2009 Hall of Fame Inductees
Marvin Neil Enloe
Marvin Neil Enloe (1938 – )
Inducted in 2009
Born in East Alton, Illinois, in 1938, Neil Enloe was destined to become one of the most influential Southern Gospel performers and songwriters.
While attending Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, from 1956 to 1958, he began singing with three other students who, inspired by the Blackwoods and Statesmen, traveled off campus singing Southern Gospel Music under the name, the Couriers Quartet. Once they had graduated, these students entered gospel music full time, establishing their base in Harrisburg , Pennsylvania .
From Harrisburg, the Couriers were in an advantageous position to travel to the major urban centers of the East and, as a result, became Southern Gospel’s most influential group north of the Mason-Dixon line. They also pioneered the Southern Gospel sound throughout Canada. Though the group kept important contacts in the American South (the Couriers were, along with the Florida Boys, Happy Goodmans, and Dixie Echoes, one of the first regular groups on the Gospel Singing Jubilee), their major fan base developed outside of Southern Gospel’s traditional strength. Through this influence, the Couriers became part of Southern Gospel’s growth into a national phenomenon.
Over the course of his career, from one of the quartet’s founding members in 1957 to his retirement in 2000, Enloe sang lead, played piano, and arranged the majority of the group’s music. Along the way, the Couriers became one of the best-known and most respected groups in Southern Gospel. As a consequence, Neil has sung in all fifty states and in every Canadian province as well as 80 different nations around the world.
Enloe’s contribution to Southern Gospel can also be measured in terms of his songwriting ability. Several of his songs have become standards, most notably “Statue of Liberty,” the Dove Award winning song from 1976.
In the early 1970's, the Couriers switched to a trio format and their songs pioneered new interest in Southern Gospel. Equally admired for his singing ability, his songwriting talent, and his devotion to Christ, Neil Enloe has been the guiding light behind the Couriers’ success and behind much of what has been good about Southern Gospel Music.
Edwin Lee “Ed” Hill
Edwin Lee “Ed” Hill (1935 – 2020)
Inducted in 2009
The son of a minister, Ed was born in St. Louis, MO, and started singing at the early age of 15 with a group called “Humble Hearts.” Ed became acquainted with Lewis Garrison, (a.k.a. “Big Lew”) who was the choir director serving with Ed’s dad. Ed incorporated Lew’s high tenor sound into a new group he was organizing called The Prophets Quartet. Little did they realize at the time that, together, they would become one of America ‘s most respected Gospel quartets.
Ed and The Prophets soon became regulars on the Gospel Singing Caravan television series with the LeFevres, the Blue Ridge Quartet and the Johnson Sisters.
After Ed retired The Prophets, he enjoyed a lengthy tenure with Hovie Lister and The Statesmen. J.D. Sumner of the Stamps Quartet asked Ed to manage his talent agency and music companies, and in 1973 was asked to sing baritone temporarily until a permanent voice could be acquired. “Temporarily” lengthened into five years of fulltime service with the Stamps Quartet and with the late Elvis Presley.
In 1980, Ed was instrumental in the fast rise to popularity of The Singing Americans and was able to give a “hand up” to many young gospel artists—including Mike LeFevre, Rick Strickland, Michael English and Ivan Parker.
In 1987, J.D. Sumner reorganized the Stamps Quartet from his existing Master’s V group, and J.D. again asked Ed to become a member of his group. According to J.D., Ed was “one of the best quartet men I ever worked with.”
Ed, along with The Stamps were permanent members of the Elvis Presley Show until Elvis’ death in 1977. The voice heard at the close of each Elvis performance . . . “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and good night!” . . . was none other than Ed himself.
Jennings Harold Lane
Jennings Harold Lane
Inducted in 2009
Harold is a singer, songwriter, musician and arranger whose career in, and contributions to, Gospel Music have spanned the past 55 years.
In 1952, Harold formed the Gospel Harmony Boys, This part time West Virginia quartet was on par with many of the top groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Harold’s writing and arranging made a great impact on the Gospel Harmony Boys’ style. In 1953, the Gospel Harmony Boys began one of America ’s first Gospel Music TV shows that played every Sunday for over 17 years on WSAZ-TV in Huntington , West Virginia . In April 1956, Harold Lane ’s Gospel Harmony Boys sang to America on the Today Show with host, Dave Garroway.
Harold left the Gospel Harmony Boys in 1956 to spend a short stint with Conner Hall and the famous Homeland Harmony Quartet, only to return to the Gospel Harmony Boys in 1957. He began writing early in his music career and authored many songs sung by the great quartets of the day including the Statesmen, Blackwoods, Wally Fowler and the Oak Ridge Quartet and many others.
In 1967, Harold left the Gospel Harmony Boys to join the Speer Family replacing the family’s famous patriarch, Dad Speer. Harold became renowned for his arranging while with the Speers. Some of Harold’s best known compositions are, “I’m Standing on the Solid Rock”, which was in the Top 20 Songs of the Year in 1978 by the Speers and the Florida Boys. “What Sins Are You Talking About” reached an esteemed level of notoriety as the theme song for a National Network TV show, “The Hitchhiker” during the 1990’s. For many years, Harold wrote a series of articles for Singing News magazine to help interested young artists learn the rudiments of music theory. He also edited a number of church hymnals and songbooks. Harold published a series of six books title “500 Hymns for Instruments.”
Inducted in 2009
Benefactor: The Harper Agency
Don Light, a former Grand Ole Opry drummer, managed Billboard’s Nashville office before establishing Don Light Talent in 1965 as the first agency to book Southern Gospel groups. His first groups were the Happy Goodman Family and The Oak Ridge Boys. He later added groups like the Florida Boys, Rambos and the Cathedrals.
He co-founded the Gospel Music Association and was the first Chairman of the Board in 1965. In 1968 he served as President of the Nashville Grammy Chapter.
In the early ’70s, Don moved into artist management, working with Jimmy Buffett, Delbert McClinton, Keith Whitley, Steve Wariner, Mark Collie and others. In 1974 he was awarded the Founders Award from the National Association for Campus Activities that is presented to an individual who, throughout their affiliation have given continued and outstanding service to the organization, have exemplified the standards of professional integrity and conduct, have achieved stature in their professional or academic pursuits, hold the esteem of colleagues and peers, and have worked to further the field of campus activities programming.
He currently manages Dailey & Vincent and The Steep Canyon Rangers. He is past President of the Nashville chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, co-founder of the Sound & Speed event, which benefits the Country Music Hall Of Fame, and the Victory Junction Gang, and also serves on the board of the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well as the International Bluegrass Music Association.
In 2005 Don Light was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the Living Legend Award in 2007 at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion.
James William “Bill” Lyles
James William “Bill” Lyles (1920 – 1954)
Inducted in 2009
Bill Lyles possessed one of the greatest bass voices the Southern Gospel industry has ever known. Especially smooth, with impeccable timing and pitch, Lyles sang early on with the Hamilton County Quartet near Chattanooga , Tennessee , and also with a wartime version of the famous Swanee River Boys.
Shortly after World War II, he was hired as the bass singer for the Blackwood Brothers Quartet and rose to prominence in a quartet that consisted of Lyles on bass, James Blackwood on lead, R.W. Blackwood on baritone, and Bill Shaw on tenor. With Jackie Marshall playing piano, this quartet reached new heights of popularity starring on national television, charting in Billboard magazine, and recording exclusively on the RCA label.
One of his contemporaries remembered that Lyles’ big smile and sunny disposition won the heart of people everywhere. Tragically, Bill Lyles was killed at the height of his professional career when a plane piloted by fellow quartet member R.W. Blackwood crashed in Clanton , Alabama on June 30, 1954.