â€œRing out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.â€
~~Alfred Tennyson In Memoriam (1849)
For many people, New Yearâ€™s Eve means a time to party or to go out with friends and celebrate. My New Yearâ€™s Eves were usually spent in a different way. When I was young, I would attend a service at a nearby church where local groups would sing out the old and sing in the new. As I grew older, and was able to drive, I started to attend New Yearâ€™s Eve concerts featuring professional groups. One of the biggest sings was promoted by Cecil â€œSonnyâ€ Simmons and held at the Charleston (WV) Municipal Auditorium. Over the years I was able to see many of the top groups.
One of those concerts that stands out, was held December 31, 1976. This particular concert was one that I recorded on my portable tape recorder so I can relive it via the recording. There were a number of reasons that this concert was memorable to me. The lineup was very diverse and along with the national groups, some regional groups were also featured. So let me give a recap of this concert.
The concert opened with â€œSonnyâ€ Simmons introducing the Telestials. The Telestials at this time were featuring their lead singer Jim Wood on â€œOne Way Flightâ€ and â€œHere They Comeâ€. Both of these were well received by the capacity crowd.
The next group was a Charleston-based group, the Calvarymen Quartet. The Calvarymen had recently undergone a couple of changes. Squire Parsons had left to join the Kingsmen Quartet and Conrad Cook had left to form his family group, the Calvary Echoes. The Calvarymen still used songs written by Parsons and Cook, including â€œWhen My Feet Touch the Streets of Goldâ€, â€œThere Is Joy In Serving Jesusâ€ and â€œI Get A Little Heaven.â€
Naomi and the Segos were the next group to hit the stage. They sang â€œThank God I Am Freeâ€ and â€œLearning to Lean.â€ The highlight, at least for me, was when they sang â€œThe Dearest Friendâ€ and James Sego gave a moving testimony. He told how he had been delivered from alcoholism and also described his recent stroke. He admitted his voice wasnâ€™t what it used to be, but he was blessed to be able sing at all.
The group to follow the Segos was Conrad Cook and the Calvary Echoes. A lot of fans were happy to see Conrad since he had previously been a favorite with the Calvarymen. Conradâ€™s daughter, Robin, was featured on â€œI Came On Business For The Kingâ€ and Conradâ€™s unique style was manifested on â€œSweet Holy Spirit.â€ The crowd definitely loved this group.
Willie Wynn and the Tennesseans were the next group. Willie was featured on â€œMy Soul Has Been Set Freeâ€ and â€œI Am A Seeker.â€ Ron Hutchins, formerly of the Inspirations and LeFevres, did a masterful job on â€œHe Is So Precious To Me.â€ The other selections were fast, hard-driving songs that had the crowd clapping along.
Roger Horne began his professional career as tenor for the Gospel Harmony Boys and later joined the Cathedral Quartet. He also spent some time with the Scenicland Quartet. However, on this night, he was joined by his wife Becky and Eddie Burns as the Roger Horne Trio. They sang: â€œHe Kept On Loving Me,â€ and â€œI Can Feel The Spirit,â€ both written by Roger Horne.
The group that most fans were waiting to see was the Kingsmen. Many would be seeing Squire Parsons for the first time with this group. The Kingsmen began with â€œBeyond the Clouds,â€ and followed that with â€œIâ€™d Rather Be An Old Time Christian.â€ Squire was featured on â€œThe Land of Beulah.â€ They also did â€œWhen I Wake Up To Sleep No More,â€ and â€œGloryroad.â€ Their set concluded the first part of the concert.
Each group came back after intermission and sang a couple of songs. A couple of songs from the second part really stood out. One was Willie Wynn being featured on â€œYouâ€™ll Never Walk Aloneâ€ and the other was the Kingsmen singing and encoring â€œIâ€™ve Made A Covenant.â€
There were other songs besides those I mentioned, but I hope this will give you a taste of what this concert was like.
By Dean Adkins
First published by the SGN Scoops magazine in January 2015. For more features, see the latest issue on the SGN Scoops mainpage.