WLOSGMH: “You Should’ve Been There” Memories in the Making!
I first became acquainted with gospel music as a child. It has kind of been in the family since I can remember. Momma Doris (my grandmother), Aunt Dolly Shirley and my Mom (playing piano too) sang in the Morning Star Trio every Sunday morning for the Morning Star Hour radio program on WATA Radio in Boone, NC. Pastor Ross Greene delivered the fiery message back in the day. Then I saw the Harvesters Quartet with Bill Hefner, Mac Evans, Don Norman, Jack Clark and Bob Thacker at homecoming. Over the years they became friends. And the music love affair began.
I remember the first time I heard the Sego Brothers and Naomi. They were the feature group at the Singing at Grandfather Mountain hosted by Arthur Smith and the Crossroads Quartet. What a singing! What a crowd of artists and fans. I would stand and wonder what the groups were talking about behind their record tables.
Then we got a black and white TV. Sunday mornings on Charlotte’s WBTV we would see the legends of gospel music on the infamous Gospel Singing Jubilee hosted by the renowned Florida Boys. I remember sneaking into the living room and cutting the TV down really low and watching the Happy Goodmans, Dixie Echoes (loved me some Dale Shelnut), LeFevres, Segos, Rambos, Inspirations, Marksmen Qt, Hinsons and a host of other popular groups.
In later years, I was able to go to many concerts. I will always be fond of three places for gospel concerts.
In Charlotte, NC the Carolina Song Festival hosted by Bill Heffner and the Harvesters (later the Singing Americans) for the annual Easter and Thanksgiving Sings.
Early Carney took over CR McLain’s concerts in Winston Salem, NC at Reynolds Auditorium. Earl also hosted WXII-TV’s popular Gospel Songs with Bob Thacker for many years.
I loved going to the Lake Norman Music Hall in Denver, NC for the DR Lutz gospel concerts hosted by his radio program “Gospel Singing Time in the Carolinas.”
There too, I would wonder about those record table conversations as I heard their laughs and saw their smiles.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s I worked at WHKY FM radio, 102.9 on the dial. For those many years I hosted the sign off show. The 6 hour music program featured nothing but gospel music. Quartets, trios, soloists, national, regional and retired artists. The music library was stocked full of albums, 45 books, some original radio station pressed recordings, reel to reel tapes of artists and I WAS IN MUSIC HEAVEN. When artists would drop the station, at some point a topic would be about “something back in the day.”
In the fall of 1979, I was able to go to the NQC held at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, TN. I was singing with a regional group, the Meetin’ Time Quartet. It is hard to explain the excitement, emotion and thrill to be among the greatest of gospel music. But meeting those legends and hearing their stories back stage was awesome. I listened and how I listened.
I worked and was part of the management team for the Hallelujah Supper Club for 20 years. Booking the artists, I was able to develop lifetime friendships with so many artists. We were the place for many firsts in the Carolinas. The Talleys, The Brothers, Jeff and Sheri Easter, Heaven Bound and others booked the HSC when they first started. We introduced countless artists to the region that are still loved today. But the after concert talks always had stories from back in the day, those “you should’ve been there” moments.
Then in the early 80’s I started working with the Singing Americans. It there I met the gate keepers! Jim Sheets, Chuck Watson, John Lyons, Toby Pritchard and a slew of others worked the back door of the NQC where the artists and a few fans would enter. I would sit for hours listening to those “let me tell you” stories of artists and concerts long since passed.
It is at the NQC when I worked for Gospel Music News (Southern Gospel Music News) and later the Singing News that I became personal friends with so many legends. JD and Mary Agnes Sumner, Rose Nell Speer Powell, Mary Tom Speer
Reid, Ben Speer, Bill Traylor and the list goes on and on. There again those stories and once in a lifetime happenings took center stage for me.
Being in “the business” I was able to work more closely with artists, songwriters, and the media and with recording studios. At some point in those meetings and conversations, somehow the history of gospel music would come up. Stories and life events were shared filled with laughter and there was genuine love and interest among all of us.
The oral history of gospel music has never had one place as such. True there is the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame, The Gospel Music Hall of Fame, The Southern Gospel Music Guild and other organizations that help promote gospel music growth, but not one dedicated solely to the history, the oral history of southern gospel music.
Times have changed somewhat with technology. The social media craze that started with My Space moved to Facebook. There are other social media venues too, but none compare to Facebook. We Love Our Southern Gospel Music History or WLOSGMH became the social media meeting place for that oral history four years ago. The social media gatekeepers much like those from the Nashville NQC keep the stories, music, photos and tid-bits relevant for gospel music enthusiast.
John Crenshaw, Hannah Kennedy, Harold Timmons and Ann Downing are today’s gate keepers. Their insights into the history and the use of their personal collections share southern gospel music history with today’s growing fan. Memories are shared on the Facebook site. Yet participants clamored for more. So a social media convention was created to meet the fan demand for more history.
2017 marks the third year for WLOSGMH social media convention. This is a time of collecting, gospel music, memories, sharing stories, food and fellowship. The conversations are filled with those “you should’ve been there” and “let me tell you what happened” stories. THIRD ANNUAL WLOSGMH CONVENTION is Monday and Tuesday, March 27th & 28th, 2017.
The social media frenzy is the reason people who love the same music join together for two jam-packed days of re-living those once in a lifetime memories. But is more than a memory, it is a time to give the oral history of who, what, when, where and how of southern gospel music. It is time to share that history with inquiring minds from across the country.
A Monday evening dinner concert opens the festivities plus videos and more music on Tuesday morning and afternoon. A full Tuesday of activities, luncheon, and evening concert rounds out the convention. Annual WLOSGMH music favorites include The Sheltons, Ann Downing, Jeff Stice, Collector’s Quartet, Administrator’s Quartet, McCray Dove, Charlie Griffin, Jordan’s Bridge, Ellen Marsh and Rita Spillers. New artists appearing this year include The Williamsons, Matt Felts and Freedom Quartet. There promises to be a few surprises during the two day event held in Murfreesboro, TN.
WLOSGMH vendors will be set up with history, collectibles, music, song books, sheet music, memorabilia and lots of stuffs will be available for the avid gospel music enthusiast. If you are searching for that one of a kind record or gift you will be happy looking over the many vendor tables.
The Clarion Hotel provides coffee 24 hours a day in the lobby and will be a central conversation point any time, day or night.
The WLOSGMH Convention is a sellout event. Fans from across America come to this one of a kind gathering. Harold Timmons shares, “This is not an all-night-sing or church service, but is an internet social. I think everyone who has attended would agree that they have enjoyed our event because it was different in many respects and a lot of fun. Yes, we will have plenty of singing and probably some surprises…but it is the mixing and mingling and socializing with close internet friends that is so special. That was always a plus at GOGR, and now that there is no more GOGR, perhaps this could fill a void.”
The Clarion Hotel is the convention headquarters. Located at 2227 Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro, TN. For complete WLOSGMH fan package, concert tickets, hotel and event information click here.
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