The Facebook group, WE LOVE OUR SOUTHERN GOSPEL MUSIC HISTORY (WLOSGMH) is a phenomenon. Over thirty six thousand members, hundreds of remarks, audio and video shares and photo posts are commonplace every day. Friendships have been renewed, acquaintances become friendships and it all due to the love of southern gospel music.
Globally the group members span North and South America, Europe and even a few members from south East Asia. Each day, membership increases to relive those special one of a kind southern gospel moments and the historical music clips while sharing their music memorabilia and collections.
March 21-22, 2016 the Holiday Inn Airport-Opryland will host this annual convention of gospel music enthusiasts. The two day event features concerts, Monday evening banquet, Tuesday luncheon buffet, Q & A sessions, videos, sing-alongs, conversations, time for browsing for the gospel music memorabilia and friendships.
The talent list is a who’s who in gospel music. Featured is one of gospel music most acclaimed all-time quartets the Blackwood Brothers, convention music hosts the Pine Ridge Boys, the Sheltons, New Dove Brothers, the Downings, Jordan’s Bridge, Gary Timbs, Jeff Stice, Collectors Quartet, Ellen Marsh, Buddy Burton, Charlie Griffin, Rita Spillers and convention hosts Harold Timmons, Ann Downing, John Crenshaw and Hannah Kennedy. During this convention the music history will be represented and shared by hundreds of years of experienced participants.
What makes this event so unique? Why is the interest so intense? There are other heritage events in gospel music. The NQC, Albert Brumley Gospel Sing, Grand Ol’ Gospel Reunion, Singing At Sea and many more, too numerous to list. This event is the only one of its kind designed for a social media group that emphasizes the history of gospel music. It is the only event that features legacy artists whose music careers are rooted in gospel music. Those artists have and are still making contributions to our music.
The roots of gospel music start early to many fans and artists. Many enthusiasts were children who were ‘dragged’ to a concert by parents who were involved in church music or local groups. Others stumbled into a concert and the music bug just bit them. The WLOSGMH page administrators are no different in their exposure to southern gospel music.
Administrator, John Crenshaw (fan) remembers, “I was nine years old when I attended my first “all night sing” in Burlington, NC. It was held on New Year’s Eve, 1966. Funny thing was, three of the WLOSGMH administrators were at the concert, but we didn’t realize it until many years later. HT and I were in the audience, and Ann was singing with the Speer Family. Hannah was probably selling tickets, but we haven’t confirmed that.
It was a great show with the Speers, Chuck Wagon Gang, Oak Ridge Boys, Blue Ridge Quartet, Harvesters, and LeFevres.
Not long after that, I was at the Reynolds Auditorium every time they had a concert. This poster is from one of my favorites from 1969. Although they were not on the printed advertisement, the Downings were there and tore up the place! It was one of their first big NC performances.” Crenshaw is an active gospel music fan and historian with an extensive collection of gospel music and memorabilia.
Administrator Ann Downing (singer) shares, “I was about 8 or 9 years old when I heard a reel to reel recordings of a little local group close to where I grew up in North Mississippi. If my memory serves me right, the song was “Wait ‘Til You See me in My New Home”. I’m sure it wasn’t all that great, but I loved the harmony. Up until then, about all I’d known was convention singing out of the Stamps-Baxter, Vaughn, et al songbooks, which I love to this day.
Shortly after that, I went with a member of this group to my first “quartet concert” in Columbus, MS. The Statesmen and Blackwood Brothers were there…I was captivated.
I’m so grateful that it’s possible for a young cotton picker from a rural area to have a singing dream to come true.” Downing was vocalist for the Speers, Downings and is currently a touring soloist.
Administrator Harold Timmons (musician) states, “My first gospel sing was in the 1954. I was only seven years old. I think it was summer, because there either was no air conditioning in the building, or it was broken. This was at Reynolds Auditorium in Winston-Salem. There were many groups on the program, but my folks came to see the Chuck Wagon Gang for their first time. The building was sold out and it was standing room only. We were in the upper balcony, and folks were actually sitting on the steps in the balcony. Every now and then, the emcee would announce that the fire department was going to shut the program down if folks did not get off the stairways in the balconies.
The CWG was late getting there. While another group was on stage, a guitar amp sitting in a chair was slipped through the center of the back curtain. There was
thunderous applause, I didn’t know why, but that amp signaled to the rest of the audience that the CWG had arrived. This was my only time to see Dad Carter perform with them.
My parents started going to other programs in the area, and I was fascinated. When I got my driver’s license, I took myself to many concerts all around. I began collecting records of most all groups…78s, then 45s, then albums, and signed up for their newsletters. By the 60s I had pretty well determined I wanted to be a gospel pianist someday, as I was hooked on this music.
I started taking piano lessons, went to the Stamps Quartet School of Music, and started making contacts, readying myself for this business.” Timmons was instrumental in music staging with the Sheltons, Barnetts, Hemphills and Chuck Wagon Gang. He continues the gospel music connections with Gospel Gallery, selling collectibles and vintage gospel music.
The youngest administrator is 21 year old gospel music fan, Hannah Kennedy.
Kennedy says, “When I was 5, I went to my first gospel concert in Fort Wayne, IN. I was hooked right away. I wanted to learn all of the songs and know the names of every singer I heard. The living legends who traveled on Bill Gaither’s Homecoming tours quickly became my heroes and my family graciously took me to as many concerts as possible so that I could see them.
Shown is a picture Hannah took of Jake Hess at the Gospel Barn in LaGrange, GA when she was 5. August 26, 2000. And one of her favorite Gaither concert posters.
Collector and fan, Brent Joiner says, a night or two before I was born, my parents were at a Southern Gospel concert so I’ve been around it my entire life. My dad was a huge fan of Southern Gospel Music and that’s where the love for the music began for me. However, the Southern Gospel “bug” really bit me with full force when I was around 11 years old or so.
Joiner is shown with the ultra-rare albums, “Songs and Hymns by the Plainsmen” & “Sweet Beulah and” by the Statesmen Quartet
During my teenage years any money I earned through allowances, etc. I used on buying Southern Gospel Music. As well, the Grand Old Gospel Reunion videos were really where I started learning the history of the Southern Gospel genre and enjoyed it tremendously.
My all-time favorite group is the Statesmen Quartet and my all-time favorite singer is Jake Hess. My wife, Christina, also loves Southern Gospel Music and when we got married in 2004 that’s when I decided that collecting was “my calling”. I’m always looking for the next item to add to my collection, which most of the time is on a daily basis.
Another one of my daily activities is being involved in the “We Love Our Southern Gospel Music History” Facebook page. As far as my collecting, I collect everything associated with Southern
Gospel Music… vinyls, CD’s, cassettes, books, etc. One of my favorites pieces in my collection is the the marquee off of the Statesmen Quartet’s bus. At the inaugural “We Love Our Southern Gospel Music History Convention” in March 2015, I was able to get my hands on two of my most wanted recordings; “Sweet Beulah Land” by the Statesmen and “Songs & Hymns” (infamous red vinyl) by the Plainsmen Quartet. These two recordings are extremely rare to find, and I had been looking for them for a long time, so to add them to my collection was a thrill. By the way, the “WLOSGMH” Convention is one of the greatest new events in Southern Gospel Music to come along in a long time. I love Southern Gospel Music and being able to discuss it with my wife and friends, (who are like family) John Crenshaw, Dean Adkins, Harold Timmons, Hannah Kennedy, Aaron Rich, and many others is one of the great joys of my life.
Gospel music fan Nancy Carollo exclaims, “As a young teenager, in the mid to late 50’s, my older sister and I traveled 90 miles to Nashville on the first Friday of each month, to the Ryman Auditorium for the Wally Fowler all night sings. I followed southern gospel music till I married and moved to New York state in 1960, where southern gospel music wasn’t a familiar thing. I more or less lost track of southern gospel music until 1993. On a visit back to Tennessee, I went to see JD Sumner and the Stamps at Loretta Lynn Dude Ranch. My love for southern gospel music was rekindled. The match that really reignited the fire, was in 1996. On our way back to NY after my Mother’s funeral in Tennesse, we stopped in Auburn, IN for a concert of The Statesmen, Blackwoods, Stamps, Speers, and Nelons…just a little taste of Heaven. At this point, there is no turning back!”
As most can see young and old are bitten by the gospel music bug. The love shared by these countless fans is exciting and contagious to newcomers.
There are still limited packages available for the two day event. Also single concert tickets are available. For more information contact Harold Timmons at 615-885-8000 or visit the websites below.