The Marksmen Quartet of Murrayville, Ga. were stranded when their white Ford travel van, white enclosed Country Boy trailer and all their instruments, costumes and equipment were stolen, according to Earle Wheeler, group leader.
The multi award-winning group were traveling Thanksgiving weekend to perform at the annual Myrtle Beach Bluegrass Festival in South Carolina when they stopped about 12:30 for an overnight stay Nov. 25 at the Quality Inn on Dunbarton Drive in Florence, he said.
When the group came out at 7:30 a.m. the next morning they found their vehicle gone and the five men left standing there figuring out how to reach their performance and how they would perform it without their instruments.
â€œNeedless to say we were surprised by the predicament,â€ Wheeler said. â€œBut there is a reason for everything under heaven.â€
He said that the outpouring of support for the group when they reached their destination was such a blessing.
â€œThe bluegrass folks have been so good to us,â€ he said. â€œOther performers loaned us their instruments to do the shows. Many supporters have reached out to help us financially because the future is still uncertain as to how we will replace everything that was taken. Like any music ministry we rely on those that support our efforts.â€
One of the regular means of support is by consumers purchasing product from their concert table or website but the theft took away hundreds of CDs, DVDs as well as specialized display racks and materials, he said.
Wheeler formed the group in 1967 and after 44 years on the road, the quartet which currently records for Rural Rhythm is one of the most awarded country and bluegrass gospel groups performing today (www.marksmenquartet.com).
After the group arranged transportation to reach their performances, the police located their vehicle in Berkeley County, SC left in a disabled condition, Wheeler said.
â€œThere was no trailer, instruments, sound equipment, or stage costumes, boots or other items to be found,â€ he said. “I have yet to see the van but they tell me they have done damage that makes it undrivable.”
Inside the van, the police did recover Wheelerâ€™s Bible.
â€œThatâ€™s the one thing they probably really needed to keep,â€ Wheeler said. â€œWe were driving the van and trailer while we looked for a 25,500 gross vehicle weight bus to travel in. Costs of operating a larger bus have made it difficult to keep one on the road.â€
Lead singer and songwriter Mark Wheeler said losing oneâ€™s instrument is like losing an extension of you.
â€œMany of these were specially made for us, in fact two cannot even be replaced because they were the first or a one-of-a-kind,â€ he said. â€œWe hope that the authorities will locate the instruments but even if they donâ€™t, we will do our best with whatever the Lord provides.â€
Among the stolen instruments with cases are: 2008 Mossman Texas Plains guitar with mahogany sides and back and a big sound hole serial number 08078; a 1991 Mossman Texas Plains guitar with rosewood sides and back and a serial number beginning with 91; a 1999 Mossman Wheeler Gospel all mahogany guitar with serial number 990506; a one-of-a-kind late 1990s Mossman resonator guitar all mahogany with F holes with no serial number; a 1973 Gibson Mastertone banjo, and a blonde Engelhardt upright bass model number em1b with serial numberÂ 91443.
If anyone has information on whereabouts of the trailer or the bandâ€™s equipment they should contact, the Florence Police Department 843-676-8800 or the South Carolina Crime Stoppers hotline at 888-CRIME SC (274-6372). Callers need not reveal their identities.
If anyone wishes to assist the Marksmen Quartet, their mailing address is 1312 Post White Hill Road, Murrayville, Ga. 30564 or their office number is (706) 864-2951.