2017 Hall of Fame Inductees
Inducted in 2017
Troy Burns has been singing Southern Gospel music for fifty-three years, and continues today with The Troy Burns Family. Troy was born in a two-room cabin in Bryson City, North Carolina in 1952. He was saved in 1962 at an old-fashion revival. He and his cousins, Archie Watkins and Jack Laws, grew up listening to great pioneer groups of the day on phonograph players brought home by Archie's father, a custodian at the high school.
After Archie and Jack joined a local group called The Inspirations, there was an opening for bass. Jack told group founder, Martin Cook, about his cousin, Troy. In 1964, Troy started with The Inspirations “as a little toe-headed boy of thirteen”. He later moved to lead singer, and continued with the group until he retired in 1993.
Troy has recorded over seven-hundred original and charting songs, including “Jesus Is Coming Soon”, “Touring That City”, “Is That Footsteps I Hear?”, “The Wonder of Wonders”, “Your Tears Are Touching God”, “The First Million Years”, and many more. He was voted “Favorite Lead Singer” in the “Singing News Fan Awards” in 1977, and won a “Dove Award” for “Gospel Singing Jubilee” in 1974. He has performed at over six thousand concerts in his career so far.
When asked what his single greatest accomplishment was, he replied, “Our children and grandchildren”.
After his cousin, SGMA Hall of Fame member, Archie Watkins, started a group of former members of The Inspirations, Troy was asked to join them. In 2010, he became the lead singer for Archie Watkins and Smoky Mountain Reunion.
Troy met Tammy Odom while on tour in Hawaii, and they were married in 1981. They have two sons, Chris and Trey. When The Troy Burns Family group was formed in 2010, Trey sang with them. Tammy says Troy and she have always been a team, the one supplementing their strengths for the other’s weakness. She said some of their biggest disagreements have come over where to park the bus at Walmart! But, one thing she admires so much in Troy is when he sings he puts every ounce of what he’s got into it. Troy says, “I love what I do, and I do what I love!” He reminds artists today, “No matter where you are, or what you are doing in your ministry, stay humble, consistent, keep your focus on the reason for the ministry, and people will be blessed.” Troy Burns now joins fellow members of The Inspirations, Martin Cook (2003) and Archie Watkins (2007) in theSouthern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.
ANTHONY ELDEN "TONY" GREENE
Anthony Elden "Tony" Greene (1968 – 2010)
Inducted in 2017
Anthony Elden "Tony" Greene was born Boone, North Carolina in 1968. He was brother to Tim, Kim Greene (Hopper) and Ronnie Brookshire. At age nine, Tony, Tim and Kim recorded their first album. In 1979, “The Singing Greenes” began full-time in Southern Gospel music, and Tony continued until his death in 2010. Tony's heroes were Claude Hopper, Glen Payne, and George Younce; “people who owned quartets and made it work.”
Kim said Tony was always a prankster. Sometimes they would be in a store and he would whistle at a guy, then duck down, leaving her to answer his stare. She also recalls the time he was on stage and was going to tuck his shirttail into the back of his pants. He didn’t realize that he was up against an American flag, and accidently stuffed part of it into his pants. When he walked forward to sing, he brought down the flag as well as the house!
Tony met TaRanda Kiser after she won a talent contest. She later joined The Greenes. To avoid any appearance of impropriety, they kept their relationship low-key while traveling together, not even telling their family. In September 2000, Tony surprised her by proposing on the stage of the National Quartet Convention, and they were married five months later. Soon after, Tony was diagnosed with a renal disease of the kidney. Doctors said they would not be able to have children. However, the next year, the Lord blessed them with their first daughter, Isabella, followed by her sister, Jocelyn in 2008.
In 2009, TaRanda learned she was a perfect match and donated a kidney to Tony. His health improved, and he went on to help start Abraham Productions Inc., along with Ray Flynn, which presents premiere Southern Gospel concerts and Christian cruises. But his health began to decline after a year. TaRanda said, “Sometimes he could not bend over to tie his shoes, but he got off the bus to encourage someone.” He loved meeting people, whether the public contacts were good for him or not. During NQC in 2010, he contracted a bacteria that developed into a lung disease. He was not able to fight it off, and passed away on September 28, 2010. Anthony Elden “Tony” Greene now takes his place in the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. Upon hearing this, TaRanda replied, “He would be as giddy as a little kid to know that he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame.” We all are!
LABREESKA ROGERS HEMPHILL
LaBreeska Rogers Hemphill (1940 – 2015)
Inducted in 2017
LaBreeska Rogers Hemphill was born in rural Flat Creek, Alabama in 1940, the only child of Erskine and Gussie Rogers. She was named after her grandfather’s first wife, LaBreeska, which means “a soft, gentle breeze”. Her mother, Gussie, was Howard, Rusty and Sam Goodman’s sister. At age four, she and her mother went to live with the Goodmans. She soon joined in singing and became an original member of the group that would be known as the “Happy Goodman Family.” At age nine, she sang on stage at the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. In 1957, Howard, Vestal, Rusty and LaBreeska sang at a revival in Bawcomville, Louisiana, where she met pastor W.T. Hemphill’s son, Joel. Joel and LaBreeska were married that same year, with Rev. Hemphill officiating.
After leaving the Goodmans, she and Joel began their own ministry that would continue for over fifty years. Joel was called to pastor his first church in Bastrop, Louisiana, in 1961, and daughter, Candy, was born two weeks later. They served there for ten years, and during that time they began to fast and pray about how to reach more people. Before long, they recorded an album with Marvin Norcross at Canaan Records, the top Christian label of the day. In 1969, Rusty called Joel and told him that their song, “Pity the Man”, had been nominated for a Dove Award, to which Joel replied, “What’s a ‘Dove Award’?” They were soon receiving requests to sing as a duet from as far away as Phoenix, Arizona.
Joel’s nephew, Tim McKeithen and his wife, Dixie, joined them to form the first group known as “The Hemphills.” Their first child, Joel, Jr. (Joey), started playing drums when he was twelve. His brother, Trent, and sister, Candy, would later join as well, making them a true family group. All the children agreed that Mom was the glue that held them together, and held them up before God. Candy attributed her mother’s prayers to their success. Joey said one of his earliest memories of his mother was her sitting on the front porch swing reading her Bible. Many times, when Joel was outside working to get the bus running again, she was inside praying.
“The Hemphills” recorded at least thirty albums and won eight Dove Awards, including one that LaBreeska and Joel won for their children’s project, “God Likes Kids.” The group disbanded in 1990, but Joel and LaBreeska continued as a duet. After a fight with brain cancer, the Lord called her home on December 9, 2015 at the age of seventy-five. LaBreeska Rogers Hemphill has now joined her husband, Joel (2007), in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Inducted in 2017
Randy Shelnut was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955 to Dale and Shirley Shelnut. He joins his father, Dale Shelnut, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. Randy is known for preserving the legendary sound of The Dixie Echoes. At thirteen, Randy started playing bass guitar with the Dixie Echoes along with his father. When manager, J.G. Whitfield decided to come off the road, Randy took over the baritone duties with the group in 1970. He said his Dad raised him loving Southern Gospel music, and his fondest memories as a kid were concerts at the Birmingham Auditorium. He loved to sit back stage and talk with the other singers and swap bus stories. The Statesmen, The Blackwood Brothers and The Florida Boys became like family to him. They also sang together on the nationally televised “Gospel Singing Jubilee”. Randy said, “You don’t realize at the time the history you are involved in. All the major groups of the day were on there. I was just a kid when we starting filming, but it was quite an event with all the comradery among the groups.”
After the untimely death of his father in 1983, Randy took over The Dixie Echoes, and assumed the lead position with the group. Over the forty-three years with the group, he has sung baritone and lead, played piano, guitars, bass guitar, fiddle, steel, and banjo. He has also played on, and produced hundreds of albums in his recording studio, Echo Sound.
Randy is an accomplished songwriter with several top 40 songs to his credit, including “I’ll Take Jesus” and
“Walkin’ On.” He was voted “Favorite Baritone” in the Singing News Fan Awards in 1984 and 1985. Randy likes to make things from scratch, or take junk and turn it into something useful. One of his creations is a two-seat sport airplane which he flies. He and his son, Randy Jr. build acoustic guitars.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Randy replied, “Probably just like how my Dad wanted to be remembered, as a good friend. A person that loved Gospel music, loved the Lord, loved what Gospel music meant to us, and loved friends that were friends.” Randy Shelnut now takes his place with fellow members of the Dixie Echoes, J.G. Whitfield (1997), Jack Toney (2005), Billy Todd (2009) and his father and dearest friend, Dale Shelnut (2001) in the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.