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Southern Gospel Music Association Salutes Hall of Fame Inductees for 2011

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Statler BrothersThe Southern Gospel Music Association (SGMA) recently recognized the arts and contributions of several artists who have been milestones in the music. Country Music Hall of Fame members The Statler Brothers recently were honored with the 2011 James D. Vaughan Impact Award during a special ceremony at Dollywood at the Southern Gospel Music Association's (SGMA) annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Singing News Fan Awards. The 2011 SGMA class of Hall of Fame inductees for 2011 are Doris Akers, Doyle Blackwood, Bob Brumley, Roy Carter, Kenny Gates, Jerry Kirksey, Opal Lester and Willie Wynn.

The Southern Gospel Music Association is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, the only facility honoring this genre of music, for the historic preservation of the accomplishments of the music and its people. Museum hours match those of Dollywood. Donations are tax-deductible. Individuals and businesses may donate to assist with honoring inductees with special bronze plaques that are displayed in the Hall of Fame. For more information about the museum or its inductees, visit

The 2011 SGMA Hall of Fame inductees are:

Bob Brumley

Bob BrumleyPublisher, concert promoter and music industry leader Bob Brumley of Powell, Missouri attended his induction into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood.

"Bob is one of the most respected men in Southern Gospel Music today," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "He is known for his honesty, integrity, hard work and undying love for his father and mother and his devotion to Southern Gospel Music.

"It is a desire of Robert "Bob" Brumley to keep alive the songs of his father," he said. "Under his guidance, Albert E. Brumley and Sons/Hartford Music Company have flourished. Bob, President/CEO, still operates the company offices built by his father in the 1940's in Powell, Missouri."

The McKameys played tribute to him by performing their hit "The Shepherd's Point of View."
"You know when I was growing up with my dad, to know this kind of music was an everyday occurrence," Bob said. "My heroes were E.M. Bartlett, V.O. Stamps, and James Blackwood

"All those guys that was involved in this music were the people I looked up to and they worked to see that it grew," he said. "For me to be able to be part of this great industry means more than anything to me in the world. I want to thank my wife Tudy. My son Bob and my daughters, Betsy and Elaine. I thank everybody.

"Willie (Wynn) and Jerry (Kirksey) were right," he said. "You can't do this by yourself. What I do has come about because of all the help. I wanted to preserve my dad's legacy which was a goal I set early in life to see that my dad's music live forever. This is the greatest music in the world."

Brumley is a former president of SGMA and serves on its board of directors.
Albert E. Brumley, is recognized as a founding father and preeminent Southern Gospel songwriter. Brumley wrote standard "I'll Fly Away."

Roy Carter

Roy CarterShirley Carter and Sherron Carter-Martin also attended for the induction of their late father Roy Carter (1926-1998), originally of Calumet, Oklahoma.

"Roy Carter took over the role as bass singer for the Chuck Wagon Gang in 1952," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "Roy's arrival came at an important turning point in the group's history. The ‘Chucks' had recently begun making personal appearances, after years of being almost exclusively a radio and recording quartet.

"With Dad Carter now past the age of sixty, the role of manager and emcee was quickly thrust upon Roy Carter, he said. "It was a job that Roy would fill admirably for the next forty years. He led the Chuck Wagon Gang into the mainstream of Southern Gospel touring, all the while following his father's stage advice to keep the sound simple and build on the tradition that had made the group popular in the first place. Few groups in Southern Gospel has made a greater impact on the industry or touched more people.

According to Waller, Roy also wrote a number of popular gospel songs; among them "I'm Going to Rise Up and Meet Him in the Air", "The Early Morning Hours" and "My Wonderful God". He retired from singing and touring in the early 1990s. Greater Vision played tribute to him by performing their hit "Never Been."

"These are times that require mercy and grace on everyone's part towards our neighbors and each other," said Sherron Carter-Martin. "Our daddy was really good at it. I am real grateful he got this." Shirley Carter shared the rest of the acceptance in the prospective of her late father if he was there. She traveled with him in the Chuck Wagon Gang.

"Since the founding of this group by my pioneering granddaddy D.P. Carter in 1936, it grew into a love and tradition that grew into a way of life afforded me by my family and my precious wife Thada," she said. "The songs I wrote, the shows I performed and the deep felt feelings with which I gave were inspired by God. I owe it all to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

"The many years of blessings I received from having made these choices have led me into countless homes with fans at their dinner tables, thousands of letters needing prayer and comfort, and more than thousands of handshakes, pictures and autographs with the people that loved and supported my efforts," she said. "I took something with me each time, which became another thread into whom I have become. Each time wondering if I had made a difference. It has been not only a great deal of sacrifice from my family but a whole lot of fun. I thank everyone for all your parts in it."

She said the family was first gospel group to appear at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl opposite the Beach Boys and was honored in a Smithsonian Institution musical collection.

Carter said she continues his legacy by introducing a new group called Carter Crossing.

Doris Akers

Doris AkersBill Gaither attended the induction of late Homecoming Friend Doris Akers (1923-1995). She was Director of Music at Grace Temple Deliverance, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"Doris Akers learned to play the piano by ear at age six and by age ten had composed her first song," said Charlie Waller, SGMA executive director. "By the time she was twelve, she had organized a five-piece band that played music of the 1930s. She moved to Los Angeles at 22, where she met several outstanding musicians including Eugene Douglas Smallwood, who influenced her career. She joined the Sallie Martin Singers as pianist and singer and later with Dorothy Vemell Simmons, she formed the Simmons–Akers Singers and also launched a publishing firm called Akers Music House.

"She started a racially mixed gospel group - the Sky Pilot Choir in a Los Angeles church in 1958 featuring African-American gospel music," he said.

Judy Spencer Nelon fondly remembers listening to this group in her father's Christian bookstore in Columbus, Georgia. "Little did I know that one day I would not only meet my hero but also work in her publishing company Manna Music in California and have a chance to record with her as a member of the Sunshine Sisters," she said.

Waller said countless artists recorded her songs. Her most well-known compositions include "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," "Lord, Don't Move That Mountain" (co-written with Mahalia Jackson), "How Big Is God," and "Sweet Jesus." Her composition, "Trouble," was a hit song in the Broadway production of Me and Bessie (the life-story of Bessie Smith). "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," and her song, "Lead Me, Guide Me," were sung in Elvis Presley's last movie.

"Millions of church members have sung her songs," Waller said. "She was a recording artist, music arranger, choir director, and songwriter and was awarded Gospel Music Composer of the Year for both 1960 and 1961.

She was honored by the Smithsonian Institution, which labeled her songs and records "National Treasures." She was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001, according Waller.

The Perrys played tribute to her by performing their hit "Celebrate Me Home."

Bill Gaither accepted from Hall of Fame member Ray Reese for the late Doris Akers noting, "I feel honored to accept this for Doris... I loved her music so much," he said. Gaither referred to a performance he did with her on piano in one of his Homecoming videos.

"I thought I could get it right and had the right rhythm," he said. "I was trying my best. And she tried to sing with me and finally sat down and said ‘Get over white boy let me show you how play this.'

"She had a big influence on my life and Gloria's life," he said. "She knew how to write experiential songs. My grandson is in college in Washington at George Washington University. This past Sunday he called me and said he had went to an Episcopal church and they sang "Sweet, Sweet, Spirit." I thought we could honor her best by singing her song." Gaither then led the audience of artists and fans in singing her song.

Lindsay Terry related the story of this standard in his book The Story Behind The Song. "When I interviewed her in the late 1980s, she related to me that one Sunday morning in 1962, while directing the Sky Pilot Choir, she said to her singers, ‘You are not ready to go in.' She didn't believe they had prayed enough," he wrote. "They were accustomed to spending time with her in prayer before the service, asking God to bless their songs.

"She said, ‘I feel that prayer is more important than great voices.' They had already prayed, but this particular morning she asked them to pray again, and they did so with renewed fervor," he wrote. "As they prayed, Doris began to wonder how she could stop this wonderful prayer meeting. She said, ‘I sent word to the pastor letting him know what was happening. He was waiting in the auditorium, wanting to start the service. Finally, I was compelled to say to the choir, ‘We have to go. I hate to leave this room and I know you hate to leave, but you know we do have to go to the service. But there is such a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.'"

Terry continued: "Doris explained to me, ‘Songwriters always have their ears open to a song. The song started ‘singing' to me. I wanted to write it down but couldn't. I thought the song would be gone after the service. Following the dismissal, I went home. The next morning, to my surprise, I heard the song again, so I went to the piano and began to put it all down.'"

Doyle Blackwood

Doyle BlackwoodTerry Blackwood attended the induction of his late father Doyle Blackwood (1911–1974) into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood recently in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

"Doyle Blackwood was the bass singer in the original Blackwood Brothers Quartet and accompanied the group on guitar," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "Doyle retired from the quartet in the late 40's and managed the Blackwood Brothers Record Shop in Memphis. He sang in The Memphians Quartet with his son, Terry and Verle Pilant, Chalmers Walker and Jack Marshall."

Doyle was originally born in Ackerman, Miss. His first radio show was in Kosciusko, MS where they did a live radio show. He based in the communities of radio stations that featured the quartet. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1949 to appear on WMPS. He lived in Memphis the rest of his life.

Brian Free played tribute to him by performing "Never Walk Alone."

Terry accepted from Hall of Famers Dr. Jerry Goff and Jan Buckner-Goff for his late father Doyle Blackwood.

"He stood 5 feet 3 inches tall. He weighed 110 pounds, but he was the biggest little man I ever knew," Terry said. "Most of you probably do not remember him because he died in 1974. This afternoon he is dancing and singing around the throne. He is my hero.

"The privilege I had singing with him when I was in college was such as honor," he said. "I wish every young man had a father like I did. The man you saw on the platform was the same man you saw off the platform. The most consistent man I have ever known. He loved his God. He loved sharing his music with anyone that would listen. Thank you to the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame for this wonderful award. Our family will cherish it."

Terry said that the quartet while working at stations such as KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa would do an early morning live radio show and they head out for a concert that night.

"They could go as much as 300 miles because after the show, they would have to pile back into the car and drive all night to make it back home in time for their early morning live radio show," he said.

Opal "Bobo" Lester

Opal LesterBrian Lester, Ginger Pitchers and Donna Lester accepted the induction of their grandmother the late Opal "Bobo" Lumeart Lester (1906-1999) into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood recently in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

"Opal "Bobo" Lester played a pump organ in a small Baptist church in Hayti, Missouri before meeting and marrying her husband Harvey Lester and relocating to St. Louis," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "They began an ongoing family music ministry in 1925 adding the talents of their son Herschel that now spans four generations.

"As a music teacher, Opal taught hundreds of lessons from their St. Louis music store," he said. "Opal loved to promote gospel concerts in venues around St. Louis and Missouri featuring some of the biggest names in gospel music. She spearheaded a weekly television show starring her gospel singing family emanating from KSDK for 27 years.

Triumphant Quartet played tribute to him by performing their hit "Somebody Died For Me."

"Somebody died for me and you, amen. And somebody pioneered the way for us," said Brian Lester. "Our grandmother, and our grandfather and our father and so many other wonderful people have paved the way so that as the following generations can come along and sing and tell the story of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"It is such an honor for our family. To the Southern Gospel Music Association and the Hall of Fame, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Ginger added that her grandmother was an incredible woman.

"She was one of a kind," Ginger said. "I know a lot of you can say that about you parents and grandparents. If Bobo were here tonight, she would have her purse full of brochures about our fall festival coming up in a couple of weeks. She would be bugging you to death to buy a ticket tonight. That is just the kind of spirit she had.

"She loved gospel music. She loved the people of gospel music. She loved her family. She loved life. She loved to teach children," she said. "We saw her through many eyes. We saw her as our grandmother who would make us biscuits and gravy and cool the little juice glasses in the freezer for us to drink orange juice out of. We saw her teach many thousands of people music lessons every week. We saw her promote the gospel of Jesus Christ at the venues all around the Midwest area. Thank you SGMA for recognizing our family and to receive this from Mr. Ed O'Neal.

Donna shared how her grandmother gained her nickname because she could not say Opal as a child and called her Bobo and to this day it remains.

Willie Wynn

Willie Wynn"Willie Wynn was one of the originators and tenor singer with the Oak Ridge Boys for 15 years," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "After his tenure with the Oak Ridge Boys, Willie spearheaded two other fabulous groups, Willie Wynn & the Tennesseans and Sweetwater."

He said Wynn is a lifetime member of the Gospel Music Association a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame with the Oak Ridge Boys and has received many awards, including the coveted Dove Awards, Grammy Awards, and in 1996 was declared a "Living Legend" by his peers in gospel music. "Willie is known as ‘The Man with a Million Friends,' and he is called the ‘Tenor Singer's, Tenor Singer.' He has been a major influence in the gospel music industry, with his unique style of singing and audience appeal."

The Booth Brothers played tribute to him by performing their hit "Faithful One."

"Wow, What an honor it is to be here to be inducted in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame," Wynn said. "So many of my friends I have worked with down through the years and the true legends in gospel music have gone before us. You cannot believe what an honor it has been because I have known all these folks.

"Some truly amazing people. In this short 45 minutes they have given me, I am not going to be able to thank everyone. First and foremost, is my beautiful wife Sandi who is the shining star in my universe. Without her, I would be standing here accepting this award in the other category – deceased. She and my beautiful mother-in-law take good care of me. All of my five kids are here with me ... I absolutely adore my children.

Wynn said he worked with some great people. "It started with me with the great Smitty Gatlin, Herman Harper, Tommy Fairchild and Ron Page," he said. "They took me into something that became very big and very good. All of my years with the Oak Ridge Boys, the Tennesseans and Sweetwater, gave me the opportunity to sing and travel all over the world. To see and do things that a little fellow born on the edge of a cotton patch in South Georgia could even dream about...First and foremost, I want to thank our Great Creator who opens all the good doors for us and helps us walk through if we but choose to do so. A lot of you I may never see again. You will always know you will be on my mind and in my heart."

Jerry Kirksey

Kerry Kirksey"Jerry began working in radio during his junior year of high school," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "After graduation he moved back to Panama City and worked at radio station WTHR. He returned to Pensacola and began working for the Florida Boys in March 1960, a nationally recognized Southern gospel quartet.

"His job at that time was radio promotions and office manager for the quartet," he said. "J.G. Whitfield, owner of the Florida Boys quartet, and Jerry founded the Singing News magazine in May 1969. Businessman Maurice Templeton of Boone, NC advertised his Southern Gospel music cruises in the Singing News for several years and then purchased the magazine from J.G. Whitfield and moved it to Boone in July 1987.

"Jerry was the editor of Singing News magazine from its inception in 1969 til his retirement in 2010," he said. "He has been involved in the Southern Gospel industry for over 45 years."

Legacy Five played tribute to him by performing their hit "Just Stand."

"Well, I got a sad story to tell: I don't sing. I don't write music. I don't play an instrument. I can't read music. I talked to the Lord about that and He said, ‘OK, I will give you something to do in Southern Gospel music that does not require any of those things,'" Kirksey said. "I have been in Southern gospel since 1960 and I have never been to work a day in my life. God has blessed beyond words.

"There are so many people involved with what has happened in my lifetime," he said. "You don't accomplish these things by yourself. You accomplish these things by the energy and work of literally hundreds of people over the years."

Kirksey highlighted his appreciation to J.G. and Hazel Whitfield.

"J.G. and Hazel Whitfield are one of the biggest foundations of Southern gospel music that there is," he said. "They contributed numerable things including the Florida Boys, Dixie Echoes Quartet, along with the Gospel Singing Jubilee, largest concert promoters in the country, and the Singing News Magazine. That list goes on and on. Those people were very precious to me. I called them my Godparents. They loved me with a Christ-like love. "They allowed me - somebody with no talent to do anything to contribute all of these things we have been involved in to the Southern gospel music industry," he said.

Kirksey reflected on the Old Testament and Hebrews: all the things God did; and also upon all the miracles that Jesus did. "But I think there is a miracle in me," he said. "Because I have been allowed to serve in an industry that I loved more than life itself. I thank you and I thank God. I thank all the people that were part of what we done. I want to especially thank my wife Carolyn ...

"Carolyn was addressing the first issue of the Singing News on a Friday night and Kenneth was born on Sunday morning," he said. "He says has been at Singing News the whole time also. He brought us into the digital world. One of the first magazines in the country to go to the digital free press. Our other son, Brett is the one that created our website, designed them, wrote the software. My family has contributed greatly to Southern Gospel music through the Singing News also.

Kirksey said that without all of them working together for the Kingdom spreading the good news.

"This thing would not have happened," he said. "This is a great honor, but it is not the greatest honor, it is not the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Many years ago a man died for me..."

Kenny Gates

Kenny Gates"Kenny Gates not only played piano for the Blue Ridge Quartet but he was also responsible for some of the writing and arranging," said Charlie Waller, executive director. "They were the first gospel group to record for Decca Records. They recorded for several major labels, and were the first white group on Gotham Records. They were also the first professional gospel group to perform in a Catholic church.

"The group was formed in Dallas, Texas in 1946 as a part of the Stamps organization. In the early years, the personnel changed a great deal until the team of Elmo Fagg (lead & manager), Ed Sprouse (tenor), and Kenny Gates (baritone and pianist) got together in the early 1950's," he said. "This core group remained together for many years. They recorded for Sing and Skylite in the 1960's, and were a major artist for Canaan in the 1970's. They released over 100 albums and were instrumental in forming the Gospel Singing Caravan. They were noted as having the ‘sweetest singing this side of Heaven.'"

Triumphant Quartet played tribute to him by performing their hit "Love Came Calling."

"I am so grateful tonight to be here and receive this. This is probably the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life," he said. "From a very early age, I loved gospel music and at 81 years old, I still love it. I have so many people to thank that have given me support.

"My family and my friends, people from all over the United States and Canada, they have always been there to support me and I love them all. I am very thankful for this," he said.

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