Jerry Kirksey of Boone, NC attended his induction into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood recently in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“Jerry began working in radio during his junior year of high school,” said Charlie Waller, executive director. “After graduation he moved back to Panama City and worked at radio station WTHR. He returned to Pensacola and began working for the Florida Boys in March 1960, a nationally recognized Southern gospel quartet .
“His job at that time was radio promotions and office manager for the quartet,” he said. “J.G. Whitfield , owner of the Florida Boys quartet, and Jerry founded the Singing News magazine in May 1969. Businessman Maurice Templeton of Boone, NC advertised his Southern Gospel music cruises in the Singing News for several years and then purchased the magazine from J.G. Whitfield and moved it to Boone in July 1987.
“Jerry was the editor of Singing News magazine from its inception in 1969 til his retirement in 2010,” he said. “He has been involved in the Southern Gospel industry for over 45 years.”
Legacy Five played tribute to him by performing their hit “Just Stand.”
“Well, I got a sad story to tell: I don’t sing. I don’t write music. I don’t play an instrument. I can’t read music.
I talked to the Lord about that and He said, ‘OK, I will give you something to do in Southern Gospel music that does not require any of those things,’” Kirksey said. “I have been in Southern gospel since 1960 and I have never been to work a day in my life. God has blessed beyond words.
“There are so many people involved with what has happened in my lifetime,” he said. “You don’t accomplish these things by yourself. You accomplish these things by the energy and work of literally hundreds of people over the years.”
Kirksey highlighted his appreciation to J.G. and Hazel Whitfield.
“J.G. and Hazel Whitfield are one of the biggest foundations of Southern gospel music that there is,” he said. “They contributed numerable things including the Florida Boys, Dixie Echoes Quartet, along with the Gospel Singing Jubilee, largest concert promoters in the country, and the Singing News Magazine. That list goes on and on. Those people were very precious to me. I called them my Godparents. They loved me with a Christ-like love.
“They allowed me – somebody with no talent to do anything to contribute all of these things we have been involved in to the Southern gospel music industry,” he said.
Kirksey reflected on the Old Testament and Hebrews: all the things God did; and also upon all the miracles that Jesus did.
“But I think there is a miracle in me,” he said. “Because I have been allowed to serve in an industry that I loved more than life itself. I thank you and I thank God. I thank all the people that were part of what we done. I want to especially thank my wife Carolyn ….
“Carolyn was addressing the first issue of the Singing News on a Friday night and Kenneth was born on Sunday morning,” he said. “He says has been at Singing News the whole time also. He brought us into the digital world. One of the first magazines in the country to go to the digital free press. Our other son, Brett is the one that created our website, designed them, wrote the software. My family has contributed greatly to Southern Gospel music through the Singing News also.
Kirksey said that without all of them working together for the Kingdom spreading the good news.
“This thing would not have happened,” he said. “This is a great honor, but it is not the greatest honor, it is not the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Many years ago a man died for me….”
Kenny Gates of Inman, SC attended his induction into the Southern Gospel
Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood recently in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“Kenny Gates not only played piano for the Blue Ridge Quartet but he was also responsible for some of the writing and arranging,” said Charlie Waller, executive director. “They were the first gospel group to record for Decca Records. They recorded for several major labels, and were the first white group on Gotham Records. They were also the first professional gospel group to perform in a Catholic church.
“The group was formed in Dallas, Texas in 1946 as a part of the Stamps organization. In the early years, the personnel changed a great deal until the team of Elmo Fagg (lead & manager), Ed Sprouse (tenor), and Kenny Gates (baritone and pianist) got together in the early 1950’s,” he said. “This core group remained together for many years. They recorded for Sing and Skylite in the 1960’s, and were a major artist for Canaan in the 1970’s. They released over 100 albums and were instrumental in forming the Gospel Singing Caravan. They were noted as having the ‘sweetest singing this side of Heaven.’”
Triumphant Quartet played tribute to him by performing their hit “Love Came Calling.”
“I am so grateful tonight to be here and receive this. This is probably the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life,” he said. “From a very early age, I loved gospel music and at 81 years old, I still love it. I have so many people to thank that have given me support.
“My family and my friends, people from all over the United States and Canada, they have always been there to support me and I love them all. I am very thankful for this,” he said.
The other 2011 SGMA Hall of Fame class of inductees are Doris Akers, Doyle Blackwood, Bob Brumley, Roy Carter, Opal Lester and Willie Wynn.
Country Music Hall of Famers The Statler Brothers received the James D. Vaughn Impact Award at the event.
The Southern Gospel Music Association is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, the only facility honoring this genre of music, for the historic preservation of the accomplishments of the music and its people. Museum hours match those of Dollywood. Donations are tax-deductible. Individuals and businesses may donate to assist with honoring inductees with special bronze plaques that are displayed in the Hall of Fame. For more information about the museum or its inductees, visit www.sgma.org .