Whisnant is no stranger to life on the road. In 2009, he felt called to step onto the stage with his family as the group’s bass player. At the young age of 19 years old, he loves traveling with his family. He gives the following advice to young artists just starting out: “Make sure you like traveling on a bus!”
Jeff and Susan’s youngest song, Ethan, is 16 years old. He says that he is destined to be a gospel singer as he gets older.
Austin and Ethan are currently working on a new project and there are plans for a new Christmas project by the group, which is tentatively scheduled to be released before the National Quartet Convention.
The final member of the group has been singing lead with the Whisnants since 2001. Aaron Hise was saved at the young age of six years old. He says the best part of traveling with the group is seeing the country, being on the bus with people he loves, eating different foods, and seeing people encouraged by their music and hopefully coming to know the Lord.
In 10 years, Susan said she hopes to be doing the same thing she is doing now. She added, “Austin would be 30, so hopefully he is going to be married and maybe have a kid, maybe I’ll be a grandparent. But I want to be doing the same thing I’m doing and loving every minute of it!”
The group sees a lot of things in their travels, but two things rank as the funniest incidents thus far. Susan said a woman came to them, asking for pray for her feet because they were hurting. They looked down and the woman had her shoes on the wrong feet. Susan recalls another humorous encounter: “Another lady asked us if she could pray for our hearing because we all, she thought, wear hearing aids, but we all wear ear monitors. She was praying that God would touch our hearing. That was pretty funny.”
So many wonderful songs have been written, but Susan would like to write a song titled, “Where Your Treasure Is, There Will Your Heart Be Also.” She said, “I wish I could write a song about that. I’ve always thought, there are so many people, their treasure is in the wrong place and if they only knew that that is where their heart is, there’s no denying it. It’s just simple, where your treasure is, there will your heart be. And if our treasure is in the Lord, I want my heart to be there. I want to live daily like it’s my last day. Jesus is my hope, my salvation, my whole world.”
Susan’s favorite scripture is Psalm 28:7: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” She commented, “I think I’ve always loved that scripture.”
During the interview, I asked Susan what she would say to God if she could talk to him face to face. She said she would thank Him for loving her unconditionally. She added, “I would thank Him for dying for me. If I’d have been the only one, He would still have loved me that much. And I want to thank Him for that. Also, I was thinking about this yesterday: ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart’. I really want to thank Him for doing that for me, because every desire I’ve ever had. I’ve tried to delight in Him and He has proven His word is true. It may not always be what I want, but He’s given me the desires of my heart and I want to thank Him for that. Thank Him for my family, my parents, and my upbringing. For every aspect of my life, I want to thank Him. So if I could talk to Him face to face, I would thank Him for every blessing and every detail of my life.”
The Whisnants would like to invite everyone to join them at the Gatlinburg Gathering in Tennessee this July. Mark your calendars now for the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge for the first time this fall, and of course, don’t miss Singing in the Sun in April 2015.
“We were recently part of an entire week of Singing In the Sun in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,” stated Jeff. “Eight-three people were saved. There is no way to put a price on that type of reward. Every once in a while God just blesses in such a way that there is no explanation except to say, that’s God. Those times keep us going.”
It is in the difficult times of our lives that we need to remember that all is well. Susan said, “The song ‘All is Well’ is something I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that I want to say that. I want to try and fix everything, so when I can’t fix it, I get frustrated. I don’t care what problem it is or whose problem it is, I want to try to fix it. To stand and be able to say, even if the world’s crashing in on me, that God’s still God and all is well. I’ve had to really think through the words of that song and say, God help me to not only sing it, but to live it. I want to be able trust in Him in all things and even if it’s coming unraveled, I can still put my trust in Him and know that all is well.”
Without doubt, the Whisnants live their lives in an effort to spread the Good News of the Gospel through song. Susan, Jeff, Austin, Ethan, and Aaron realize that the days are short and that Jesus is coming soon. Susan said, “In these last days, it is imperative that we as Christians get a backbone about us and to realize that there’s a lost and dying world out there. We think that we’re infringing on their privacy when we share Christ with them, when the truth is they are longing for someone to share with them the Good News of Christ. It is time for us to tell the lady at Wal-Mart she needs Jesus. We have a job to do, and we only have a little bit of time to do it. We need to encourage each other and to be bold and be strong.”
No matter what is going on in your life, stand up for Jesus, even if you have to stand alone. Follow the lead of the Whisnants and share the message of Jesus Christ with everyone you meet. Tomorrow may be too late. Put your trust in Jesus, lean on Him, and remember all is well.
For more information about the Whisnants, visit http://www.whisnants.com/.
Written by Jennifer Campbell.
First published by SGN Scoops digital magazine in the May 2014 edition.
For current issues of SGN Scoops, log on to http://www.sgnscoops.com/
Tags: Austin Whisnant, Christian artists, Ethan Whisnant, gospel music, Jeff Whisnant, Jennifer Campbell, sgn scoops, southern gospel, susan whisnant, The Whisnants
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Hope’s Journey Anniversary Sing August 23rd Find More Info Here
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Danny Norman is a singer/songwriter, father, grandfather and minister of the Gospel. But he thinks of himself first and foremost as a child of God and a patriotic American. Norman spent many years learning his musical craft in bars and nightclubs, until the day when his brother and his brother’s fiancé were tragically killed. Realizing his need for a purpose in life, he found that purpose in Jesus and has been ministering for Him for the over 35 years.
Rob: Tell us about your latest recording, I’m An American. Where did you record this and who did you work with?
Danny: It was so great working with Robb Tripp and all the wonderful musicians at The Family Room Studio in Gallatin, Tennessee on my newest project, I’m an American. This release has been my fifth CD project since I went to Nashville to further my music career in 2010 at Daywind Studios in Henderson TN.
Rob: What is the name of your latest release to radio?
Danny:I’d like to thank my promoter Jim Robinette for promoting my latest radio release “I’m An American”. I feel as if this song was birthed in me because of what I believe and what I stand for. Certainly and sincerely I am an American through and through and I do bleed these colors.
Rob: Does this song have a special importance to you?
Danny: I want to thank every solider for serving this great country and also my father and my two brothers for serving the USA and to all those who have served and are serving to keep this country safe. And I pray that “I’m An American” inspires you as much as it did my co-writer and me when we wrote it.
Rob: Would you like to tell us about your co-writer?
Danny: I want to say thanks to my co-writer Allen Webb for helping me put the finishing touches on the song and for being a part of many songs we have wrote together over the past few years.
Danny: I want to thank all the DJ’s for playing my music. I also want to thank the DJ’s on internet radio for making this song number one on Music To Radio American Top 40 on June 1st, 2014.
Rob: Tell us about playing in the taverns when you were young. What would you say to those who now are doing the same thing you used to do?
Danny: I’d like to just share just a few short words about myself of how blessed I have been to have been delivered and saved from living my life in a deep world of sin. I played music in nightclubs in the early years of my life and was never really happy although I tried to convince myself that I was. But it was when I sold out and gave my all to God that I started living and enjoying life. I can now say I sing because I’m happy and because I’m free.
Rob: What is your favorite hobby?
Danny: Writing songs and singing is my hobby and preaching is my whole life.
Rob: What is your most favorite thing about being a Christian artist?
Danny:I truly love what I do and I do what I love. I love being a Christian artist and meeting so many other artists and precious people who have become close to me. At the end of the day they are like my family, what a blessing.
Rob: What is your favorite Bible book?
Danny: The Bible is my favorite book.
Rob: If you could leave one thought with your audience after you leave the stage, what would that be?
Danny: Have a wonderful 4th of July and many blessing to you and your families.
Thank you Danny for sharing with us. For those who want to know more about the ministry of Danny Norman, please visit http://dannynorman.net/.
Tags: Christian Music, Danny Norman, gospel music, I Am An American, Independence Day, Jesus, July 4th, Patriotic, rob patz, sgn scoops, Soldiers
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“Love Worth Dying For,” written by John Lemonis, reaches straight to the heart of every listener. It’s a confirmation that Jesus loved us so much that it was worth the pain of the cross. I guess you could say it’s a new way to look at John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.”
It’s really not a surprise to Omega Quartet. “When we heard the song, we knew it was going to change lives,” states Kevin Harry of Omega. “We are honored that God allowed us to be the ones to sing it.”
“Love Worth Dying For” is number 66 on the Singing News Top 80 chart for July 2014. The song is on Morris Music Group March Comp Disc. I am honored to work with this Quartet! You can find out more about them at http://www.omegaquartet.com/
Written by Vonda Easley, MMG Radio Promotions
Tags: Love Worth Dying For, MMG Radio Promotions, Morris Music Group, Omega Quartet, Vonda Easley
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