Wallace "Happy" Edwards

Wallace “Happy” Edwards (1926 – 2001)
Inducted in 2006

Born May 26, 1926, “Happy” Edwards spent his entire professional career singing tenor with the famous Harmoneers Quartet. This jovial character was always the center of attention in the Harmoneers. His humor and personality was a staple of any Harmoneers program. “Happy” was always the jokester, yet he also had a great knack for singing old time spirituals that were featured prominently in a Harmoneers concert.

His career began with the Happy Four (1939) from Covington, Georgia, but he soon joined the professional ranks with the Harmoneers from Knoxville, TN in 1948. The Harmoneers were the first white male quartet to record under the RCA Victor label. They worked on WROL radio, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville. The Harmoneers became one of the top gospel quartets in the nation.

“Happy” remained with the Harmoneers until their retirement in the mid 1960s. Happy received the Gospel Singer of the Year award in 1955, he received the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Living Legend Award in 1995, and was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2002.

Vernon Ross Hyles

Vernon Ross Hyles (1910 – 1972)
Inducted in 2006

Vernon Hyles (March 28, 1910) was the lead singer and manager of the most creative quartet of the 1940s: The Rangers Quartet. Time has proven the Rangers to be one of the most revered quartets in the history of Southern Gospel Music.

Under Vernon’s leadership, the Rangers Quartet became one of the first quartets to travel the country without being associated and underwritten by a specific music company. The Rangers did not supplement their income from song book sales or part-time jobs. They were one of the first professional quartets that made their living only through their performances. They also became one of the first quartets to have a commercially sponsored syndicated radio program.

Vernon’s innovative promotional skills were second to none, as he placed the Rangers in many situations that normal quartets would never attempt to embrace. He also had a very pleasing singing voice. Vernon Hyles and the Rangers Quartet were never satisfied with less than their best. Vernon died November 1, 1972.

Bob Jones Sr.

Bob Jones Sr. (1914 – 2007)
Inducted in 2006

Born June 18, 1914, Bob Jones is one of the pioneers responsible for bringing Southern Gospel Music to the West Coast. At the age of 13, Bob attended the Stamps-Baxter School of Music and decided to devote his life to singing Gospel Music. After his move from Texas to California, Bob organized the California State Singing Convention, and soon many counties in California had a local chapter and held monthly Singing Conventions.

During his early days in gospel music, Jones helped to organize the Stamps Harmony Boys Quartet in Fresno, California. This group had a program on KARM radio, but soon moved the program to the 5,000 watt, KMJ. Soon after forming this quartet, Jones moved to Dallas, Texas to sing lead with the Stamps Quartet.

In the mid 1950s, Bob again moved to California where he began the Songfellows Quartet. The Songfellows are the most famous quartet to come from the west coast, and they have brought quality gospel music to the west coast for over five decades.

At the time of his induction into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Bob continues to promote the gospel in song as baritone singer for this fine quartet that he formed over fifty years ago.

Rose Carter Karnes

Rose Carter Karnes (1914 – 1997)
Inducted in 2006

Born December 31, 1914, Rose Lola Carter Karnes was an original member of the Chuck Wagon Gang. She was known as Lola to her family and Rose to the singing world. As part of the Gang, Rose sang soprano and was instrumental in creating the trademark sound that delighted audiences around the world.

Rose was also part of the first Chuck Wagon Gang recording, made on November 25, 1936. Her last recording was on September 23, 1975. Rose sang full-time with the Chuck Wagon Gang for more than 50 years. Her last public appearance was at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in the early 1990s.

Rose passed away in her sleep at her home in Azle, TX, on May 13, 1997, following a light heart attack the previous weekend.

Charles Key

Charles Key (1926 – 2010)
Inducted in 2006

Born April 15, 1926, Charles Key is an original member of the Harmoneers Quartet. He joined the Harmoneers in 1944 after his high school graduation, and remained as their pianist for many years.

During his time with the Harmoneers, the quartet became one of the first gospel quartets to sign an exclusive recording contract with RCA Victor records. His excellent piano skills are evident on all of the Harmoneers recordings. Although Charles was never a flashy pianist, he had a quiet dignity with keyboard skills and was a superb accompanist.

The Harmoneers Quartet was one of the top quartets in the country during Mr. Key’s tenure with the group.

After his retirement from full-time travel with the Harmoneers, he continued to work with various gospel singing groups around the Atlanta area.

Charles received the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Living Legend Award in 1995. He was the recipient of the Piano Roll of Honor award in 1998. Mr. Key was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2002. He was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004.

Jack Pittman

Jack Pittman (1926 – )
Inducted in 2006

Born August 27, 1926 in Greenville, SC, Jack Pittman’s musical career started as a young teenager singing with the Little Four Quartet. In 1942, he attended the Vaughn School of Music and in 1944, Frank Stamps hired him. While with the Stamps organization, Jack sang with the Stamps Great Plains Quartet, the Carl Raines Stamps Quartet, the Stamps Melody Boys, and the Stamps-Baxter All-Stars. Jack Pittman joined the Palmetto State Quartet in the early 1950s.

Pittman sang with the Palmetto State Quartet for more than forty years. During his time of service with the Palmetto State Quartet, they were known for their excellent presentation of southern gospel quartet music. They appeared as regulars on Bob Poole’s Gospel Favorites TV Show which aired nationally on over a hundred and twenty stations with Pittman selling the advertising for the program locally. He retired from the quartet in 1997.

Jack’s reputation in gospel music stretches far beyond the performing stage. He was an astute businessman who never forgot his friends in gospel music. Pittman was instrumental in forming the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in 1988. Since that time, the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion has become a yearly gathering of gospel artists and fans. Jack was also awarded the Marvin Norcross Award in 1988.

Henry Thaxton Slaughter

Henry Thaxton Slaughter (1927 – )
Inducted in 2006

Born January 9, 1927 in Roxboro, NC, Henry’s career in Southern Gospel music spanned more than five decades and is highly esteemed by both fans and his peers. Henry was pianist, writer, arranger, singer and publisher.

He participated in most all the phases and areas involving Southern Gospel Music beginning as pianist with the Ozark Quartet in 1947. He became nationally known in his work with the Weatherford Quartet (1958-1961), the Original Imperials of the 1960s, and Henry and Hazel Slaughter gospel singing duo continuing through the 1990s. Their recordings were popular on Christian Radio Stations across the nation, including several that were tops on the ‘middle of the road’ charts in the 1970s. They toured the US and Canada during the 1970s and 1980s with great success. Henry’s composition “What A Precious Friend Is He” is his most loved song by the gospel music world over several decades and best personifies his writing style.

Henry received five GMA Dove Awards for the Best Gospel Instrumentalist of the Year during the 1970s. He was among the first to be inducted into the Southern Gospel Piano Roll of Honor in 1996.

Mary Tom Speer-Reid

Mary Tom Speer Reid (1925 – 2014)
Inducted in 2006

Born June 13, 1925, Mary Tom Speer-Reid is 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 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.

Maurice Templeton

Maurice Templeton (1932 – )
Inducted in 2006

From his humble beginnings in Union Grove, North Carolina, on August 18, 1932, Maurice Templeton has traveled an exciting path through life. After accepting Christ at the age of 35, he began developing a love for Southern Gospel Music which led to him singing in a church group called the 11th Hour Singers. His desire to visit the Holy Land led to him organizing small tour groups, which was how the Lord prepared him for his next career in the travel industry.

1974 saw Maurice move back to North Carolina where he began working in a travel agency, which later led to the creation of Templeton Tours – the first travel agency specializing solely in Christ-centered vacations to destinations all over the world.

The travel business, however, never replaced his love for gospel music. He purchased Singing News magazine in 1986, and proceeded to establish it as the industry leader. Along the way, he helped revitalize the National Quartet Convention, started Reach Satellite Radio Network (now Solid Gospel Radio Network), and created the Southern Gospel Music Association. The Lord showed him the need to remember the pioneers in Southern Gospel Music, and thus he spearheaded the creation of the SGMA Hall of Fame. Now these hallowed halls pay tribute to those whose hard work and determination provided the sure foundation that the industry enjoys today.

Wally Varner

Wally Varner (1926 – 2004)
Inducted in 2006

Wally Varner was a true wizard of the keyboards. Whenever Wally sat at the piano bench, you could be assured that the arpeggios would began to fly from his nimble fingers. Known as the “one man band”, Wally was the consummate quartet accompanist.

Varner played for many of the top gospel quartets in the country from the 1940s until his retirement in the early 1960s. He sat at the piano bench for groups such as the Homeland Harmony Quartet, Revelaires Quartet, Deep South Quartet, Melody Masters Quartet, and the Jubil-Aires of Texas. He was most noted for his time as pianist for the Blackwood Brothers — a position he held from 1958 until his retirement from gospel music in 1964.

Wally was also a noted writer of gospel music. Two of his most famous compositions were “Bells of Joy Keep Ringing”, “Sing Your Blues Away” and “Crown Him King”. Both of these songs have been recorded by many of the top groups in gospel music.

Wally and his wife, Polly, began Varner Music, Inc. in 1991. This was a mail-order gospel music distributor. In his later years, Varner appeared frequently on the Gaither video series and was a charter member of the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Piano Roll of Honor.

Gerald Williams

Gerald Don Williams (1933 – )
Inducted in 2006

In November 1949, 16-year old Gerald Williams (born October 7, 1933) began his career in Southern Gospel Music, when he started singing bass for Smilin’ Joe Roper and the Melody Boys Quartet.

Throughout the 1950’s, Gerald continued with The Melody Boys, as they filled the radio airwaves three times daily and starred in their own nightly television program in Little Rock, Arkansas. During the sixties and seventies, Gerald sang with The Venable Quartet, The Plainsmen, and Rosie Rozell & the Searchers.

In the mid-eighties, Gerald reorganized The Melody Boys Quartet, and has since led them in becoming one of Southern Gospel Music’s most accomplished quartets.

Gerald has spent his life offering his magnificent vocal gift back to the One who gave it, and challenging others to “Give the World a Smile!”

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