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Les Butler and Friends: Earl Wheeler of the Marksmen Quartet

Written by Staff on June 17, 2019 – 6:08 pm -

Earle Wheeler and the Marksmen Quartet

I’ve known Earl Wheeler, and his son Mark, for nearly 40 years. Earl has stood the test of time. Through decades of changing musical styles, he has planted a flag in the ground that says, “I ain’t changing!”

 

Earl Wheeler

Earl Wheeler

Earl still sings and teaches shaped notes, and has attended the same church for nearly 80 years. The Marksmen Quartet sounds like a Southern gospel quartet with bluegrass instrumentation. When you hear Earl and the Marksmen today, it’s like taking a time machine back 50, 60 or even 70 years. I’m proud to introduce you to my friend, Earl Wheeler.

 

Les Butler: What is your earliest musical memory?

Earl Wheeler:  In 1946, Wahoo Baptist church ran a bus to Lyman Hall School where they held the Stamps Baxter singing school. I went for two weeks. Wahoo Baptist also had singing schools from 1946 into the 60’s. They taught voice, theory, piano, etc.

 

Earl Wheeler of the Marksmen QuartetButler: Did you grow up in a musical family?

Wheeler: Yes, everybody in the family could sing and my granddaddy was Georgia’s champion banjo player two years in a row. My mom played guitar and sang alto, and my dad played guitar and French harp, and he pastored until he was 82. My other grandpa played a harmonica and all of my cousins sang and played.

Butler: How long have you been singing, and do you recall the first time your ever sang in public?

Wheeler: It would have been 1944 or 1945. Granddaddy sat me on a piano stool and said, “Sang, boy!” And I remember thinking I’m a singer now. I believe that’s what I was born to do…sing. The first group I ever sang with was in our church. We had a quartet and had a radio show in Gainesville, Georgia. I did some recording and traveling with a group called the Gospel Hearts Trio in the early 60’s. We were Southern gospel; three singers and a piano player.

 

Butler: Early on, were you more of a Southern gospel fan or a Bluegrass gospel fan?

Wheeler: Both, because I listened to the Blue Ridge Quartet on a radio station in Spartanburg, S.C. and Carl Story and the Ramblin’ Mountaineers on a Knoxville, Tenn. station. We didn’t have a TV when I was growing up, so I would go to my bedroom and listen to the radio and read. I ended up being friends with Carl. When the Marksmen recorded for K-Tel records, we recorded a Carl Story song. We sold tons of those albums and he liked getting those checks!

 

Earle Wheeler and the Marksmen QuartetButler: When did you start the Marksmen quartet, and were they originally a Southern gospel quartet or a Bluegrass quartet? If it started as a Southern gospel quartet, what happened to change your musical style?

Wheeler: I started the Marksmen in the fall of 1967. We were a Southern gospel quartet; four guys and a piano. Around 1977, our son Mark played guitar, and we had a piano player quit one weekend and we sang with just the guitar and bass. Our tenor singer said he used to play mandolin in a Bluegrass band, so we never went back to a piano

 

Butler: Your son Mark is a master musician. Do you play any instruments?  

Wheeler: I play a little guitar and bass.

 

Butler: Give me your all-star quartet, filled with your favorite singers on each vocal part.

Wheeler: My all-star quartet would be James Sego on lead, Steve Gulley on tenor, Jack Laws on baritone and Ray Dean Reese on bass. James Sego could really get to singing and it looked like he was riding a horse. We used to sing a lot with the Kingsmen.

 

Butler: What is your favorite song and why?

Wheeler: “Oh, Happy Day” (the page 86 in the red book version) because it says it was a happy day when Jesus washed my sins away…and it was.

 

Earl WheelerButler: You teach shape note singing. When and where did you learn and how is it going today?

Wheeler: (I learned at) Stamps Baxter singing schools. It does well when you can get people to listen long enough to learn it. We are teaching it at our Marksmen Mountain Music camps and a lot of young people are catching on.

 

Butler: When you’re not singing, what are you doing?

Wheeler: (I’m working) with my cows and my VW beetles, and eating my wife Shirley’s cooking. She cooks the best biscuits I know of.

 

Butler: How much longer do you see yourself traveling?

Wheeler: (Until) I can’t do it any longer.

 

Butler: Give us a brief testimony…

Wheeler: I had struggled with my salvation for about eight years (until) finally on August 10th, 1956 the Lord saved me in the morning service of a revival meeting, in the choir at Wahoo Baptist Church.

Les Butler

By Les Butler

First published by SGNScoops Magazine April 2019.

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Les Butler and Friends: Roger Johnson of Heaven’s Mountain Band

Written by Staff on May 31, 2019 – 11:25 am -

Roger Johnson and Heaven's Mountain Band

Roger Johnson and Heaven’s Mountain Band

I first met Roger Johnson and Heaven’s Mountain Band in 2012. I’ll never forget that day. They were so nervous to meet me. You will see in this article that they hold me in high esteem. Might I say they hold me in too high esteem? Without this knowledge, some of this article would sound self-serving. I promise you, I’m not the big wig they think I am. To quote my friend Aaron Wilburn, “bless their hearts.”

 

I wanted to write about Roger Johnson and not the entire band for this article. We’ll write about the band at a later date I’m sure. Roger is such a  standout songwriter and driving force for old-time religion and old-time gospel music, that I really wanted to shine the spotlight on him alone this month. I am proud to introduce you to Roger Johnson.

Roger Johnson of Heaven's Mountain Band

Roger Johnson of Heaven’s Mountain Band

Les Butler: What is your earliest musical memory?
Roger Johnson: At 12 years old, I got my first guitar. It was a Western Auto Trutone acoustic guitar and they were on sale for $12.50. If you purchased the guitar, they gave you a free set of Black Diamond strings. My mother purchased that for me the Christmas of 1969.   

 

Butler: How many groups have you been with, from the earliest to the most current?
Johnson: The only group I’ve been a part of is Heaven’s Mountain Band. We started in 1986 as a Southern gospel group. We were part of the Eddie Crook Company. We changed from Southern gospel music to Bluegrass Gospel about the time we met you (Les Butler) in 2012. We had so much trouble keeping a live Southern gospel band and we could play our own acoustic instruments, so it was a natural move. We always loved the groups featured on Front Porch Fellowship, and we wanted to go more that direction.   

 

Butler: When did you start writing songs?
Johnson: Around 1985. The first song I wrote was, “Latter Rain.” This was the first song we took to the Eddie Crook Company and they liked it. The first month they released it, it made the Top 80.   

 

Butler: What is your favorite song that you’ve written and why?
Johnson: My song, “I’ll Ride This Ship to The Shore.” I’m glad all this new religion stuff got to me too late, I was already on board the old ship of Zion, worshipping in the old-time way.

 

Roger Johnson of Heaven's Mountain Band

Heaven’s Mountain Band

Butler: How many songs have you written?
Johnson: I’m guessing, around 200. I really don’t know. I’ve written a lot of songs years ago and have forgotten I even wrote them. I frequently stumble upon songs that I wrote years ago that I’ve forgotten.

 

March 2019 SGNScoops Magazine featuring Roger Johnson of Heaven's Mountain Band

March 2019 SGNScoops Magazine features the Old Paths

Butler: Is there a song that you’ve written that came to you in a very unusual way or during an unusual circumstance?
Johnson: “The Empty Altar.” We need a burden for the lost. God has really used this song. When I wrote the song, I was just sitting at the house. We had just gotten off a weekend where folks just didn’t seem to want to worship the Lord. We gave altar calls and saw no movement of any kind.  It just seemed liked folks didn’t care. I got to thinking about that and how much I missed seeing tears on the altar. The Lord just started to stir my soul, and he gave me the lyrics to this song.

 

Butler: Did you ever think you’d have a group that has had seven consecutive No. 1 songs that you have written, with parades and special days honoring you and Heaven’s Mountain Band?
Johnson: I never thought we would have one. We just want to give God the glory.  I still can’t get over how much radio has responded to our simple message and the simple way in which we sing that message.   

 

Butler: What other artists have recorded your songs?
Johnson: Rhonda Vincent recorded, “Momma and God,” Paul Williams recorded, “That Ole Church Bell,” Marvin Morrow recorded, “Somebody Prayed,” the Primitive Quartet recorded, “Covered in Grace,” Terry Terrell recorded, “Heroes of Prayer,” and “Graveyard of Sin,” the King James Boys recorded, “Super Water,” and the Old Time Preachers Quartet recorded, “I’ll Ride This Ship to The Shore,” and “Empty Altar.” You (Les Butler) recorded, “When His Blood Fell.”

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Les Butler and Friends: Danny Roberts of the Grascals

Written by Staff on April 29, 2019 – 6:07 pm -

Les Butler and Friends: Danny Roberts of the Grascals

Les Butler and Friends: Danny Roberts of the Grascals

I first met Danny Roberts when he started the Bluegrass Gospel band, The New Tradition.  I loved them. They were, as their name suggests, both new sounding, as well as traditional sounding. And wow, could that mandolin player tear up a mandolin.

Over the years, I interviewed them and featured them many times on my nationally syndicated radio show, Front Porch Fellowship. When they stopped traveling, I was bummed out. But that closed door lead to another open door.  

Danny and Andrea Roberts started going to my church, Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. For several years we got to play side by side in the church band. Those were great days. Now, he’s on the road full time with the multi-award winning, Grascals.  

Let’s learn a little more about my friend, Danny Roberts.

Les Butler: What is your earliest musical memory? 
Danny Roberts: The earliest memories of playing music are with my Uncle Jim. He was one of the few relatives I had that played guitar and he was always open to sitting down with me and helping me learn new things. He always played guitar at his home church, so I had that influence from the start.

 

Danny Roberts

Danny Roberts

LB:What’s the first instrument you tried to play? 
DR: Piano. When I was 12 years old, I broke my hip and had to homeschool that year and my mom was taking piano lessons. After a few days of playing, I decided I really liked playing an instrument but thought it should be guitar. Several years earlier my dad had bought a guitar and brought it home, but no one ever did anything with it, so I got it out and learned to play “Jingle Bells,” (my favorite guitar instrumental that I had heard on a Buck Owens’ Christmas record.)

 

LB: What instruments do you play? 
DR: Guitar, mandolin and fiddle.

 

LB: Who are your top three mandolin mentors? 
DR: Sam Bush, David Grisman and Bill Monroe.

 

LB: What’s your band history, first band to current band? 
DR: First band would be the New Tradition, then Ronnie Reno and the Reno Tradition and now the Grascals.

 

Les Butler and Friends: Danny Roberts of the Grascals

Danny Roberts and the Grascals

LB: What is your favorite song to play and why? 
DR: This changes for me fairly often. Right now, my favorite song to play is “I’ve Been Redeemed,” from the Grascals current CD, “Before Breakfast.” I love the message in the song. It’s in three-quarter time which is something the Grascals don’t do a lot of, but I really like it, plus I get to kick it off with the mandolin.

 

LB: Do you write lyrics?  If so, what’s the favorite song you’ve written?
DR: I do enjoy writing songs with lyrics and my favorite would probably be “Crucified by Me.” I wrote it and recorded it several years ago. Recently it’s been revived by a great young band called ClayBank and it’s receiving a lot of airplay. The song is about a having a dream where I was committing a crime, but I wasn’t paying for the crime – an innocent man was. That innocent man was Jesus.

 

LB: How do you give birth to your original instrumentals?  Do you have a favorite you’ve written? 
DR: The instrumentals I write usually come from a mood I’m in or from inspiration that I get from listening to other artists. If I must pick a favorite, I think it would be “Derrington Drive,” off of my “Nighthawk” CD. The song was inspired by the tuning Bill Monroe did on his tune, “Get up John,” and named in honor of Charlie Derrington – one of my best friends and mandolin building mentors. I’ve written several and many of them are special to me including “AndiWayne,” and “Old Paths,” from my “Mandolin Orchard” CD, and “Danielle’s Waltz,” from the “Nighthawk” recording.

 

LB: What’s your biggest musical moment?
DR: I’ve been very blessed to have many, awesome musical moments and I’m so grateful for each of them. However, I think the one moment that may stand out just a little more than the rest was playing the Grand Ole Opry with Dolly Parton and having Porter Waggoner join us to sing a couple of their old duets. It just so happens that this was the last time that Porter and Dolly sang together because Porter passed away not too long after, so it’s an extremely precious memory for me. Also, having the legendary Jordanaires join the Grascals on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to perform our Dove Award nominated song “Did You Forget God Today” was also an amazing musical moment.

 

LB: Tell us about your wife and daughter, both of whom are very musical.
DR: I met my wife, Andrea, at a bluegrass festival where she was playing guitar and singing in her group Petticoat Junction (I was at the festival playing with New Tradition.) A few months after we first met, my band sold her band a utility trailer for hauling music equipment and, as they say, the rest is history. Andrea stopped traveling on the road after our daughter Jaelee was born and later started the Andrea Roberts Agency – a booking agency that books several top bluegrass bands including the Grascals.
Jaelee really didn’t have much of a choice but to be in music being that’s all that has ever gone on in our home since she was born. She started playing fiddle when she was four and now plays guitar, mandolin, piano, banjo and some bass. Jaelee has literally grown up singing in church which has been such a blessing and we’re so thankful that she has that foundation…THE Foundation. She is a very talented singer and her first single, a gospel song called “All My Tears,” will be released early in 2019.

 

LB: When you’re not picking and singing, what are you doing?
DR: I have an instrument repair shop in my home and I repair stringed instruments. I also give music lessons to folks all ages and skill levels wanting to learn mandolin and guitar.

 

Grascals

Grascals

LB: Give us a brief testimony…

DR: When I was 12 years old I broke my hip and spent the next year on crutches and pretty much in the house. During that time my life was forever changed…that’s when I started playing guitar and when I got saved. I had just turned 13 years old when I was attending a revival at my home church in Leitchfield, Kent., and the preacher preached on hell and preached it hot. I decided that was something I wanted no part of and accepted Christ as my Savior that night. There are a lot of decisions I’ve made in my life that I might change if I had the opportunity, but making the decision to accept God’s gift of salvation is the single greatest decision of my life.

By Les Butler

Les Butler and Friends is published monthly by SGNScoops Magazine

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Congrats to The SGNScoops Bluegrass Top 20 for April 2019

Written by scoopsnews on March 21, 2019 – 10:20 am -

Bluegrass top 20

Chigger Hill Boys and Terri

Chigger Hill Boys and Terri

2019 April SGNScoops Bluegrass Gospel Top 20

1. Songs Like Those (For Days Like These) – Chigger Hill Boys and Terri

2. We’ll Never Walk Alone – Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

3. That’s Grace – The Primitive Quartet

4. Let My Life Be A Light – Balsam Range

5. Most Requested Prayer – Heaven’s Mountain Band

6. Thinkin’ Outside The Box – Dave Adkins

7. Who But God – Eagle’s Wings

8. I Start Each Day With The Lord – Britton Family and Friends

9. On The Sea Of Life – Jeff and Sheri Easter

10. His Eyes – The Rochesters

11. Little Black Train – Barry Abernathy and Darrell Webb

12. On The Far Side – The Marksmen Quartet

13. Why Should I Worry – Canaan’s Crossing

14. Are You Ready To Go – Sally Berry

15. In A Whirlwind – The Little Roy and Lizzy Show

16. Wanna Be – Southern Raised

17. A Brighter Day – Primitive Quartet

18. Call On God – Tonja Rose

19. Was Nots – King James Boys

20. I Am The One – Walking By Faith

For more Radio Charts and other Gospel Music information read the latest SGNScoops Magazine HERE

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Inner Views of Doyle Lawson: Saved by Grace

Written by Staff on February 21, 2019 – 11:27 am -

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver: Saved by Grace

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver: Saved by Grace

While every single interview I have conducted for Inner Views has been distinctive and personally memorable to me, I must tell you that the Inner Views I am sharing with you today will forever hold an extraordinarily special place in my heart. Doyle Lawson, a humble man of God, is a legendary giant in the world of bluegrass music and is one of my biggest musical heroes, hands down.


Cheryl Smith:  Could you share with us about your childhood?  What are some of your favorite memories to recall from your time growing up?
Doyle Lawson:  As far back as I can remember I have loved the sound of music. Radio was the vehicle of entertainment in those days and there was an abundance of local, regional and national programs to listen to. The ones I remember vividly are of course the Grand Ole Opry on WSM in Nashville and the Farm and Fun Time show heard daily on WCYB in Bristol, Tenn./Va.. In the early 1950’s, my dad and mother, along with one of his nephews, started singing in churches locally, and I loved to watch them work out the harmony parts, and I absorbed everything I heard them do.After hearing Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys on the Opry, I was knocked out by Bill’s voice and mandolin playing, and decided that I was gonna be a picker and singer…When I was 11 years old, we were living in Hancock County, Tenn., and Dad was singing lead with the Clinch River Quartet, and I discovered that one of the men in the quartet (Willis Byrd) had a mandolin. I asked Dad to ask Willis if I could borrow it to learn to play.

In 1958, I got to meet the man who became my first professional boss in music. Jimmy Martin was from Hancock County, Tenn. and had gone to work for Bill Monroe in 1949. He went on to front his own band, the Sunny Mountain Boys in 1954, first teaming up with the Osborne Brothers. On the 3rd day of Feb. 1963, I went to Nashville and auditioned for (Jimmy) to pick the banjo, and that started my 55 years and country music career.

 

Doyle Lawson

Doyle Lawson

Smith:  Were you raised in a Christian home?
Lawson:  Yes, I was brought up in a Christian home after my dad rededicated his life in 1950. He and Mom along with one of his nephews started singing in church as a trio and later added a bass singer. At the age of eight during a revival service, I realized that I was lost, and I went to the altar and accepted Jesus as my Savior…

The music business can be full of worldly trappings and it can be easy to lose your way. And I did for a good while. But on the 1st Sunday of May in 1985, I humbled myself and asked God to take control of my life because I had made a mess of it.

On the outside things looked – and were – going great, but inside me I was miserable. I didn’t have the one thing I needed most of all and that was God. He never ever left me, I left him, but he was there when I truly asked for forgiveness. That was the best decision I have ever made as an adult.


Smith:  Who has most influenced you, musically?
Lawson:  Bill Monroe was my first musical hero and then came the first generation of what was to become known as Bluegrass music: Flatt and Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy Martin, the Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley, and the Osborne Brothers and more.
Gospel music (influencers) would be: the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Statesmen Quartet, the Blackwood Brothers, the Masters Family, the Browns Ferry Four, and local and regional groups.

Doyle LawsonSmith:  Can you share with us about a special highlight in your career?
Lawson:  Oh my, there are many to draw from, but I suppose the first-time appearance at the Opry with Jimmy Martin was one of the standouts. I had always wanted to go see the Grand Ole Opry and as it turned out, the first time I saw it was from the stage. I was so nervous you could literally see my pants legs shaking. The National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship award is another treasured memory as well as being inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame in 2012.
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Creekside 2019 welcomes the Hyssongs – America’s Three Part Harmony

Written by Staff on January 30, 2019 – 8:32 am -

Creekside 2019 welcomes the Hyssongs

Creekside 2019 welcomes the Hyssongs

Pigeon Forge, Tenn. — Creekside Gospel Music Convention is pleased to welcome back the Hyssongs to their 2019 lineup. This annual event features over 50 gospel music artists with Southern, Bluegrass, and Country styles all represented. The Hyssongs return to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, during the Convention dates of Oct. 27 – 31, at the Smoky Mountain Convention Center.

Richard Hyssong notes, “We are looking forward to returning to Creekside. Our family will be singing our radio hits along with playing our brass instruments. We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting many new ones as well.”

The Hyssongs recent No. 1 songs include:  “Run the Race,” “I Tell Them Jesus,” and “Let the Hallelujahs

Rob Patz and Richard Hyssong of the Hyssongs

Rob Patz and Richard Hyssong of the Hyssongs

Ring.”

“We are really excited to have the Hyssongs back with us again this year at Creekside,” says Rob Patz, owner of the event. “Richard and I have been friends for a long time, and we always have a good time together. His group has made great strides in the last few years, and our audience always loves their songs and their horns. We hope all our friends will make plans now to come to see the Hyssongs in October.”
Creekside 2019 will be held in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Oct. 27 – 31. The event features the 2019 Diamond Awards, daily showcases and evening concerts, special speakers, and midnight prayer. For more information on lodging, VIP tickets, and convention details, contact Rob Patz at rob@sgnscoops.com, or at 360-933-0741. For news and event updates, click on the Creekside Facebook page.

Buy Your VIP Tickets HERE



 

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SGNScoops welcomes Les Butler

Written by Staff on December 3, 2018 – 1:26 pm -

Les Butler playing and singing at Hominy Valley

Les Butler playing and singing at Hominy Valley

Seattle, Washington  (Dec. 3, 2018) SGNScoops Magazine has built a solid core of readers since it’s inception as a digital magazine in 2009. During that time, artists from a broad spectrum of Christian music have been featured, including Balsam Range, Zach Williams and the Isaacs.

Butler with Isaccs at Larry's Diner

Butler with Isaccs at Larry’s Diner

Rob Patz, owner and publisher of SGNScoops Magazine, has brought on staff a strong voice in gospel music, to feature highlight the Bluegrass side of Christian music. Les Butler, of Butler Music Group, will begin writing for the magazine in 2019.

Midnight Jamboree: Les Butler and Jimmy Fortune

Midnight Jamboree: Les Butler and Jimmy Fortune

“Although I’m mostly known as a Southern gospel guy, my Bluegrass roots run deep; very deep,” says Butler. “I grew up on Flatt and Scruggs, Live from Carnegie Hall. Earl was the first to show me his three-finger banjo roll. I’ve played and toured with Dailey and Vincent.  I’ve been blessed to host a national award-winning syndicated Bluegrass Gospel show for over 20 years. Yes, I guess it’s safe to say that in addition to being a Southern Gospel guy, I am also a Bluegrass guy.”

LesButlerTNN05

Les Butler at TNN

“We are thrilled to have Les Butler come on board SGNScoops,” says Patz. “Les and I have known each other for some time, and I’ve wanted to add his exceptional talent to the magazine for awhile. We both feel the time is now right for him to share this part of his life with us.”

Les Butler Interviewing Marty Raybon

Les Butler Interviewing Marty Raybon

Butler continues, “I’m pleased to announce that I will be writing a monthly Bluegrass gospel column, ‘Les Butler and Friends,’ for my friend Rob Patz starting in the January issue of SGNScoops Magazine.  I think you’re going to enjoy getting to know some of my Bluegrass buddies!”

March 2015 SGNScoops Magazine

March 2015 SGNScoops Magazine

Les Butler and friends will be added to the SGNScoops Magazine’s regular features beginning next month. More information can be found at www.sgnscoops.com.


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Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music together

Written by Staff on September 21, 2018 – 1:02 pm -

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music together

The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music together

We are pleased to present the first feature by SGNScoops Magazine writer, Cheryl Smith, as she presents the “Inner Views of the Bontragers.” We are thrilled to have Cheryl as part of the SGNScoops writing team. She enjoys Bluegrass and Appalachian music and brings a fresh look at gospel music from the mountains. 

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music togetherIt is always such a blessing to come across families who are living for God together, and who are following him and his plan for their lives as a large family unit. When there is bluegrass music involved, it is an even bigger blessing. I am so grateful to be able to share the Inner Views of one such family with you, the Bontragers.


Cheryl: Please tell us about yourselves and your family.
Marlin and Becky Bontrager: Our parents taught us the value of hard work and strong family ties. We raised our family on a farm in rural Kalona, Iowa. We farm half of the year and travel singing and sharing God’s Word the other half.

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music togetherCheryl:  How and when did the two of you meet?
Becky:  We casually met at a Bible school in Arkansas, then again with some mutual friends a year later, and once more at a conference in Ohio six months later. Total, we had spent probably three hours together, mostly with other friends, but through all this, God put it on Marlin’s heart to go out on a date with me. So about two years after our first meeting, he came to Cincinnati (where I was working at a daycare) to take me out on a date.The rest is history…

Cheryl:  Will you each kindly share with us about your personal Christian testimony?  
Marlin: We both were raised in Christian homes. I was rebellious for my growing up years. I came to Christ at a revival meeting a few months before my 20th birthday.

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music togetherBecky: I asked God to save me when I was about 14. More recently, I have realized that God’s salvation is free and complete without any help from me. My part is simply trusting him for salvation and then joyfully serving/obeying him every day of my life. It is always the work of the Holy Spirit that draws a person to Christ, but our parents, the church, and a loving home were all instrumental in bringing us to salvation. Surrendering one’s life to Jesus Christ changes everything–it has affected our thoughts about birth control, how we raise our children, our finances, the way we spend our time, etc.

Cheryl:  Please share with us about your children and how God is working in and through their lives.  
Marlin and Becky: God has blessed us with 10 children. Each of them has asked God to save his or her soul. We have no greater joy than to see them walking in truth as they faithfully serve God in various ways. Four of them are now married, but the other six are still at home.

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music togetherCheryl:  What is your favorite part of having a large family?
Marlin and Becky: A strong family is an incredible witness in a broken society. There are countless benefits to having a large family, but I will only list a few. A large family can complete a large work project very quickly. Family businesses are more easy to run with family members living in the same household. We have the same schedule, can discuss schedule and work while we eat family meals, we take vacations together. We also can have a party without inviting anyone else to join us but when we do hospitality, and we do it a lot both on the road and at home, the preparation and work is shared.


Cheryl:  What is your advice to parents who want to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Marlin and Becky:  Parents must build their homes on God’s Word (Psalm 127.) Home discipleship is vitally important in raising and equipping our children. Deuteronomy 6 commands parents to teach their children as they “walk by the way, lie down, and rise up.” Parents must also be willing to be different and to make hard choices in order to shepherd their families. Discernment is a must. Teach your children to love God, to love his Word, and to love those around them.

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music togetherCheryl:  How long have you been singing as a family, and how did God lead you to start this ministry?
Marlin and Becky: We have been traveling and singing for 13 years. We began when we were invited to participate in a Prison Crusade in South Carolina. After that first year, we did a few concerts at churches, and the ministry grew from there.

Cheryl:  Will each of you share about a dark time in your life and how the grace of God sustained you and saw you through such difficulty?
Becky:  For me personally, road life has some big challenges, the biggest being insomnia which seems to intensify when I get to bed late, eat certain foods, and am under stress, all of which seems to happen during concerts on the road. God’s grace, again, as in His divine influence on my life and it’s reflections in my life, has given me the strength to be joyful, to remember my words when singing most of the time, and to minister to others no matter how little sleep I get. I remember one lady who said, “It must be hard to live on the bus.” Those kind, understanding words ministered healing and encouragement to my heart. There have also been many acts of kindness along the way–a basket of homemade lotions, etc.
Marlin: My father passed away when I was 18. Although I was an adult at the time, I think that has given me a greater compassion for the fatherless. And while I know death is final, I know there are many men who are living without fathers in the U.S. and I think that would be harder. Letters or text messages I have gotten from brothers or sisters in Christ (that) have encouraged me, have (also) encouraged me to do likewise.

Cheryl:  What is the best marital advice you have ever received?
Marlin and Becky:  An elderly couple at one of our concerts said: “Follow the Owner’s Manual,” the Bible, to have a good marriage. We also have learned a lot from the “Love and Respect” DVD series as well as many other books. We took each of our married children through the “Love and Respect” series before they got married.

Inner Views of The Bontragers: A Bluegrass family making music togetherCheryl:  How can we pray for you?
Marlin and Becky:  You can pray that we would continue to serve God in humility and faithfully follow no matter where He leads us.

A big thank you to Marlin and Becky for sharing their Inner Views here. Find out more at bontragerfamilysingers.com

First published on Homespun Devotions by Cheryl Smith. This feature has been condensed. For the full interview, read homespundevotions.com/2018/04/the-inner-views-of-marlin-becky.html

This feature was first published in the SGNScoops Magazine in June 2018.

Cheryl Smith, author of the Inner Views

Cheryl Smith, author of the Inner Views

More on Cheryl Smith….

Cheryl Smith describes herself as a “passionate disciple and follower of Jesus Christ.” She says: “I am married to the sweetest, most patient man for over 30 years…Mama to one miracle son God sent to us after 12.5 years of infertility…Homeschool Teacher who learns way more than I ever teach.I love to spend time with my husband and son in the mountains, sing and play Bluegrass music, and write. I am so thankful for your visit and hope you will visit my blogs: homespundevotions.com/ and biblicalminimalism.com/ It is my goal to encourage you in your walk with Jesus and to inspire you to let go of this world for the sake of a higher call.  It is His call that I hope you hear. So compelling, so intense, so far above anything this world has to offer. It is the call His disciples heard as they went about a normal, ordinary day, fishing. It is a call they could not refuse. A call that caused them to drop everything they had and walk away from life as they knew it, without a backward glance. Can you hear it? Are you listening?”

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Award Winning Singer/Songwriter Jerry Salley Releases First Bluegrass Gospel Album

Written by Staff on November 3, 2015 – 7:22 pm -

jerrysalleypromo750Nashville, Tennessee (November 3, 2015) Once in a while songwriters miss their calling and try to be singers as well as writers. Not so with Jerry Salley. With his new Bluegrass Gospel album Gospel From My Grassroots, Jerry proves to be not only the ultimate songwriter, but also a prolific singer. With all of the love and expression any singer could produce, Jerry treats these tunes with masterful performance.

jerrysalleyalbumcoverJerry has had some major hits with his songwriting in Country, Bluegrass, Southern Gospel, as well as Contemporary Christian genres. Turning to his roots this new CD features his Country/Bluegrass talents.

Referred to by Billboard Magazine as “One of Music Row’s greatest veteran tunesmiths,” Jerry Salley has had an incredibly successful songwriting career in Country, Bluegrass, and Gospel music. Showing his bluegrass roots, and with his five-year-old granddaughter gracing the cover, Gospel From My Grassroots is Jerry’s first all Bluegrass Gospel album. It shines with 13 original, heartfelt tunes that range from the energetic, up-tempo song “How High Is That Mountain,” to the brand new finger-snapping a cappella song, “Just Drink The Water.”

Jerry breathes new life into these self-penned songs, most of which have been previously recorded by Bluegrass and Gospel greats. Guest vocalist Steven Curtis Chapman sings with Jerry on an acoustic, stripped-down translation of their co-written Gospel classic, “His Strength Is Perfect” and IBMA Female Vocalist Of The Year, Dale Ann Bradley, lends her warm angelic voice to “Send The Angels Down,” a song that she previously recorded. The project also includes Jerry’s original versions of “It’s Not What You Know” and “You Don’t Have To Go Home,” which have been recorded multiple times in the Bluegrass and Gospel worlds, and “I Want To Thank You,” a #1 song for Karen Peck and New River .

The fifth song on the album, “Cross On The Right” features Jerry with friends Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, and Bradley Walker and is the initial focus track for radio from the album, although Jerry invites you to play any and ALL of your favorite tunes!

If you would like to interview Jerry Salley contact AG Publicity at info@agpublicity.com .

To learn more about Jerry Salley you can go to www.jerrysalley.com or his Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/jerry.salley.7 .

To book Jerry at your church, event, or concert contact him at jerrysalleymusic@gmail.com or call 931- 450-4220.
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About Jerry Salley

Referred to by Billboard Magazine as “One of Music Row’s greatest veteran tunesmiths”, Jerry Salley, the 2003 “SESAC Country Music Songwriter of the Year”, has had over 400 songs recorded in his multi-award winning career.

Born in the small southern Ohio town of Chillicothe, he signed with Performing Rights Organization SESAC at eighteen years old. Writing and singing in Nashville since 1982, he has written multiple hits in Country, Bluegrass and Gospel Music and may well be the most successful songwriter to have earned equal recognition from all three genres of music – not to mention his recent activity of songs/awards recorded by some of the best/current artists in the “Americana” music genre.

His country hits include the Reba McEntire smash “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain”, “Breakin’ New Ground” (Wild Rose/Universal Records), “I Fell In The Water” (John Anderson/BNA Records), “How Do You Sleep At Night” (Wade Hayes/DCK/Columbia Records), and four other Billboard chart records. His has written Three #1 Gospel hits, several #2 Gospel hits and over a dozen other top ten/top twenty Gospel songs. In addition to songs recorded by the previously mentioned artists, he has had songs recorded by Patty Loveless, Joe Nichols, Darryl Worley, Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Mark Chesnutt, Cece Winans, The Whites, and many others. He is a nine-time Dove Award nominee, having won a prestigious Dove for the 1990 Inspirational Song of the Year “His Strength Is Perfect”, recorded by and co-written with Steven Curtis Chapman.

Internationally he has penned no less than seven #1 Country hits in Australia just since 2001. To date Jerry’s songs have sold in excess of fourteen million records worldwide.

As an artist, Jerry has performed on numerous stage shows, including the honor of performing as a soloist many times on the world famous GRAND OLE OPRY. His television appearances include LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, REGIS AND KATHY LEE, NBC’S TODAY SHOW and several different TNN (THE NASHVILLE NETWORK) shows.


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SGN Scoops Top 100 for March 2015

Written by Staff on March 20, 2015 – 3:01 pm -

SGNScoops Top 100

SGNScoops Top 100

1 Browders He Took The Nails
2 Williamsons It Was The Word
3 Zane and Donna King No One Like God
4 Hoskins Family Land Of Endless Tomorrows
5 Bowling Family That’s What I Miss The Most
6 East Ridge Boys Pray Pray Pray
7 Shellem Cline That Saving Song
8 Mylon Hayes Family There’s Still A Refuge
9 Kingdom Heirs Joys Of Heaven
10 Watts, Rowsey and Bean Don’t Give A Rock A Chance
11 Hyssongs Still Blessed
12 Josh and Ashley Franks He Promised Me
13 Greater Vision The Blood Hasn’t Ever Changed
14 Exodus Tell Me Oh Tell Me Again
15 Page Trio I Wanna Go There
16 Karen Peck/New River Everybody’s Going Through Something
17 Heavenly Sunrise He Died A Savior
18 Whisnants Glorybound
19 Tammy Jones Robinette I Like Life
20 Steeles Eternally
21 Jason Crabb Love Is Stronger
22 Tim Livingston I Just Miss You
23 Valor 3 Hallelujah He Has Risen
24 Linda Foster That Day Is Almost Here
25 Kevin and Jennifer He’s Still Doing Miracles Today
26 Lore Family It Shall Be Well
27 Mercy’s Well I Wanna Hear The Gospel
28 Caleb’s Crossing Isn’t The Love Of Jesus Something Wonderful
29 McKameys Pure Satisfaction
30 Wilbanks I’ll Be Praisin’ You
31 Mark Dubbeld Family Face Of The Captain
32 Tina Wakefield I’ve Got A Lot To Thank God For
33 Troy Burns Family By The Blood Of The Lamb
34 Dennis Cook One Pair Of Hands
35 New Vision That’s What Love Looks Like
36 Wards Coming Out Of Bondage
37 James and Jeff Easter Jesus Is Living In Me
38 Dunaways Church In The Kitchen
39 Mark Bishop Pray On The Little Days
40 Mercy’s Reflection Oh What A Difference
41 Higher Hope He Walks With Me
42 Ivan Parker Til The Shackles Fall Off
43 Wilburn and Wilburn Nobody Like Jesus
44 Clyde Felton Jr. Lord Forgive Me
45 Steve Hess/Southern Salvation Living Proof
46 Sunday Drive This I Know
47 Danny Norman The Best Day Of My Life
48 Jim Brady Trio Steppin’ Out In Faith
49 Wilburn and Wilburn Help Me Help Someone
50 Rod Truman I’m Gonna Make It
51 Legacy Five Christ Is Still The King
52 Mark Trammell Quartet Don’t Stop Running
53 Sounds Of Victory How Good God’s Been To Me
54 Poet Voices He Saw Me
55 Porter Family I’m Gonna Run
56 Brian Free/Assurance Unashamed
57 Joseph Habedank Never No Never
58 Tony Burchette Better Hurry Up
59 Goodman Revival What A Happy Time
60 Taylors Measure Of Grace
61 Conners I Need To Hear From Heaven
62 Bruce Hedrick Roses From God
63 Tribute Quartet Everything I Need
64 Wisecarvers One Prayer At A Time
65 Doug Hudson Help Me Find My Way Home
66 TaRanda Greene That’s Where Amazing Happens
67 Perrys If You Knew Him
68 Shellem Cline Dinner With Jesus
69 Debra Perry/Jaidyn’s Call Bottom Of The Hill
70 Campbell and Rowley It’s Not About You
71 Partons No More Chains
72 Doyle Lawson/Quicksilver O Far Country
73 Rita Broyles Looking Through The Bars
74 Crowe Lawson/Williams Insured Beyond The Grave
75 Georgians Quartet Back In The Day
76 Carter Robertson Band Dog Named Dog
77 Pauline Patterson One Prayer Away
78 Singing Cookes The Church Has Moved Away
78 Spiritual Voices There’s Still My Joy
78 Terry Collins This One Thing I Know
81 Messiah’s Call He’ll Do It Today
82 Charlie May One Last Stand
83 Bledsoes I’m Glad I’m Saved
84 South Of Heaven When I Crossed That River
85 Blackwood Brothers You Can Find What I Found
86 Cornerstone Stormy Seas
87 Brian and Angela Monehan I Talk To Him
88 Chuck Day Back Page News
89 Anchormen Come To The Fountain
89 Tribute Quartet Everybody Needs Jesus
89 Simeon’s Promise Rapture Ready
89 Eagles Wings The Potter’s Hand
89 Emmaus Road Quartet Victory Song
94 Bev McCann Smile
95 Barry Rowland/Deliverance Somebody Go Get God
96 Lori Jonathan Trio It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn
97 Inmans Here Comes The Bride
98 Joyaires I Can’t Make It Lord Without You
99 Allegiance Lighten Up
100 Southern Raised Good News From The Graveyard

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