The year was about 1967. I drove over to PVCS high school, in my city of Peterborough, to hear a group called the McDuff Brothers. The McDuff brothers consisted of John, Colman and Roger McDuff. Playing piano for the group was a young man, which I later learned was born in Canada! His name was Lorne Matthews.
As a fairly new Christian it seemed as if every song sung and every note played were for me only. I vividly recall watching this talented young piano player play with such ease. It seemed as if his fingers flowed over the keys! The other thing I remember was the smile that was constantly on his face. It was during this time period that God was working in me and He instilled a love for this wonderful style of music. I loved the singing and I loved the piano playing. Lorne Matthews, with his contagious smile, made a huge impact on a young Christian man.
I had the privilege to talk with Lorne Matthews on the phone recently. We chatted a bit and I learned a lot about this talented man of God. “I was about 10 years old when I first started getting involved with the piano,” says Matthews. “I think my first public performance was playing for a ladies group called the Batten Sisters.” This was in a church in Toronto. “Later on, I played for a group called The Sons of Praise. Realistically, this was the first time that I got involved with quartet-type music.”
Lorne has many of the Gospel greats as his musical inspirations or heroes. “The Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen and Henry Slaughter all had a great influence on me as I got involved with the business.”
Lorne was born in Toronto, Canada. He studied at the Toronto Conservatory of Music and at London Bible College. His first exposure to Gospel Music was with the Benson Brothers Quartet, during the 1950’s. From 1959-61, he was a member of the King’s Men Trio, the first professional group he was with.
It was during this period, that Lorne married his sweetheart, Jimmie Ruth, in December of 1962. Lorne and Jimmie Ruth decided to move to Canada, because of his involvement with the King’s Men. Later, while still in Canada, Lorne joined the group, the Salton Brothers. Lorne recalls, “I think the Salton Brothers were Canada’s first full time group. The Salton Brothers had a weekly Gospel Music show. I believe it was the first TV show of this type in Canada.”
After the Salton Brothers, Lorne joined the McDuff Brothers. He was with the McDuff Brothers from 1965-1967. During this period, their son Mark was born in London, Ontario. “We decided to move to the USA because we thought there may be better musical possibilities there.”
With all the different groups Matthews has played for, I asked him if he had any favorites. “Without a doubt,” he quickly replied. “The McDuff Brothers. This dedicated, anointed group taught me and showed what ministry really is.”
Lorne’s one big ambition was to play piano for the Blackwood Brothers. One night, Lorne had a dream that James Blackwood had called him and offered him a position with the Blackwood Brothers. In that dream however, God told him to stay with the McDuff Brothers. Shortly after this, James Blackwood did call Mathews and offered him the job. Lorne shared his dream with James Blackwood, but Blackwood said, “Lorne, if God has spoken to you in that manner in a dream, I would encourage you not to leave the McDuff Brothers.” Matthews stayed with the McDuff Brothers until they disbanded.
One of Matthew’s memorable moments was playing the piano for David Mainse’s very first TV program, in Pembroke, Ontario. The year was 1962. David Mainse is well known in Canada for the Gospel Program, 100 Huntley Street. Mathews also served in several church positions during this time period. He had a short stint with the Landmark Quartet, before joining the prestigious Cathedral Quartet in 1971-72.
Lorne Matthews also toured with his own family, Jimmie Ruth, Mark and Melody. The Matthews family recorded several instrumental and vocal recordings during this period. In 1979 he returned with the Cathedrals for a short stay.
After this period, Lorne, Roy Tremble and George Amon Webster joined together, to form the Brothers Trio. I contacted Roy Tremble to ask him about Lorne Matthews. “Lorne is probably one of the most talented people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I’ve been doing this for almost 50 years and he’s got to be the best piano player I ever worked with.” He continued, “Lorne was writing some great songs back then.” While talking with Roy Tremble, he joked, “Just don’t ever let him drive, especially on snow and ice.”
After the Brothers Trio disbanded, Lorne concentrated his focus on his solo album Keyboards for the King Ministry, along with his wife, Jimmie Ruth.
While working on research for this article, I was totally blown away by the different tributes and awards Lorne Matthews has received. With the space that I’m allotted, it is impossible to list them all here. One of the more memorable moments for Lorne was being inducted into the Piano Roll of Honor Hall Of Fame in 2003. Also in 2003, he was presented with the living legend award for over 45 years in Gospel music. Matthews had the honor of playing piano for President Ronald Reagan, for his first congressional prayer breakfast.
In 2006, Matthews went to Nigeria, where he performed for over eight million people all at one time and at one place. He also performed with the McDuff Brothers during this concert.
Today, Lorne and his wife Jimmie Ruth are hard at work with Keyboards for the King Ministry. The Matthews home base is in Lakeland, Florida; they often spend the summer months working the Northern states and visiting their family in Ohio.
This is a breakdown of Lorne’s busy life and ministry:
1950s Benson Brothers Quartet
1960-61 The King’s Men Trio
1962-64 Salton Brothers
1965-67 The McDuff Brothers
The Landmark Quartet
1971-80 Cathedral Quartet
1974-79 Lorne Matthews Family
1980-81 The Brothers
Present day: Keyboards for the King
I encourage the reader to visit Lorne and Jimmie Ruth’s website. Read Lorne’s remarkable testimony. Listen to some clips of Lorne and Jimmie Ruth’s anointed music. Here you can find a wonderful list of music you can purchase, or email Lorne and Jimmie Ruth and let them know how much you appreciate their years of dedicated ministry.
Lorne Matthews Website http://www.lornematthews.com/
Lorne Matthews 2002 Grand Old Opry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE8g6PJz5S0
Written by Philip Foster for SGM Radio. First published April 2014. For current features please visit http://www.sgmradio.com/