Charlie Griffin of SGNScoops’ Magazine tells the
story of one of the fastest growing gospel concert series
Carroll Cooke is a man on a mission, with a passion that is manifested by his actions and his love of gospel music. But when you get to know him, you will find out he just loves his family and everyone. He has never met a stranger. Gospel music is just one of his many interests.
His music is rooted in his faith. Cooke says, â€œI was saved when I was 10 years old. I don’t remember the church or the message. I do remember going to my dad and mom, telling them I had to go to the altar. The preacher led me in the sinnerâ€™s prayer and I accepted Jesus into my heart and he saved me forever. The preacher asked
me to say something and all I could get out was, ‘I just want to thank him,’ ‘I just want to thank him,’ and to this day, I still just want to thank him.â€
Over the years Cooke has been a singer, active church member, choir member, deacon, business owner, husband, father, and community leader. Each phase of his life has been fulfilled in so many ways. Yet in the last five years, his life has come into a richness that is being showcased in the small community of Lowesville, N.C.
His love of gospel music started at a young age. Cooke shares, â€œMy dad (Roy A Cooke), mom (Lois Cooke), sister (now Hazel Sain), and I began singing as a quartet when I was six years old. We did this every weekend for about 15 years, then the next 40 years, I served as minister of music at different churches in and around the surrounding counties.
I have only been trying to promote our music since late 2012.
“My dad was the most influential person in my life,” confesses Cooke. “He lived and breathed music. He was the choir director at our local church, and he wanted so badly for everyone who had a desire to sing, to be able to sing, and sing well. He would have V. O. Fossett of the Stamps Baxter Music School from Dallas, Texas, come for two weeks and teach the old shaped notes, along with voice, piano, and harmony. He then would go beg other churches in the area to have Fossett come teach at their church, and he was successful in doing just that. This way, we would attend singing schools about all summer.â€
Sometimes it was more than just the singing. Cooke loved the buses too. â€œThe first concert I ever remember attending was promoted by Charlie Burke at a ballpark in Newton, N.C. I don’t even remember who sang, I just remembered the busses, and thinking what a life that would be. I was probably 10 or 12 at the time. At 75, I have no desire to crawl in one of them, I just love to see them
pull in and pull out.â€
During those years, his family grew. He became a leader in the community and in the church while developing a successful business. Cooke operated the Lowesville Automotive Warehouse in the Lowesville community near Stanley, N.C. Upon his retirement in 2012, he sold the property to Living Word Ministries.
In that former parts warehouse and store, Living Word Ministries shares the gospel with regular worship services each week since AugustÂ 2012. Pastor Derrick Dellinger leads a growing church that is on fire for God. Their Outreach ministries are impacting the surrounding communities by helping the needy, feeding the homeless, and loving people. They present the gospel in a way that the new Christian can understand and
the mature disciple can continue to grow and be inspired, in a shame-free environment. No attitudes or judgment found at LWM, just a churchÂ family that is excited about what God is doing in the community.
As the church grew, Cooke found a desire to reach the community in a new outreach: Saturday night Southern gospel concerts. With the encouragement of Pastor Dellinger, Cooke started in January 2013 with concerts on the second and fourth Saturday nights of each month. That is 24 concert promotions each year.
Today the interest is growing beyond expectations. Cooke beams, â€œOur first concert was with The Hayes Family from Boone, N.C., Sept. 29, 2012, and we just love it. You see, with theÂ Hayes Family, the connection started many years before. Dad was having one of the (singing) schools, and a young man and lady showed up on the first evening and were wanting so bad to attend the school. Fossett announced that they were from Boone, N.C., and the young man needed a place to stay for the next two weeks. My dad reluctantly stood up and said that he would keep him one night. Well, needless to say, I fell in love with the young man and told dad he had to let him stay the rest of the time. That started a friendship that’s still strong today. That young man and woman were Howard and Lucy Hayes, they were not married yet; they are Mylon Hayes parents.â€
It is not uncommon to see the big names in professional gospel music along with regional and local favorites at these presentations. Under Cookeâ€™s leadership, the concert series has featured the likes of the Guardians, Nelons, Sheltons, Wisecarvers, LeFevre Quartet, Hyssongs, Pine Ridge Boys, Charlie Griffin, Cockman Family, Troy Burns Family,
Jordanâ€™s Bridge, Shireys, Jaidyn’s Call, Heart 2 Heart, Jeanne Johnson, Carolina Quartet and countless other artists.
By mixing southern gospel with a bit of country and bluegrass gospel music, the community is rallying around and building the audience. Churches from around the area are represented in the concerts. Cooke shares, â€œAt one of our services, we had 76 different churches represented — and no fights.â€ He continues, â€œReally, we just wanted to have a place where the community could come together and worship our Lord in song on a Saturday evening. So far it sure has been a blessing to a lot of people.â€
In Cookeâ€™s world, gospel music is all about family. He says, â€œMy first wife passed in 2011 with cancer; we had two children and six grandkids. In 2014, I married Barbara Boylston, from Cary, and she has been a really big help with the concerts. I told her I would love to have pictures of the groups we have had, but I knew I could not display them on the church walls. She suggested we go shopping and we found some portable boards that we can use. We carry them into the church each concert evening and display them, we currently have 96 different groups, (and we feature) their picture along with their hometown. It’s a big hit, especially with the artist checking them out to see how many they know.â€
Cooke wraps it up best: â€œWe count each artist that has been with us as family. Each artist has given their all in presenting the best music to our community. We are truly blessed with a big family of singers!â€
www.gospelgigs.com/lowesvilleconcerts is updated regularly with scheduled concerts now reaching into 2019.
Living Word Ministries and Lowesville Gospel Concerts are located at 1062 Highway 16 South, Stanley (Lowesville), North Carolina. The building is located 1.8 miles south of the intersection of highway 73 and highway 16 (business) in Lowesville. Southern gospel music is featured every second Saturday evening and Bluegrass music every fourth Saturday, at 6:00pmÂ (and sometimes both styles.) Concerts are free, unless advertised otherwise.
Upcoming summer concerts:
Written by Charlie Griffin, special to SGNScoops Magazine
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