The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion is a one-of-a-kind event due to the fact that we never assemble in the same way year after year. Here we pay tribute to the legends and various contributors of gospel music who have passed away since the 2009 GOGR.
Jerry Barnette was born on October 17, 1935 in Caldwell Parish, Louisiana. As he grew up, gospel music was very popular in North Louisiana. Weekly singing conventions and summer singing schools were just a part of life. As a part of this environment, Barnette developed his musical talent and became an excellent singer.
In the early 1950’s Jerry was a part of Garland May’s popular Chordsmen Quartet in Monroe. Louisiana. During the mid 1950’s there were two Stamps Quartets based in Dallas, Texas. The Stamps Quartet was the full time traveling quartet. The Stamps Harmony Five Quartet was made up of men who also worked in the Stamps Quartet Publishing Plant and sang primarily on weekends. Frank Stamps hired Barnette to sing in The Harmony Five, as Jack Mainord replaced Don Randall in the Stamps Quartet.
In 1957, when the Stamps Quartet left the Stamps organization and changed their name to The Plainsmen, The Harmony Five officially became The Stamps Quartet. When the Stamps Quartet Music Company was sold, Jerry returned to his Louisiana roots where he lived until his death.
During his post Stamps Quartet years Jerry was involved in church music and sang in his own part time quartet. Jerry Barnette passed away February 1, 2010. He was 74.
Oldham recorded more than 65 albums and performed for national and international dignitaries including former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, as well as Prince Phillip and the Queen of England.
He was the recipient of two Dove Awards and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2007, Oldham received the Lifetime Champion Award for his many years of service at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty University named a remodeled room in their Fine Arts Building "Oldham Revital Hall", and an anonymous donor contributed to the beginnings of the Doug Oldham Music Scholarship Program at Liberty.
Doug Oldham passed away July 21 awaiting surgery, after falling and breaking his back. He was 79.
Leonard Edward "Red" Mathis was born September 7, 1920 in Henrietta, NC. During World War II, Mathis served with the 2nd Indian Head Army Division during "D" Day Operations. He received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in France. He was awarded the Two Star Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Metal, and Meritorious Service Unit. Upon his discharge from the Army, Mathis worked at Converse Mill in Converse, SC.
He sang in several choirs, and while singing in a choir at Zion Hill Baptist Church, he was chosen as the original tenor singer for the Blue Ridge Quartet. Mathis joined James Smith, Rosie Rosebury, Shaw Eiland, and Jack Taylor in forming this legendary group. Mathis remained with the Blue Ridge Quartet until 1950.
Following his tenure with the Blue Ridge, Mathis worked in New Jersey as a supervisor for Kazam Organization, and as a warehouse supervisor for Uddeholm Steel in Hartford, Connecticut, after which he took medical retirement.
In his later years, he returned to the Spartanburg area. He was a member of Eastside Baptist Church, where he sang solo on several occasions. He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans and American Legion Post #0045.
Mathis passed away at Richard Campbell Veterans Home on June 19. He was 89.
Following his retirement from the gospel music world in the late 1950s, he worked as an insurance agent for 50 years. Patterson died unexpectedly on May 18 at his farm in Hiddenite, North Carolina. He was 79.
Priscilla McGruder was the
voice and presence that propelled her family group, The McGruders, to
the forefront of the gospel music industry.
Her life partnership with her husband, Carroll McGruder formed
a team of songwriter and performer that would reach thousands.
Beginning in the 1970s, The McGruders released some of gospel
music’s best-known songs of the last several decades, many recorded
by other groups such as The Florida Boys, Cathedrals, Hoppers, and
Gold City. Some of their best known songs include "I'm Going Home With
Jesus", " Saved", " I've Just Started
Living", "Thanks", " I Lean On You, Lord",
"A Great Homecoming" and "Most of All".
Mrs. McGruder was well-documented in her fight against breast cancer during her last years. Her faith and strength remained an inspiration to many as her song and testimony never waned. Priscilla McGruder passed away on April 29 after being placed in hospice care a few days earlier. She was 61.
Through the years, Ray Shelton was an active part of Southern Gospel music. During the 1970s and 80s, he was leader of the Senators Quartet, which featured such gospel talents as Jim
Hamill, Bill Shaw, London Parris, Rick Fair, Gary Timbs, and Ed
In 1990, he was instrumental in forming the James Blackwood Quartet with James Blackwood, Ken Turner, Rosie Rozell and Brad White...then later Larry Ford. This group was a crowd favorite anywhere they went during most of the decade of the 1990s, earning a Grammy nomination.
Ray also started Senators Coaches. which was one of the most successful companies in bus leasing for many years.
Ray Shelton passed away on April 8. He was 83.
There are few groups in the entertainment world that have accomplished even a few of the many feats of the Sunshine Boys. The Sunshine Boys were formed in the late 1930's as a country and western band. Smith joined his brother Smitty, Ace Richman, and Pat Patterson in forming the quartet. Patterson was soon replaced by Eddie Wallace. The Sunshine Boys recorded several sides for the Village Label and the Pan-American label with this personnel, as well as appearing in multiple western movies alongside Charles Starrett, Eddie Dean, Lash Larue, and Smiley Burnette. The Sunshine Boys performed on several radio stations in the Atlanta area including WAGA and WSB.
The Sunshine Boys demonstrated their versatility at this time by performing as two different groups on radio station WAGA. The station needed a Western swing band, so the Sunshine Boys became their alter-ego: The Light Crust Dough Boys. They would perform a fifteen minute radio program as the Light Crust Dough Boys complete with a guitar, a bass, a fiddle, and an accordion as accompaniment. During a thirty-second commercial break, the group would then transform themselves into the Sunshine Boys. Eddie Wallace would move to the piano, swing the microphones around, and the Sunshine Boys would sing a fifteen minute gospel program. This setup lasted for several years. Very few listeners in the Atlanta area realized they were listening to the same group with different names. Their concert performances were always done under the name "The Sunshine Boys" and they featured basically gospel music. Their arrangements of these gospel tunes and spirituals were far superior to most of the groups of that day due to the vast musical abilities of all of the members of the group.
The Smith Brothers left the Sunshine Boys in 1949 to pursue country and western music horizons further, and remained in the Atlanta area for many years.
Smith passed away on September 2 at the age of 91.
Following the death of popular tenor Bobby Strickland in 1953, Hefner became tenor for the Crusaders Quartet of Birmingham, Alabama, joining Herschel Wooten, Bervin Kendrick, Buddy Parker, and Dickie Matthews. The remainder of the Crusaders' career was short-lived, and the following year, Hefner, Wooten, and Parker formed the Harvesters Quartet in Charlotte, NC. The quartet enjoyed immense popularity from 1954 until their retirement in 1967, appearing on numerous National and North Carolina TV channels. Hefner became best known for his comedy, first-class emcee work, and his performance of the song "He'll Pilot Me".
Hefner continued promoting gospel music for many years in his home state following the disbandment of the Harvesters. In 1974, he was elected to the 94th United States Congress, where he served a total of 12 terms, from January 3, 1975 through January 3, 1999, before retiring from Congress. Hefner built a reputation as an advocate for military veterans, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina, was renamed in his honor in 1999.
Bill Hefner was always a favorite at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, serving most often as emcee for the concerts for the last 12 years. His appearances at Let's Make A Deal are legendary. It is highly doubtable that Hefner being dressed in a Dolly Parton wig and zebra-patterned bra at Let's Make A Deal this year will be forgotten anytime soon (see the photo gallery). His performances of "Glory Road" at the Jam Sessions were a GOGR tradition. He was a recipient of the GOGR Living Legend Award in 1998. His final concert appearance was at the 2009 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion will certainly miss his dry wit and classy emcee work.
Bill Hefner suffered a massive brain aneurism and passed away on September 2. He was 79.
Cards of encouragement may be sent to:
411 Browns Creek Rd
Guntersville AL 35976
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Last Modified: August 13, 2010
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