Lee Roy Abernathy

Lee Roy Abernathy (1913 – 1993)
Inducted in 1997

The son of a sharecropper, Lee Roy Abernathy was one of the great teachers of Southern Gospel Music. He tutored and inspired countless gospel singers and musicians. Lee Roy was widely known for pioneering sheet music in gospel music circles and also for an innovative teaching technique, begun in 1945, his famous “Modern Gospel Piano Course By Mail.”

In addition he was a noted performer, having worked with the Atco Quartet, the Electrical Workers Quartet, the Rangers, the Homeland Harmony Quartet, the Miracle Men Quartet and as a member of Happy Two with Carrol “Shorty” Bradford.

Abernathy was also a recognized songwriter, composing such standards as “A Newborn Feeling,” “He’s a Personal Savior,” and “Everybody’s Gonna Have a Wonderful Time Up There” (Gospel Boogie).

Teacher, performer, creator, and innovator, Lee Roy Abernathy left an indelible imprint through his many contributions to the world of Southern Gospel.

Wendy Bagwell

Wendy Bagwell (1925 – 1996)
Inducted in 1997

Wendy Bagwell’s greatest legacy to the world of Southern Gospel Music was the gift of laughter.

An adept storyteller and master entertainer, Bagwell was one of the first to introduce humorous themes into Southern Gospel Music recordings.

This “entertainer’s entertainer” formed the Sunliters in 1953 following service in the United States Marine Corps. For more than four decades, the group traveled throughout the world sharing the gospel through testimony and song.

Perhaps the most memorable release from the more than 60 recordings made by Wendy and the Sunliters was the 1970 hit, “Here Come the Rattlesnakes,” distinguished as the first certifiable million seller in Southern Gospel history.

Clarice Howard "Ma" Baxter

Clarice Howard “Ma” Baxter (1898 – 1972)
Inducted in 1997

For more than four decades, Clarice Baxter worked to build and nurture one of gospel music’s most prestigious publishing companies.

Clarice developed her life-long love of sacred music while attending singing schools near her DeKalb County, Georgia home. After her marriage to J. R. Baxter in 1918, she gave up her position as a teacher to join her husband in his work with the A. J. Showalter Company.

Beginning in 1926, when the Baxters became part owners of the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, she joined the staff and worked for the remainder of her life as one of the key figures in both the printing operation and in the annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music.

Upon her husband’s death in 1960, Clarice assumed the mantel of President and General Manager of Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing-becoming the first woman to hold sole responsibility of such a business in the gospel music community.

Jesse Randall “J.R.” Baxter

Jesse Randall “J.R.” Baxter (1887 – 1960)
Inducted in 1997

J. R. “Pap” Baxter was a pioneering figure in the development of Southern Gospel Music. Individually and through his partnership with V.O. Stamps, his impact on commercial gospel music was immeasurable.

After an early career with the A. J. Showalter Company, he joined forces with fellow entrepreneur V. O. Stamps in 1926 and the pair created one of the most successful companies in the gospel music field, The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company.

The annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music trained several generations of young people throughout the South in the fundamentals of composing and performing gospel music. Baxter helped to popularize gospel music throughout the country through the publication of shape-note songbooks and by sponsoring numerous quartets on the radio. Shape-note songbooks from the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company found their way into homes and churches throughout America.

Lester George “Les” Beasley

Lester George “Les” Beasley (1928 – )
Inducted in 1997

Les Beasley’s contribution to the growth and success of Southern Gospel Music in the second half of the twentieth century was enormous.

After a brief stint with the McManus Trio, he became lead singer for the Gospel Melody Quartet in 1953. The group soon changed its name to the Florida Boys Quartet and, by the late 50s, Les had assumed the role as the quartet’s manager.

Under his direction, the Florida Boys became one of the best-known groups in Southern Gospel history.

In the 1960s and 70s, Beasley co-produced the popular syndicated television program The Gospel Singing Jubilee, which helped to expand the boundaries of gospel music beyond the Southeast. Les also served as President of the Gospel Music Association from 1970 through 1971 and co-designed the Dove award statue.

James Webre Blackwood

James Webre Blackwood (1919 – 2002)
Inducted in 1997

James Blackwood gained prominence by the late-1930s as a member of the legendary Blackwood Brothers Quartet.

At the age of 15, he began singing with his two older brothers and a nephew from their home in Ackerman, Mississippi. After working at various radio stations in the southeast, the Blackwoods settled in Iowa, where they remained for nearly a decade and amassed a faithful following. When they relocated to Memphis in 1950, the quartet ranked as one of the best in gospel music.

After a 1954 airplane accident claimed the lives of two of the group’s members, James persevered and rebuilt the quartet. Under his guidance, Blackwood Brothers’ recordings for RCA Victor set a high musical standard and garnered numerous music industry awards.

In later years, the popular lead singer sang as a member of the legendary Masters V and also led his own James Blackwood Quartet. His leadership and direction were responsible for much of the professionalism that Southern Gospel enjoys today.

Albert Brumley

Albert Edward Brumley (1905 – 1977)
Inducted in 1997

Albert E. Brumley was one of the most beloved-and prolific-songwriters in Southern Gospel Music history.

Among the 700 songs penned by Brumley are the gospel standards “I’ll Fly Away,” “Jesus, Hold My Hand,” “Turn Your Radio On,” “If We Never Meet Again,” “I’d Rather Be An Old-Time Christian,” and “I’ll Meet You in the Morning.”

The Oklahoma native began writing songs in the late 1920s when, as a young man, he studied with E. M. Bartlett at the Hartford Music Institute, later working as a member of the Hartford Quartet and as an instructor in the annual school.

Brumley’s great gift was the ability to touch the heart of his audience through the powerful lyrics and easy-flowing melodies of his songs. A wide range of artists continue to record his compositions and many remain just as popular today as when they were written decades ago.

Brumley was among the charter inductees into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, evidence of his impact on the music industry in general.

David Parker “Dad” Carter

David Parker “Dad” Carter (1889 – 1962)
Inducted in 1997

David “Dad” Carter was the founder and leader of one Southern Gospel’s most enduring groups, the Chuck Wagon Gang.

Born in Milltown, Kentucky, this gifted singer and mandolin player began playing gospel music as a teenager. After marrying Carrie Brooks in 1909, the pair joined a family quartet that sang at revivals, singing schools and conventions throughout Texas.

In 1935, Dad formed the Chuck Wagon Gang, whose sound featured the close harmony of Dave Parker along with three of his nine children, Rose, Anna and Jim. Within a year, the group had landed a radio program on Fort Worth’s WBAP and, over the next fifteen years, their daily broadcasts made them one of the most recognized gospel groups in the nation.

In 1936, the group signed with Columbia Records and their recordings of such perennial favorites as “The Church in the Wildwood,” “A Beautiful Life,” and “Echoes from the Burning Bush” quickly found favor with fans, selling millions of records.

Denver Dale Crumpler

Denver Dale Crumpler (1912 – 1957)
Inducted in 1997

The consummate professional, Denver Crumpler added great dignity to Southern Gospel Music whenever he stepped onto the stage.

Born in Magnolia, Arkansas, Crumpler apprenticed with area quartets before joining the Stamps Melody Boys in the mid-1930s. In 1938, he joined the Rangers Quartet and helped build that quartet into one of the most popular groups in the nation by the late 1940s-contributing both his distinctive Irish tenor voice and often accompanying the group on guitar.

In early 1953, he joined the Statesmen Quartet and was responsible for adding the “finishing touches” to that legendary group’s sound. Though premature death silenced his voice in 1957, Denver Crumpler is still regarded as one of the finest tenor singers of all time.

John Daniel

John Tyra Daniel (1906 – 1961)
Inducted in 1997

As a boy, John Daniel absorbed the rich singing tradition of the Sand Mountain region of north-central Alabama.

By the early 1920s, he and his brothers and sisters had formed a family group, performing locally as the Daniel Family Quartet. In the mid-1930s, John and his brother, Troy, reorganized the quartet into an all-male group and determined to make a living singing gospel music.

Over the next decade, the John Daniel Quartet represented all three of the major shape-note publishing companies in the South-A. J. Showalter, James D. Vaughan, and Stamps-Baxter. John’s leadership ability, however, led the group away from a formal connection with the powerful publishing companies, securing a spot on the prestigious Grand Ole Opry where the group’s music was beamed to a massive audience over WSM’s powerful 50,000-watt clear channel station. As a result, the quartet became one of the most popular Southern Gospel groups of the 1940's and 1950's.

James “Jimmie” Houston Davis

James “Jimmie” Houston Davis (1899 – 2000)
Inducted in 1997

Jimmie Davis overcame immense poverty to become one of the most beloved writers and performers in country and gospel music as well as a two-term governor of Louisiana.

Davis’ early musical success was in the country field as a recording artist for the Victor and Decca labels. In 1940, he composed and recorded his signature song, “You Are My Sunshine,” a song that was subsequently recorded more than 350 times. Over the next two decades, Davis returned to his gospel roots with recordings such as “Suppertime,” “Honey in the Rock,” “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and numerous other gospel favorites. His best-known gospel composition was “Someone To Care.”

Davis traveled extensively with the Plainsmen Quartet in the late-1950s, frequently appeared as a soloist alongside other prominent Southern Gospel groups, and served as President of the Gospel Music Association in 1967.  In 1971 Davis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the following year was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

John Wallace Fowler

John Wallace Fowler (1917 – 1994)
Inducted in 1997

Although his contributions to Southern Gospel Music are many-including those of songwriter, promoter and vocalist-Wally Fowler is best remembered as the founder of the legendary Oak Ridge Quartet and as the innovator who popularized all-night gospel sings.

Hailing from Rome, Georgia, Fowler began his professional singing career at age 18. After apprenticing with the popular John Daniel Quartet, he struck out on his own, forming a country music group, Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers, and, in 1945, the inaugural edition of the Oak Ridge Quartet.

Three years later, he launched his first all-night gospel sing, popularizing a format that would blanket the South over the next two decades. Originating from Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium and later taken to other major cities across the region, each show featured many of the day’s premier Southern Gospel quartets. Fowler’s innate promotional genius took gospel music to a much larger audience than ever before.

An accomplished songwriter in both the country music and gospel fields, Wally’s composition “Wasted Years” became a gospel music standard.

Charles F. “Rusty” Goodman

Charles F. “Rusty” Goodman (1933 – 1990)
Inducted in 1997

For 41 years, Rusty Goodman wrote and performed songs that touched the lives of millions.

Rusty began singing with his family at age 16 before serving in the United States Army Signal Corps during the Korean War. Upon his return, he worked with country-gospel singer Martha Carson and then served for several years as bass singer for the Plainsmen Quartet.

By the early 1960s, Rusty had returned to sing again as a member of the Happy Goodman Family and, alongside his brothers Howard and Sam and Howard’s wife, Vestal, rose to the top of the gospel music industry. Many of the group’s best-known hits were Rusty Goodman compositions, including “Had It Not Been,” “Who Am I,” and “I’ve Got Leavin’ On My Mind”.

Connor Brandon Hall

Connor Brandon Hall (1916 – 1992)
Inducted in 1997

Connor Hall’s musical career began as a minister of music in his native Greenville, South Carolina, Church of God during the 1930s. With a distinctive tenor voice and a mind for promotion, he decided to launch a full-time career in gospel music. He formed the Homeland Harmony Quartet in 1942 and, over the next decade, turned it into one of the most successful groups in Southern Gospel Music.

Headquartered in Atlanta, the group sang on radio through the mid-1950s-providing transcription recordings to as many as 55 different stations.

In 1961, Hall entered a long, productive career as Music Editor of the Tennessee Music and Printing Company-one of the most important publishers and preservers of shape-note materials in the South. After the company purchased the Vaughan Music Company in the mid-1960s, he revived an interest in singing conventions and served as editor of the Vaughan Family Visitor for the next two decades. Hall also served as President of the National Singing Convention in 1968.

Herman Clay Harper

Herman Clay Harper (1938 – 1993)
Inducted in 1997

A native of Fountain Head, Tennessee, Herman Harper’s contributions to Southern Gospel Music were varied and far-reaching. In addition to a popular singing career, he was a successful songwriter and producer, a pioneering gospel talent agent, and founder of the Gospel Music Trust Fund.

His devotion to gospel music came second only to his dedication to family. In 1985, he created Harper and Associates-a leading Southern Gospel talent agency. Harper proved instrumental in getting live coverage of gospel music on the Grand Ole Opry and other cable television broadcasts.

His career included a thirteen-year position as bass singer for the Oak Ridge Quartet from the late-1950's through the 1960's.

W. Jake Hess

W. Jake Hess (1927 – 2004)
Inducted in 1997

Jake Hess started singing gospel music with a family group, the Hess Brothers, when he was just five years old. After singing with several other local groups, he accepted his first professional position at the age of sixteen with the legendary John Daniel Quartet. From there, he also served brief stints in the late 1940s with the Sunny South Quartet and the Melody Masters.

In December 1948, Jake joined the Statesmen and, over the next few years, cemented his place in Southern Gospel Music as a premier lead vocalist.

Late in 1963, he left the Statesmen to form the Imperials. Forced to retire four years later due to persistent health problems, Jake sang on-forming his own family group, The Sound of Youth and, in the early 1980s, filling a spot as one of the original Masters V. Through the end of the century, Jake continued as one of Southern Gospel’s most-distinctive stylists and best-loved personalities.

William James “Bill” Gaither

William James “Bill” Gaither (1936 – )
Inducted in 1997

Although his first love was performing gospel music, Bill Gaither studied to become a schoolteacher in his native Indiana. The pull of music was strong, however, and Gaither soon began to write gospel songs.

“He Touched Me”, “Because He Lives”, and “The King Is Coming” were among Gaither’s early compositions recorded by established acts such as the Speer Family. By the mid-1960s, Gaither, his wife Gloria, and his brother Danny, were traveling as the Bill Gaither Trio. The ensuing years yielded unparalleled success-including gospel music’s first certified gold album, Alleluia, a musical based on Gaither’s songs.

In 1980, Bill formed the New Gaither Vocal Band and, a decade later, also emerged as producer of the popular Homecoming video series.

Hovie Franklin Lister

Hovie Franklin Lister (1926 – 2001)
Inducted in 1997

As a music publisher, record label executive, performer and promoter, Hovie Lister was instrumental in helping to expand the Southern Gospel Music industry and popularize this musical art form around the world.

As a young man, Hovie toured as pianist with famed evangelist Mordecai Ham before attending the Stamps-Baxter School of Music. After honing his skills with the Homeland Harmony Quartet, the LeFevre Trio and the Rangers, Hovie formed the Statesmen Quartet in 1948.

Under his direction, the Statesmen became one of the pre-eminent Southern Gospel groups in America with a national television program, film appearances and hundreds of sold-out personal appearances to their credit. Their showmanship-which centered on a highly animated performance style-inspired countless musicians and set a high standard for other Southern Gospel groups to follow.

Eva Mae Whittington-LeFevre

Eva Mae Whittington-LeFevre (1917 - 2009)
Inducted in 1997

Able to play piano and organ by ear at the age of six, Eva Mae Whittington became a valuable addition to the LeFevre Trio when she married Urias LeFevre in 1934.

For the next half century, she traveled the nation spreading the good news of Southern Gospel Music through her trademark alto voice and piano artistry. From their home base in Atlanta in 1939, the LeFevre Trio became staples on WGST radio and, by the early 1960's, traveled as many as 100,000 miles a year to concerts across the country.

Having endured the lean years of the Depression, Eva Mae, Urias, and Alphus LeFevre emerged a generation later with their own television show, recording studios, and gospel music publishing company. Their Gospel Singing Caravan was one of the pioneering gospel music television programs.

Urias LeFevre

Urias LeFevre (1910 – 1979)
Inducted in 1997

Urias LeFevre served as leader and patriarch of the legendary Singing LeFevre Family for more than fifty years.

In a career that began as a boy in 1921, Urias sang lead and played guitar in the original LeFevre Trio along with his brother, Alphus, and his sister, Maude. Converting solely to gospel music by the late-1920s, he attended the Church of God Bible Training School and sang briefly with the Bible Training School Male Quartet.

After marrying Eva Mae Whittington in 1934, he reformed the LeFevre Trio…this time with his new bride singing alto and playing piano. Over the next three decades, Urias led the LeFevres into successful ventures in radio and television, including the pioneering Gospel Singing Caravan. In addition, the family developed successful recording and publishing interests in the gospel music field.

Along the way, the LeFevres became one of the most popular performing groups in Southern Gospel, making personal appearances in virtually every state of the nation.

Thomas Mosie Lister

Thomas Mosie Lister (1921 – 2015)
Inducted in 1997

Few songwriters have enjoyed the success attained by Mosie Lister.

“Til The Storm Passes By”, “Then I Met The Master”, “How Long Has It Been”, “I’m Feelin’ Fine”, and “His Hand In Mine” are but a few of the hundreds of songs that emerged from his prolific pen.

Born and raised in Cochran, Georgia, Mosie studied English and music in college. By the late 1940s, he had worked with a number of groups including a brief tenure as an original member of the Statesmen Quartet. However, as his songs began to find favor, Mosie retired from the road to devote all of his time to songwriting. In 1953, he founded his own Mosie Lister Publishing Company, later merging with Lillenas Publishing.

During his career, Lister was known for his ability to draw from a variety of musical styles-always with the constant of strong Bible-inspired, Christian lyrics. As a result, gospel and secular artists alike recorded his songs.

Benjamin Marvin Norcross

Benjamin Marvin Norcross (1929 – 1980)
Inducted in 1997

Under the guidance of Marvin Norcross, Canaan Records and Canaanland Music rose to become one of the leading organizations in Southern Gospel Music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Joining Word Music in 1952, Marvin handled the company’s daily operations and, in 1964, established the Canaan label. The Happy Goodman Family, the Dixie Echoes and the Florida Boys were just a few of the groups promoted at Canaan during his tenure. Norcross served as President of the Gospel Music Association from 1974 through 1975.

In addition to his work in gospel music, Marvin was a devoted civic leader who was active in the Rotary Club and in youth sports activities. He served both as the District Administrator and as Texas State Tournament Committee Chairman for Little League Baseball.

In 1981, the year following his death, an award bearing Marvin Norcross’ name was instituted by Singing News magazine to honor annually a Southern Gospel music figure that has made an outstanding contribution to the industry.

Wilmer Berney “W. B.” Nowlin

Wilmer Berney “W. B.” Nowlin (1905 – 1994)
Inducted in 1997

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, W. B. Nowlin became, by the 1950s, one of the most successful promoters of gospel concerts in the country.

A friend and close confidant of V. O. Stamps, he was instrumental in helping get gospel quartets on daily radio programs in the 1930s. Beginning in the late 1940s, he began promoting gospel sings throughout the United States, particularly in the southwestern states.

He became known for a regular promotion billed as the “Battle of Songs,” an event which placed top quartets on stage in friendly head-to-head competition. Throughout his career, Nowlin expanded the influence of Southern Gospel and, in 1970, organized the first industry concert in Hawaii.

A tireless, “behind the scenes” figure in gospel music, Nowlin presented Southern Gospel Music to millions of fans for over four decades.

Lloyd Orrell

Lloyd Orrell (1907 – 1983)
Inducted in 1997

Lloyd Orrell gave up his steady job as an automotive worker in Detroit to promote Southern Gospel Music.  A native of Weakley County, Ohio, he was the most successful gospel music promoter of his era in the northern and midwestern United States.

Beginning in 1941, Orrell promoted concerts in many of the region’s larger cities including Indianapolis, Chicago, Dayton, and Milwaukee. On October 15, 1955, he promoted and staged the first All-Night Sing in Detroit, Michigan.  More than 5,000 gospel music fans attended the event with as many as 3,000 turned away for lack of space. Orrell promoted concerts for nearly four decades and was one of the major reasons for the successful expansion of Southern Gospel across the country.

Oren A. “O. A.” Parris

Oren A. “O. A.” Parris (1897 – 1966)
Inducted in 1997

A native of Jefferson County, Alabama, Oren A. Parris devoted his entire life to gospel music.

A key figure in the publishing business, he studied music under the direction of James D. Vaughan and Adger M. Pace. In 1932, Parris founded the Parris Music Company in Jasper, Alabama, and, over the next 13 years, tackled such tasks as revising the original Sacred Harp and Christian Harmony songbooks.

He also composed hundreds of gospel songs, including “When The Home Gates Swing Open,” “A Happy Meeting,” and “Hallelujah, I’m Going Home.”

In 1947, Parris joined the Stamps Quartet Music Company as the organization’s southeastern office manager and served in that capacity for 15 years. Late in life, he also organized the Convention Music Company and served as that organization’s president for three years.

Glen Weldon Payne

Glen Weldon Payne (1926 – 1999)
Inducted in 1997

Born in Royce City, Texas, Glen Payne developed a love for gospel music at an early age. As a teenager, he attended the Stamps-Baxter School of Music and secured a job both working in the company printing office and singing in the Stamps-Baxter Quartet.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Glen went to work for the Stamps Quartet Music Company in 1946, singing with the legendary Frank Stamps Quartet. In 1951, Glen moved to the Stamps-Ozark Quartet, remaining there until January 1957 when he joined the Weatherfords. For the next six years, Glen was a key figure in that successful group.

In August of 1963, Glen, along with Bobby Clark and Danny Coker, organized a trio to sing for evangelist Rex Humbard in his Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron, Ohio. The following year, the trio added bass singer George Younce to form the Cathedral Quartet. Through the partnership and leadership of Payne and Younce, the Cathedral Quartet soon emerged as one of the premier groups in Southern Gospel Music.

Dottie Luttrell Rambo

Dottie Luttrell-Rambo (1934 – 2008)
Inducted in 1997

From the first time she strummed her brother’s guitar, Kentucky native Dottie Luttrell Rambo aspired to sing and play music.

A talented instrumentalist, Dottie began writing songs and singing at revivals throughout the southern and central United States. Later, as a performing member of the Rambos, her songs gained national prominence and she became one of the most influential writers in Southern Gospel circles.

Memorable compositions such as “Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City”, “He Looked Beyond My Faults”, “If That Isn’t Love”, “We Shall Behold Him”, and “Sheltered In The Arms of God” are a testament to the inspirational gift and dedication of Dottie Rambo.

George Thomas “Dad” Speer

George Thomas “Dad” Speer (1891 – 1966)
Inducted in 1997

A sharecropper’s cabin in Fayette County, Georgia, witnessed the birth of the patriarch of one of the first gospel music family dynasties.

Born in 1891, George Thomas “Dad” Speer taught shape-note singing schools and sang at rural singing conventions through most of Southern Gospel Music’s formative years. As a pioneer teacher in both the Vaughan School of Music and the Stamps-Baxter Music School, he had a profound influence on many of the industry’s early singers and composers.

In 1921, he and his wife, Lena, organized The Speer Quartet and began traveling to singing conventions and performing local concerts. Over the next fifteen years, “Dad” trained each of his four children to sing and play instruments, gradually converting the quartet into the multi-talented Singing Speer Family.

A gifted songwriter, Speer penned many classic gospel songs, including “Heaven’s Jubilee,” “I Never Shall Forget the Day,” “The Dearest Friend I Ever Had,” and “He Is Mine And I Am His.”

Jackson Brock Speer

Jackson Brock Speer (1920 – 1999)
Inducted in 1997

As a part of the Singing Speer Family, Brock Speer was literally born into the Southern Gospel Music industry. While still a small boy in the late 1920s, he was called on to represent the family on stage.

Brock’s dedication and devotion to his family never wavered and, in time, his smooth, bass voice became a trademark of the legendary group’s distinctive sound. Following the death of his parents in the mid-1960s, Brock assumed leadership of the Speers. While carefully maintaining the tradition started by his parents, he guided the Speer Family into uncharted waters, introducing gospel music to literally millions of people across the country.

Brock was also active within the gospel music industry, serving as president of the Gospel Music Association in 1972.

Brock Speer will be forever remembered as that soft-spoken singer who carried on a family legacy, singing Southern Gospel Music the way it should be sung-with class and the highest degree of professionalism.

Lena Brock “Mom” Speer

Lena Brock “Mom” Speer (1900 – 1967)
Inducted in 1997

Even before Lena Brock married G. T. “Tom” Speer, she was surrounded by gospel music. Her father, Charles A. Brock, was one of the South’s leading music teachers and he taught his children to sing at an early age.

After her marriage early in 1920, Lena began a musical journey that can only be termed legendary. She sang soprano in the original Speer Quartet, supporting Tom’s desire to make a career in gospel music. Then, with her husband and their four children, she became a mainstay in the Singing Speer Family for the next four decades.

Lena Speer’s beautiful voice combined with that of her husband to thrill audiences across the country with heartfelt performances of such songs as “Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All,” “Won’t We Be So Happy,” and “Time Has Made A Change In Me.”

Noted for her genuine Christian spirit and love for gospel music, “Mom” continued traveling with the Speer Family right up to the year of her death.

Frank Howard Stamps

Frank Howard Stamps (1896 – 1965)
Inducted in 1997

Born in Upshur County, Texas, Frank Stamps became one of the critical pioneers of the first generation of gospel quartet music.

After serving in World War I, he attended the Vaughan School of Music and sang bass in one of the Vaughan Company quartets. When his brother, V.O. Stamps, formed his own music company in 1924, Frank managed the Frank Stamps Quartet as the first traveling representative of the new company. Three years later, singing for the reorganized Stamps-Baxter Company, he secured a contract with Victor Records-making the Frank Stamps Quartet the first Southern Gospel group to record on a major label. Their recording of “Give the World a Smile” produced the first genuine “hit” in Southern Gospel.

After his brother’s death in 1940, Frank assumed administrative duties in the Stamps-Baxter organization; however, in 1945, he left the company and formed the Stamps Quartet Music Company. Through this company, he maintained a strong interest in singing conventions and music schools for the next two decades. His promotion of the Stamps Quartet School of Music prepared and inspired an entire generation to take Southern Gospel Music to new heights.

Virgil Oliver “V. O.” Stamps

Virgil Oliver “V. O.” Stamps (1892 – 1940)
Inducted in 1997

It can be truly said that Virgil O. Stamps was the first to popularize southern-style gospel singing across America.

Though he was a noted singer, writer, publisher, and pioneer recording artist, his greatest accomplishment was spreading gospel music through the then-new medium of radio. For several years his company counted many salaried quartets and more than 100 affiliated quartets on radio stations nationwide.

After working for the Vaughan Music Company from 1915 into the early 1920's, Stamps launched out on his own in 1924 and founded the V.O. Stamps Music Company in his native Texas. Two years later, Stamps merged the company with J. R. Baxter, Jr. to form the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. Through his leadership and promotion, the company became, by the late 1930's, the most successful publisher of shape-note songbooks in America.

The company’s annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music, begun in the mid-1920s, stood as the largest developer of gospel singers for more than 30 years.

John Daniel “J.D.” Sumner

John Daniel “J.D.” Sumner (1924 – 1998)
Inducted in 1997

Spanning an amazing career of over 50 years, J.D. Sumner will long hold the title of being one of the most innovative men in the entire music field.

J.D.’s professional singing career began in 1945 with the Sunny South Quartet in Tampa, Florida. Over the next few years, he also gained valuable experience as manager of the Dixie Lily Harmoneers.

His big break, however, came in 1949 when he was hired as bass singer for the Sunshine Boys. After a five-year stint with the Sunshine Boys, J.D. joined the Blackwood Brothers and sang some of the lowest notes in the business for the next eleven years.

In 1965, he left the Blackwoods to manage and sing bass for the Stamps Quartet. Over the next generation, J.D. and the Stamps became a fixture of the Southern Gospel Music world and became known to millions outside the gospel music community as a result of touring with Elvis Presley from 1971 to 1977.

During the 1980s, Sumner’s bass anchored yet another critically acclaimed quartet-the Masters V.

J.D. has been listed in Guiness Book of World Records as the World’s Lowest Bass Singer.  J.D.’s many other contributions included the introduction of the tour bus to the music industry in 1955 and the creation of the National Quartet Convention in 1957. He also composed over 700 songs, including “The Old Country Church.” He served as Southern Gospel Music Association President from 1996 to 1998.

Glenn Kieffer Vaughan

Glenn Kieffer Vaughan (1893 – 1969)
Inducted in 1997

Along with his father, Glenn Kieffer Vaughan played an integral part in the growth of the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company and in the formation of WOAN, the first gospel radio station in the state of Tennessee.

As manager and lead singer of the Vaughan Quartet in the early 1920's, he was among the first to broadcast regularly on radio and to record on the Vaughan Record label. An accomplished performer, he taught voice at the Vaughan School of Music, authored gospel songs, and organized the Tennessee State Singing Convention in 1934.

After his father’s death in 1941, Kieffer assumed control of the Vaughan Music Publishing Company and managed the firm for more than two decades. He was elected President of the National Singing Convention in 1949. Kieffer Vaughan was also a devoted public servant, holding the office of Mayor of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, from 1947 to 1951.

James David Vaughan

James David Vaughan (1864 – 1941)
Inducted in 1997

Hailed as the founder of Southern Gospel Music, James David Vaughan was a musical pioneer whose name is still revered by those he inspired through his publications, his music school, and his Christian example.

The James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company, founded in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, in 1902 grew to be one of the largest gospel music publishers in the country. In 1910, Vaughan made the critical commitment to sponsor a traveling gospel quartet to advertise and sell his songbooks and, as a result, the Southern Gospel Music industry was born.

He founded the Vaughan School of Music in 1911, and the annual institute produced some of gospel music’s greatest performers and musicians. The following year, he founded the Vaughan Family Visitor…one of the most influential music publications in the South during the early twentieth century.

Vaughan broadcast Southern Gospel Music over one of Tennessee’s first radio stations, WOAN, a station he founded in 1922 and continued to operate until 1930.

He also founded Vaughan Phonograph Records, the first record company in the South. He served as Mayor of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, from 1923 to 1927.

Big Jim Waits

James Parks “Big Jim” Waits (1899 – 1973)
Inducted in 1997

James Parks “Big Jim” Waits inspired generations of bass singers to emulate the magic of his rich bass voice. He was instrumental in bringing the quartet to the forefront of gospel music.

His career included stints with many pioneering groups: the Morris-Henson Quartet, the Electrical Workers Quartet, the Vaughan Radio Quartet, the Stamps Quartet, the John Daniel Quartet, the LeFevres, the Homeland Harmony Quartet and the Rebels Quartet.

Known toward the end of his life as “Pappy,” Waits continued to inspire audiences and other singers well into his later years-hitting the low notes that made him the dean of bass singers.

James Stephen “Big Chief” Wetherington

James Stephen “Big Chief” Wetherington (1922 – 1973)
Inducted in 1997

One of Southern Gospel’s all time great bass singers, James Wetherington is remembered as a man of class and dignity.

He began his career in the late 1940s singing with the Sunny South Quartet and then with the Melody Masters. In 1949, he became the bass singer for the Statesmen Quartet and it would be with that legendary group that his name would be forever etched.

When Wetherington joined the Statesmen, both Hovie Lister and Lee Roy Abernathy suggested he needed a nickname. Paying homage to his Indian heritage, Wetherington became “Big Chief” and a part of Southern Gospel history lore.

A key member of the Statesmen for 24 years, he continued to entertain and delight audiences till his death at the National Quartet Convention in 1973. “Big Chief” Wetherington set the standard by which all other bass singers are still judged.

Jesse Gillis “J. G.” Whitfield

Jesse Gillis “J. G.” Whitfield (1915 – 2006)
Inducted in 1997

J.G. Whitfield organized the Gospel Melody Quartet in 1947 after his service in the Air Force. The group performed throughout Florida and renamed itself the Florida Boys in 1954. “Whit” sang bass and managed the group until 1958, when he retired.

Shortly thereafter, however, he formed the Dixie Echoes, once again singing bass and managing one of Southern Gospel’s most active groups. Whitfield’s association with the Florida Boys and Dixie Echoes led him into new territory as a promoter of gospel sings throughout the South.

He was also a prominent player in the origins of the popular television series, The Gospel Singing Jubilee, which served to launch the careers of many of today’s top artists. The Southern Gospel magazine, Singing News, was another of Whit’s contributions, organized in 1969 to promote his many concerts across the country.

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