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 2014 GOGR.

 

Carolyn Sue Kirksey was born on May 12, 1942, in Graceville, Florida. She married Jerry Kirksey in 1967, and two years later, Jerry was instrumental in establishing Singing News Magazine with JG Whitfield. When the Kirksey Family and the Singing News base of operations moved to Boone, North Carolina, in 1987, Carolyn put her administrative skills to work in helping successfully re-establish Singing News in its new home.

By the 1990s, Carolyn returned to her love of homemaking and cooking, and also traveled with Jerry to southern gospel concerts through 2010. She wrote a monthly cooking column for the Singing News for many years, and also published a cookbook entitled, "For the Love of Cooking". She was also active in numerous charitable causes, including Galilean Childrens Home, Lighthouse Childrens Home, Hebron Colony, and Samaritan's Purse.

Following a lengthy battle withwith the Lord Carolyn Kirksey went home to be with the Lord on July 13, at the age of 73.

 


 

Gerald Lynn Stroup was born on June 22, 1952, in Bonne Terre, Missouri, later moving to Pensacola, Florida, at the age of seven. He began singing with his family at the age of five, and in 1974, he joined the Dixie Echoes. The lineup of Stroup, Dale Shelnut, Randy Shelnut, Eugene Hathcoat, Keith Palmer, and musicians Andrew Shelnut and Randy Allred, made many appearances during this time as one of the mainstay quartets of the Gospel Singing Jubilee. Stroup remained with the Dixie Echoes for three years, later joining the Singing News Singers.

Stroup possessed an outstanding operatic tenor voice, and following his gospel music career, performed in several prestigious musical teams and venues. He performed with the Pensacola Opera, Pensacola Choral Society, New Orleans Opera, New Orleans Symphony, New Zealand Opera, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as in Carnegie Hall. Stroup's friendship with the Dixie Echoes continued until his death. Whenever the Dixie Echoes were in need of a fill-in tenor, Stroup was never far away, stepping into the role off and on whenever needed.

Gerry Stroup passed away on July 3, due to complications from diabetes. He was 63.

 


 

Born on November 12, 1921, R. Hilton Griswold is best remembered for having spent a decade as pianist for the famous Blackwood Brothers Quartet.  Hilton joined brothers Roy, Doyle, James, and RW in 1940, where he remained until the Blackwood Brothers' move to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1950.  Griswold was a piano showman, whose quick right hand and heavy pedal style set the standard for all Blackwood pianists to follow.  Not only was he an outstanding accompanist, but he was the quintessential utility man.  Upon the outbreak of World War II, the original Blackwood Brothers were forced to go their separate ways due to unforeseen health circumstances and RW's draft notice.  During these years of uncertainty, Griswold filled bass and baritone roles, in addition to playing piano for the quartet.  Following the post-war boom years, the Blackwood Brothers only went higher in popularity.

Griswold was credentialed as as Assemblies of God minister on July 10, 1948.  It was this calling that eventually lured him away from the Blackwood Brothers.  Griswold entered into full-time ministry upon the Blackwood Brothers' move to Memphis, pastoring churches in Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.  Griswold remained active in gospel music until his death.  His television show, Inspiration Time, was a mainstay in the midwest for decades.

He was inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame with the Blackwood Brothers, and inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Piano Roll of Honor in 1999.

Hilton Griswold passed away on May 5.  He was 93.

 


 

Born in Fentress County, Tennessee, on January 8, 1925, John Eben Hull was a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ for over 65 years, serving churches as both a pastor and an evangelist. His strong communication skills and his passion for God and people gave him a strong foundation upon which he built a sterling ministerial career.

In 1948, he began the Back to Bethel Hour, a weekly Bible teaching program which continues to this present day. He married the lovely Agnes Holley in 1950, and the two formed a very successful evangelistic team. In 1951, the Hulls formed The Joymakers, a singing trio who traveled across the south singing in churches in concert halls. The group recorded several albums and singles, and among the group's prestigious alumni include Jack Toney, Ferrell Cannutt, and Cat Freeman.

Hull eventually conducted revivals all over the United States and in several foreign countries overseas. He spoke on a weekly basis to congregations well into his eighties. He mentored countless pastors and ministers through the years and led thousands to Christ.

Rev. John Hull passed away on March 12, at age 90.


 

Terry Davis was born on March 28, 1960, in Houston County, Alabama. After graduating from Dothan High School and receiving a musical scholarship to Chipola College, Davis joined the Florida Boys in 1983. Davis's years with the Florida Boys sparked a resurgence in their popularity. Davis was the featured voice on the original recording of the Florida Boys' signature song, "When He Was on the Cross", which won Song of the Year at the Singing News Fan Awards for two consecutive years. In 1986, Davis joined popular young quartet of the day, The Sound, from Houston, Texas, where he remained until 1990.

Following his days in the quartet circuit, Davis traveled primarily as a soloist. He pastored several churches and at the time of his death was employed with the Correction Facility in Graceville, Florida. Davis appeared once again with the Florida Boys at the National Quartet Convention in 2007, for the farewell performance of Les Beasley, Glen Allred, and Derrell Stewart.

Tragically, Terry Davis was killed in an automobile accident on March 7. He was 54.


 

V.R. "Doc" Dooley was born on October 10, 1920, in Lone Oak, Texas. Gospel music was a part of Doc's life from an early age. He spent his teenage years playing and singing with his family, and by his late teens, he began accompanying many quartets, including the Stamps-Baxter Quartet.

Following his marriage to Anna Mae Walker in 1943, Dooley entered World War II in the United States Army. His heroic actions earned him the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Upon returning from the War, Dooley spent the majority of his musical career teaching piano, directing music at churches in the Dallas area, and writing songs. Dooley penned over 400 gospel songs including "Heavenly Highways", "That's His Name", "We Will Have Joy Up There", "I Have A Feeling", and "Help Is on the Way". His songs have been included in numerous convention hymnbooks, and recorded by numerous artists including the Speer Family, Hayes Family, Palmetto State Quartet, and the JoSan Singers.

Dooley made multiple appearances at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in his later years. In 2005, he received the Living Legend Award, and in 2007, he was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Piano Roll of Honor.

Doc Dooley passed away on February 28 at 94.

 


 

Thomas Mosie Lister was born on September 8, 1921, in Cochran, Georgia, the son of Willis and Pearl Holland Lister.

When Mosie was twelve, Willis bought him his first violin, and Mosie found playing it a relatively easy skill to master, and hence developed a keen ear for music. This, combined with the available solitude of farm life allowed him to create finished musical performances of all types in his fertile imagination.

When he was eighteen, he traveled to the Vaughan School of Music in Tennessee to study harmony with Adger M. Pace, and G. T. Speer. In 1941 he proceeded to Tampa, FL, to join the Sunny South Quartet, adding his baritone voice to those of Clide Cain, Horace Floyd, Lee Kitchens, and pianist, R.D. Ginnett.

In 1946 he met and married Wylene Whitten. They moved to Atlanta, where they were blessed with identical twin daughters, Brenda & Barbara. Mosie's singing career continued to evolve as Mosie, Lee, and "Chief" established the Melody Masters quartet, pulling in Alvin Tootle on first Tenor and Wally Varner on piano. This provided an opportunity for him to begin innovating new sounds and ground-breaking vocal arrangements.

After a break from singing due to a respiratory infection, Mosie regained his health and helped Hovie Lister (no relation) build a new quartet which became the original Statesmen. In time, Mosie relinquished his singing career, but stayed with the Statesmen as their writer/arranger. These were golden years for the Statesmen as they became immensely popular with such hits as "Goodbye, World, Goodbye, "I'll Leave It All Behind", "I'm Bound for the Kingdom", and "Sunday Meetin' Time".

By 1953, Mosie had formed his own publishing company, and was so busy with writing, arranging, and company business, Wylene asked him why he didn't just quit his day job and write music. Mosie knew of no one who had supported a family in this way, but after some intense prayer, he did quit his day job, and God affirmed his choice by blessing him with some of his best songs that year.

Wylene passed away in 2001, and within the next two years Mosie made some big decisions. He married Martha Hunter, and the newlyweds moved to Tennessee, where they lived near Martha's daughter Vicki (wife of Booth Brothers tenor Michael), and Mosie's daughter Barbara (married to David Williams, a veteran music minister, keyboardist and arranger).

Mosie Lister penned hundreds more gospel music classics over his lifetime, including "Where No One Stands Alone", "How Long Has It Been", "Then I Met the Master", "Happy Rhythm", "I'm Feelin' Fine", "His Hand In Mine", just to name a few. His songs have been recorded by virtually every artist in southern gospel music, as well as from secular icons including Elvis Presley, Webb Pierce, Red Foley, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Jean Shepard. Mosie continued writing well into his eighties. He was a charter inductee into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1997, a 1976 inductee into of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion's Living Legend Award in 2001.

Mosie Lister met the Master in the land where no one stands alone on February 12. He was 93.  May his songs live on while the ages roll.

 


 

Claude Hunter was born in Liberty, South Carolina, in 1928. A veteran of the Korean War, Hunter is best remembered as long standing tenor vocalist for the Palmetto State Quartet. Hunter joined the group in 1960, just as the quartet gained national prominence with their appearances on Bob Poole's Gospel Favorites. With Hunter's clear tenor vocals, Ken Turner's harmonic bass voice and show-stopping impressions, and veterans Jack Pittman, Jack Bagwell, and Jamie Dill anchoring the quartet, the Palmetto State only went higher in the field of gospel music.  Their album "On Bended Knee" elevated them with their peers as one of the nation's great quartets.

Hunter departed the quartet in 1963, only to return eight years later, remaining with Palmetto State for another 15 years. Hunter also worked in the US Postal Service, and after his retirement from Palmetto State, drove buses for Christian Tours for several years.

Claude Hunter passed away on February 4. He was 86.


 

Robert J. "Dickie" Matthews was born on October 31, 1933, in Charleston, West Virginia. He began playing piano at age 7 in church, after his father reconditioned a discarded upright piano.

Matthews' piano career was long and varied. He began in the early 1950s as pianist for the Crusaders Quartet. The Crusaders' were on the cusp of greatness when tragedy struck them in 1953, when an automobile accident killed their tenor vocalist and manager, Bobby Strickland. The Crusaders continued for another year with Bill Hefner assuming Strickland's role, but soon disbanded.

From there, Matthews moved to Jimmy Jones's Deep South Quartet in Atlanta, Georgia, where they soon began backing country artist Jimmy Dean. In 1959, Matthews moved to Chattanooga, where he remained until his death. During the 1960s, he traveled on a limited basis with Connor Hall and the Homeland Harmony Quartet. In 1969, Paul and Ann Downing called, and Dickie Matthews was the original pianist for The Downings. Matthews at the piano, combined with the youth and excitement of Sue Chenault and Greg Gordon, and the voices of Paul annd Ann anchoring the group, helped the Downings create a sound that was both inventive and rooted in traditional gospel style. They soon became one of the nation's most loved groups of the era.

Beginning in the 70s, Matthews began a long tenure with Fay Sims and the Scenicland Quartet, whom he was playing for at the time of his death. He also played for the Roger Horne Trio and the Impacts.  Perhaps his greatest musical legacy, however, is the 25 years he spent as pianist for the Riverboat Ramblers Band aboard the Southern Belle Riverboat in Chattanooga.

Matthews was a 2000 inductee into the Piano Roll of Honor, in addition to receiving the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion's Living Legend Award in 2002. He also received the Distinguished Citizen Award for the Hamilton County Commission of Chattanooga.

Following a long battle with cancer, Dickie Matthews died on February 1. He was 81.


 

Born on July 7, 1923, Lee Kitchens had a long career in gospel music.  A World War II veteran, Kitchens' career in gospel music began in 1946 when he became the lead singer for the Sunny South Quartet of Lakeland, Florida.  The Sunny South became very popular in their home state, yet Kitchens, James "Big Chief" Wetherington, and Mosie Lister soon branched out and formed The Melody Masters Quartet.  Kitchens was later instrumental in organizing the Dixie Rebels in Tampa, Florida in 1950.  The quartet quickly gained in popularity, and soon changed its name to The Rebels Quartet.

In addition to singing lead vocals, Kitchens served as manager and emcee for the quartet.  Bibletone Records signed them to a recording contract, and the Rebels gained in national popularity.  Kitchens left the Rebels in 1959, later joining forces with Calvin Newton and Bob Robinson in the Sons of Song.  Together, this lineup recorded the Sons' signature song, "Wasted Years", and toured off and on through the decade of the 1960s.  In 1972, Kitchens, along with Little Jimmy Taylor, returned to the Rebels Quartet, where he remained until their disbandment in 1975.

A favorite at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, Lee Kitchens received the Living Legend Award in 1995.  Kitchens spent his retirement years in Florida, making sporadic appearances with the remaining members of the Original Rebels until the early 2000s.

Lee Kitchens passed away on January 23, following a long battle with cancer.  He was 91.


 

Lari Goss was born on February 19, 1945, in Cartersville, Georgia.  At age 10, Lari began singing with his older brothers, James and Roni, in a local church founded by his grandfather.  As the Goss children grew, so also grew the requests for appearances for "The Little Goss Boys of Cartersville".  They made several appearances around the Atlanta area throughout their childhood, and as they progressed into their teens, they became known as The Goss Brothers. 

In 1962, the Goss Brothers signed with Sing Records, launching not only a professional singing career, but beginning their career as in-demand studio musicians.  As studio musicians, the Goss Brothers accompanied virtually every well-known group in gospel music.  As a singing group, the Brothers brought new ideas to gospel music, creating a sound that was uniquely theirs.  Far ahead of their time, The Goss Brothers' influence on gospel singing is as fresh in 2015 as it was more than five decades ago.  Tragically, the Brothers' singing career was cut short upon the untimely death of James Goss in 1980.

Goss's individual accomplishments are many.  During the 1970s, Lari had established himself as one of gospel music's top producers.  For more than four decades, Goss's placed his legendary musical stamp on recordings by The Speer Family, The Cathedrals, The Nelons, The Martins, Gaither Vocal Band, Greater Vision, the Booth Brothers, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and The Hoppers just to name a few.  His orchestrations have appeared on recordings by such names as Glen Campbell, Ray Price, Brenda Lee, B.J. Thomas, the London Philharmonic Symphony, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section.  Goss was also an accomplished pianist, recording several instrumental albums.  As if the aforementioned were not enough, Goss penned many great gospel songs, including "Cornerstone", "Love Like the Sun", "He's Living in My Heart", "Had It Not Been for Jesus", "Shout Brother Shout", "Wonderful Change", "He's So Good to Me", and "First John".  In 2007, Goss was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Piano Roll of Honor, and in 2009, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Lari Goss passed away on January 10.  He was 69.


 

Andrať Edward Crouch was born on July 1, 1942, in San Francisco, California.  Crouch's parents divided their time between dry cleaning and restaurant businesses, a street-preaching ministry, a hospital ministry, and prison ministry.  Crouch soon honed his piano playing skills in his pre-teens, accompanying his father at local church services.  At age 14, he wrote his first song.

In 1965, Crouch joined fellow musicians Perry Morgan, Reuben Fernandez, and Bili Thedford in forming The Disciples.  The group became immensely popular , frequently appearing with minister Audrey Mieir, the writer of the classic "His Name is Wonderful".  Mieir's connection with Manna Music founder and former Sons of the Pioneers vocalist, Tim Spencer, helped launch Crouch and the Disciples' recording career on Light Records.

Over the next four decades, Andrať Crouch toured more than 68 countries, appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and gave multiple performances at Carnegie Hall.  Crouch's  songs including "Through It All", "Soon and Very Soon", "My Tribute", "I've Got Confidence", and "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" became more than just hits, they became church standards.  Crouch is the recipient of seven Grammy Awards, four Dove Awards, and is one of only three gospel artists to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In 1998, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Andrať Crouch passed away on January 8, due to complications from heart failure.  He was 72.


 

John Everett Payton was born on September 4, 1934, in Haralson County, Georgia. A U.S. Army Veteran, Payton was an original member of the Soul Searchers, who were formed in 1963. The group changed its name frequently, but in 1970, with the addition of Rosie Rozell, they changed their name to Rosie Rozell and the Searchers. Payton appeared on the Gospel Singing Jubilee singing bass vocals with the Searchers, with his wife Sandy at the organ.

In addition to his singing talents, Payton was a teacher of gospel music as well. John and Sandy Payton formed the JoSan Singers, which featured many notable gospel music artists during the group's time together...most notably, Kelly Nelon and Lamar Newton, who went on to join The Rex Nelon Singers.

John Payton passed away on December 30 at the age of 80.


 

Born on May 7, 1923, Horace Parrish captured the hearts of gospel music fans in his nearly two decade tenure as tenor singer for the Rebels Quartet. A World War II US Navy Veteran, Parrish entered the gospel music scene as tenor singer for JD Sumner's Dixie Lily Harmoneers in the late 1940s. JD left the quartet in 1949 to join the Sunshine Boys, yet the group continued to evolve. In 1950, the group changed their name to the Dixie Rebels, performing on WFLA in Tampa, Florida. Soon after, the name was shortened to The Rebels Quartet, thus beginning the career of one of gospel music's top quartets of the 1950s and 60s.

Horace quickly became a fan favorite with his heartfelt tenor vocals. Among his most popular features were "Lifted From Sin", "My God Is Real", and "What A Day That Will Be". Horace departed the Rebels in 1967, and managed a successful business, Parrish Carpet Cleaners for many years. He attended and performed at every Grand Ole Gospel Reunion until health reasons kept him from making the long trip from Tampa to Greenville. Parrish received the Living Legend Award in 1995.

After a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease, Horace Parrish went home to be with the Lord on December 26. He was 91.


 

Gordon Hill was born on February 10, 1927, in Missouri. He began singing locally at age 16 before being drafted into the US Army. At age 18, he attended a concert by the Rangers Quartet. Upon meeting the Rangers' famous bass singer Arnold Hyles, Hyles commented that he and Hill's speaking voices were similar, further strengthening Hill's desire to sing. Following his discharge from the Army, he performed with the All-American Quartet and the Jacksonville Harmony Boys.

In 1948, Bobby Strickland formed the Southlanders in Birmingham, Alabama, joined by Hill, Bervin Kendrick, Pace Strickland, and Charles McClain. Only six months later...Hill, Strickland, and Kendrick joined Hovie Lister in forming the Statesmen Quartet. Hill's stay with the Statesmen was short-lived, and although no studio recordings were made, some radio transcriptions of the Original Statesmen Quartet do survive. Hill spent the late 40s and early 50s traveling with several groups including Southern Joy, a third stint with the Jacksonville Harmony Boys, and in 1951, he re-joined the All-American Quartet.

Hill's most extensive recording output was with The Revelaires of Atlanta, Georgia, whom he joined in 1954. Joining Hill during this tenure were tenor Dan Huskey, lead Bobby Shaw, baritone Cat Freeman, and pianist Wally Varner. This lineup of the Revelaires recorded more than twenty songs for Bibletone Records, many of which were among the label's top-selling records. They also appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1955, and formed a "quartet team" with The Harmoneers Quartet.

His tenure with The Revelaires was followed by another short stint with the All-American Quartet and The Sheriff's Quartet in Asheville, NC. In 1970, Hill moved to Tucscon, Arizona. He was a charter member of the Arizona Opera Company. He divided his time as an opera singer and truck driver until his permanent retirement in 1992. His son, Stephen Hill, soon enjoyed a successful career as a soloist, appearing on many of the Gaither Homecoming Videos.

Gordon Hill passed away on November 24 at the age of 87.


 

Peggy Collier Beatty was born on December 20, 1939, in Nashville, Tennessee. She often remained in the background and in support of her husband, Woody Beatty, yet she was a wonderful vocalist. She, Woody, and Ed Enoch formed the Music City Singers in the mid 1960s, and soon found themselves touring with their hero, Jake Hess. They traveled with Jake until Ed Enoch joined the Stamps Quartet, and Woody joined Rosie Rozell and the Searchers. 

Off and on following the 1970s, Woody and Peggy traveled with various family members and friends as The Singing Beattys.

Peggy Beatty passed away at her home in Nashville on November 17. She was 74.


 

Cecil Pollock was born on January 31, 1927, in Elkin, Arkansas.  Growing up in the northwest Arkansas region, Cecil first played piano at the age of 5, and by age 9 was accompanying his sister's singing group.  In addition, he would play the organ with the assistance of his older brother, who pumped the instrument for him.

Pollock served in the Army at the end of World War II, and following the war, he entered the Stamps-Baxter School of Music.  It wasn't long before he was accompanying some of the top quartets west of the Mississippi,  He joined Odis Echols and the Melody Boys Quartet, and also played for the Tennessee Milk Company Quartet before joining The Imperial Sugar Quartet.  A dream came true for Cecil in 1953 when he switched places with David Reece and became pianist for The Rangers Quartet. 

In 1955 when the Rangers made a move to Hollywood, Cecil remained in Texas, joining the Ozark Quartet.  He soon went to work for the Stamps Quartet Music Company.  For five years, Cecil played weekday mornings on station KRLD for the Stamps Quartet, giving the world a smile to music fans across the country.  During the 1960s, Cecil played for the Watchmen Trio, and in the 1970s when not accomanying his own family group, played for the Calvin Wills Family.  During the 1980s, Cecil served as music director for Gospel Lighthouse Church in Dallas, where he formed The Gospel Lights.  Joined by another former Ranger Glenn Sessions, Cecil and the Gospel Lights enjoyed a large regional following through northern Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area for more than two decades.

While not a fancy accompanist, Cecil Pollock is best remembered as a dependable, smooth, technically efficient pianist with a precise ear and a gentle manner, who knew his craft as well or better than many of his peers.  Cecil was inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame, received the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion's Living Legend Award in 2005, and was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Piano Roll of Honor in 2006.

Cecil Pollock passed away of natural causes while in hospice care on October 24.  He was 87.


 

Norman Wilson was born in Franklin, North Carolina on July 2, 1944. In 1955, the Wilson family moved to Buncombe County, where Norman called home for the remainder of his life. His father preached for 57 years, and taught his children how to shape notes, and traditional mountain style music. For many years, Norman, his father, his brother Furman, and Ronald Crane sang in a quartet and traveled extensively across the southeast.

In 1973, Furman and Norman went on a fishing trip with their friends, Larry and Reagan Riddle. They took a guitar and a mandolin with them, and spent the evening singing around the campfire. They realized that they had good four part harmony, and soon began singing at their home church and other local churches under the name Riddle-Wilson Quartet. Eventually the group changed their name in honor of the old-time musical roots they wished to embrace, and The Primitive Quartet was born.

A longstanding member of one of gospel music's most consistent and beloved groups, Norman remained with the Primitive Quartet for 41 years. Norman died suddenly of a heart attack while hunting with friends on October 15. He was 70.


 

Born in 1932, Bobby G. "Bob" Johnson spent many years singing gospel music, and through his entire musical career, his name would hardly ever be mentioned apart from that of his loving wife, Jeanne Johnson.

Bob was a proud Marine who served his country during the Korean War. While in service, he was awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds received in action. Bob married Jeanne on December 20, 1959, in Greensboro, North Carolina. During the 1960s, he and Jeanne traveled with the Gethsemane Quartet of Greensboro, afterwhich they took time off briefly upon the birth of their daughter Sonja Rene.

In 1967, Bob and Jeanne joined the Speer Family, and remained there for the next eight and a half years. Some of the Speers' finest musical years were while Bob and Jeanne were with the group. Although Bob was content to spend most of his time out of the spotlight, driving the bus and singing mostly harmonies and specialty numbers, his features on songs like "Searching" and "Pity the Man" are among the Speers' most memorable songs of the day.

In 1976, Bob and Jeanne moved to Charlotte and became active in Christian Television. They appeared on many stations across the country and hosted their own program, "Signature", which aired on the Inspiration Network and other independent stations. They were regulars on many of the Gaither Homecoming Videos and Concerts, and performed frequently during the 90s and 2000s with longtime friend Sue Dodge.

When not performing alongside Jeanne, Bob spent his latter years ministering to veterans and their families, as well as serving on stagg of Lowe Funeral Home and Good Shepherd Funeral Home in the metro Charlotte area.

Bob Johnson passed away on October 12 from declining health following a major stroke. He was 82.


 

Roy Bray was born in 1953 in Lebanon, Indiana. His parents introduced him to gospel quartet music as a child, traveling to hear quartets that are now legendary. Those early influences come through in his playing. Roy became deeply involved in southern gospel music beginning in 1966 as a pianist, vocalist, church choir director, studio musician and a vocal coach.

In 2011, Roy joined the Southmen Quartet. Roy spent the last three years of his life playing piano and singing baritone with tenor Jim Hefner, lead singer Buddy Burton, and bass singer Johny Washburn. On October 12, Roy Bray was killed in a tragic bus accident while driving for the Southmen in Indiana. He was 61.


 

Newman Aaron Miller was born on August 28, 1935, in McAlester, Oklahoma. He began piano lessons at age 12 and by age 16, he was playing piano for the Stamps-Baxter Quartet. During the 1950s and 60s, he performed with the Foggy River Boys, The Jubilaires, and The Trumpeteers. He opened a music store in Deer Park, Texas, in 1976, which soon expanded to five stores serving the metro Houston area. In 1985, Newman joined the Plainsmen Quartet, and remained with various incarnations of the quartet until the early 1990s.

He spent his latter years serving in music ministry in many churches in the Oklahoma City area, serving as an associate for Bill Merritt Funeral Home, and selling merchandise at flea markets.

Newman Miller passed away on October 8, following a period of declining health. He was 79.


 

Charles Johnson was born in 1931 in Paris, Texas. In 1961 he joined the Sensational Nightengales as lead singer. He remained there for the next 23 years, and quickly established himself as one of the leading songwriters in Black Gospel. While with the Nightengales, Johnson's song, "It's Gonna Rain", remained on the Billboard charts for 100 weeks, while the album It's Gonna Rain sold over one million copies. At one point during the 1970s, the Nightengales placed three albums in Billboard's Top 10 albums chart at the same time.

In 1985 Johnson joined with brothers Darrell and Ricky Luster and formed Charles Johnson and the Revivers. With their unique and successful merger of Black gospel with Southern gospel, Charles Johnson and the Revivers became one of the top of the late 80s and early 90s. Their multiple radio hits included "Signed 'Til the Day of Redemption", "I Believe He Died for Me", "We Cannot Stand Alone", and their signature song, "I Can't Even Walk Without You Holding My Hand". In 2005, Johnson published his auto-biography titled Another River to Cross.

Charles Johnson passed away on October 6, following a period of declining health.


 

Lendell Douglas Boydston was born June 11, 1964, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Although not a household name in gospel music, Doug performed as a member of the legendary Melody Boys Quartet during the mid 1980s, joining Gerald Williams, Johnny Minick, and Ronnie Smith.

The reorganized Melody Boys of the mid 80s reached such a high demand that the members eventually were forced to go their seperate ways due to the nature of their full-time jobs. Boydston, Minick, and Smith eventually were replaced Mike Franklin, Jonathan Sawrie, and Doug Kramer. Boydston became a successful businessman in the Little Rock area, and continued singing part-time with local quartet, The Kinsmen.

Tragically, Doug Boydston was killed in an accident while cleaning tornado damage at his business on September 29. He was 50.


 

Born September 20, 1923, in Lamar County, Alabama, James "Ed" Sprouse entered into gospel music in 1941 when he won a contest sponsored by the Stamps-Baxter School of Music. He is best remembered for his many years with the Blue Ridge Quartet, spanning from 1951 through 1965. Ed's voice is heard on most of the early Blue Ridge Quartet hits of the day, including "No Disappointments in Heaven", "I've Been to Heaven In A Dream", "Stop and Pray", "Hard Trials Will Soon Be Over", among others.

After leaving the Blue Ridge in 1965, Sprouse moved to Mississippi and entered into the furniture business, but remained active singing with various local quartets, and as a soloist. In the mid 1980s, Sprouse resurfaced again with the Senators. Sprouse rejoined old Blue Ridge partners Kenny Gates, Bill Crowe, Fred Daniel, George Younce, and Norman Almand numerous times with the Blue Ridge Quartet at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion during the 1990s.

Ed Sprouse passed away on September 21, one day after his 91st birthday.

Bio courtesy SGMA

 

Born June 13, 1925, Mary Tom Speer-Reid was the youngest daughter of GT and Lena (Mom and Dad) Speer. Mary Tom spent many years performing with the Speer Family prior to her marriage to Robert Reid.

After her marriage, she left the Speer Family to raise her family of three children. She returned to the Speer Family on a limited basis for special concert appearances in the early 1980s and continued to appear with the Speers until the retirement of the group.

Mary Tom was also a staff member of the Stamps School of Music, secretary for Ben Speer Music, and quite active in the Gaither Homecoming Series. Her lovely alto voice is heard on all of the early Speer Family recordings.

Mary Tom passed away on September 16. She was 89.

 

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