ROBERT’S CONCERT RAMBLINGS by Robert York
On a cold January morning, the Kingdom Heirs stood outside The Showstreet Theater in Dollywood singing the National Anthem. This is a morning custom for them. The Showstreet is their usual home next to the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame just as you enter Dollywood. During a couple of events that take place over the year they move over to the Pines Theater. I had the opportunity to be there and visit with them the last two days of the 30th season. You don’t have to worry, they will be back in March to begin their 31st season. They will be touring the next nine weeks across the country.
Kreis French is a native member, as he was the first to start the group back when the park was known as Silver Dollar City. The Kindgom Heirs sang as a part time group until the park changed it’s name to Dollywood in 1986. Dolly Parton insisted that they remain there and be a full time group performing two to three shows, five days a week during the regular season.Kreis plays bass for the group in the Kingdom Heirs Band, who have won Band Of the Year for seven times. Dennis Murphy has been playing drums for 26 years. Most drummers don’t live that long, especially a comedian like Dennis. Andy Stringfield from Harriman, TN fills the piano slot and also does some backup singing.
The voices of the Kingdom Heirs include Arthur Rice who sings lead and also is the emcee for the group. Arthur has been singing since he was 14 years old and is from Ashville, NC. He states, “You shake a tree in North Carolina and a quartet will fall out.”Jeff Chapman from Brunswick, GA fills the bass position. Jeff formerly sang with the Anchormen and at the Blackwood Show in Pigeon Forge. Jerry Martin is tenor for the group from Bladenboro, NC. He formerly sang with the Dove Brothers. Brian Alvey sings baritone and also plays with the band. Brian is a former member of Tribute Quartet. The group ended the season singing “He Lifted Me.”
Famous songwriter Dianne Wilkinson has written about 60 sings for the group with the first cut for them was “I’ve Passed Over” in 1999. She says the exact number of songs are hard to count as some have been recorded more than once. Of the songs Dianne has written, there have been several number one songs: “What We Needed”(2008), “Tell Me Why” (2012), “Just Preach Jesus”(2013), “Just Beyond the Sunset”(2013), “The Borrowed Tomb”(2014 cowritten with Rebecca Peck and “I’ll Know I’m Home”(2014) cowritten with Jeff Crews.
Dianne says, “It has been my privilege to have the Heirs record my songs for about 16 years. God has blessed, and I have come to regard these dear men as if they were family. Every cut I have had on the Kingdom Heirs album has been amazing…all I envisioned for the songs, and more. I value their friendship, and admire their strong faith and their commitment to singing songs with a doctrinal message. Great quartet…great men of God! I love them and their families dearly!”The Kingdom Heirs have recorded on the Sunlight label since 1986. You can check out their traveling schedule for the next few weeks on their website www.kingdomheirs.com. If they are in your area GO OUT AND SEE THEM, I’m sure you will enjoy the evening.By Robert YorkDollywood Pictures by Robert York
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