Southern Gospel Weekend

MGM

Creekside Gospel Music Convention

The Hoppers: Past, Present and Future

Written by Staff on August 26, 2014 – 12:13 pm -

DSC_6739By Craig Harris

The Hoppers are one of Gospel music’s best-loved families. They have been given awards and accolades and number-one songs for many years as audiences embraced their powerful harmonies. After 57 years, they are still going strong and pause for a moment to remember the past, live in the moment and look forward to the future during a conversation with SGN Scoops. Excitement abounds as each of the Hoppers speaks of their history, current happenings and possibilities in the years to come.

Claude and Connie Hopper headshot“I remember when we started; we’d have probably paid somebody to let us sing,” Connie Hopper laughs. “We went to a church one night and sang and got $12.73 in the offering plate.” Needless to say, much has changed since the Hoppers starting performing in 1957. They were then known as the Hopper Brothers and Connie. “In 1970, we quit our jobs and went on the road full time,” she remembers. “It was three of the brothers and me.”

Connie joined the group as the pianist and eventually married Claude Hopper. She began singing when Claude’s brother, Steve, left the group. “We have been so fortunate to support ourselves through the work God has called us to do, and none of that has been by accident, nor any of our own doings,” Claude explains. “Every day that we are blessed to travel is attributed to the support and prayers of each individual audience. We’re like a turtle sitting on a fencepost. You know he did not get there by himself.”

DSC_6895Connie wasn’t the only current group member to come on board as a musician. Claude and Connie’s son, Dean, signed on as the drummer at the age of seven. “The only thing I knew was that I wanted to play drums, and I would do anything I could to play music,” Dean points out. “I had a chance to play all these guys’ big (drum) kits – Mark Ellerbee (of the Oak Ridge Boys), Rick Goodman, Ronnie Sego and Billy Blackwood. That’s when the big bands were the big thing. Everybody had a four-piece band.”

Dean lived the dream. He vividly remembers flying home from Portland, Ore., by himself as an eight-year-old in order get back to school after the group was out on a lengthy road trip. “Dean would sit and watch Ricky Goodman and different ones play the drums,” says Connie. “He’s always been a good boy. He worked and helped his daddy on the farm, but he wanted to travel all the time. But we kept him in school.” Dean began correspondence school after ninth grade and has been on the road ever since. Dean adds, “I played drums for everybody, played on lots of records, and played on stage with everybody that would ask.” He later played the bass guitar and eventually moved into a more visible role as a vocalist when his uncle Will Hopper left the group.

DSC_7072“(Claude) really leaned on Roger Talley a lot. Roger was an incredible part of this ministry for 10 years. Roger said, ‘you need to go ahead and put Dean into that part.’ At that time, I would sing one every now and again.”

When Dean – who is seven years older than Michael – began playing the bass guitar, the door swung open for Michael. Roger Talley and Roger Fortner were also a part of the Hoppers’ band at the time.

“Coming in as a 13-year-old kid, I was fortunate that I arrived when everybody still had a band,” Michael noted. “Every weekend, we would go out, and I could stand on the side of the stage and watch people I respected. I’m thankful.” However, he admittedly didn’t have the same passion for it as quickly as Dean did.

“Michael was a different story,” Connie explaines. “Michael wanted to stay at home and ride his motorcycle and hang out with grandpa. After Dean went out on the road, that just left Michael at home. His guidance counselor called me and said, ‘Michael is smart, but he’s just not doing his schoolwork. I think that’s because you guys are gone.’ We put him in correspondence (school). He was 13 years old when he started.”

Claude and Michael Hopper

Claude and Michael Hopper

 

Michael adds, “I didn’t envision a whole lot at 13 other than my dirt bike and my grandfather. I just loved spending time with my dad’s dad. I spent a whole lot of time with him. He was my best friend. I’ve been blessed.”

Michael is now singing the bass part during the majority of most concerts. “It seems to be working,” Michael says. “They like us all up there as a family.”

The current Hopper brothers have assumed different and more extensive roles in the day-to-day responsibility of the group. “I am proud, very proud,” Claude emphasizes. “We never pushed them to be a part of this as boys. But now, seeing what they bring to the group and family as a whole, I don’t know how we ever did it without them. Both are very talented in their own right and in very different facets. Where one is weak, the other picks up the slack, and vice versa. They know how to pry the very best from Mother and I, which is a wonderful asset to me as both a co-worker and a dad. God knew what he was doing when he blessed us with them.”

Connie adds, “We never said, ‘this is what you’re going to do.’ At this point, if one of them were to say ‘this has been great, but I’m tired of this road,’ that would be fine with me. I thank God for them. They’re just great, and they’re talented.” Read more »


Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in artists, sgn scoops magazine | Comments Off on The Hoppers: Past, Present and Future