CLASS OF 2021
Jack Clark of Cleveland was among four Southern Gospel Artists inducted this week into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. The announcement is made every year during the National Quartet Convention. It’s being held all this week in Pigeon Forge.
The West Virginia native started playing the piano when he was five. At the age of 12, Mr. Clark became interested in four-part harmony through the Stamps Baxter songbooks. He’s written over 200 gospel songs.
Mr. Clark has played piano for a variety of gospel singers, starting out with the Gilliam Quartet in California. He traveled to Ohio and got a job with the Landmark Quartet with the Landmark Temple in Cincinnati pastored by Rev. Rex Humbard. Rev. Humbard was on national television. Mr. Clark also played for the Songfellows, Harvesters, Homeland Harmony and Premiers. In 1981 Mr. Clark started teaching music at the North Georgia School of Gospel Music.
Cleveland Mayor Emeritus Tom Rowland said he really enjoys listening to Mr. Clark play the piano and called him “the best.” Mayor Rowland also said that Mr. Clark is a great gospel songwriter.
For many years Mr. Clark worked for Pathway Press, publishers of the Red Back Church Hymnal. Mr. Clark said, “There’s nothing like the great hymns of the church, most of them preach a sermon.”
Hamilton County Trustee Bill Hullander has been a fan of Mr. Clark for several decades. Over five years ago, Mr. Clark, Mr. Hullander and Sue Gray organized the monthly “Hymn Sings” at Hullander’s farm in Apison. The hymn sings were temporarily stopped because of COVID.
Mr. Clark was involved in the music department of Westwood Baptist Church for 45 years, serving as pianist and orchestra director. At the age of 87, Mr. Clark says he may slow down a little but has no plans to stop spreading the Gospel through his piano music.
KAREN PECK GOOCH
CLASS OF 2021
“Hey, friend!” is the familiar greeting of one of Southern Gospel’s most beloved ladies, Karen Peck Gooch. From award-winning singer/songwriter to president of the SGMA, Karen’s career in Gospel music spans over forty years. Born in Gainesville, Georgia, Karen is the youngest of three sisters. Karen’s mother recalls she hummed before she could talk, and her mouth was never closed! Saved at age eight, she grew up attending the all-night singings in Atlanta. Karen dreamed of singing with the LeFevres and realized that dream in June of 1980 when she joined “Uncle Alf and The LeFevres.” In 1981, she replaced Janet Paschal as soprano with the “Rex Nelon Singers,” and established herself as a premier singer, endearing herself to their fans for the next ten years. During that time, she received her first GMA Dove Award. In 1986, she was voted “Favorite Soprano” by the Singing News Fan Awards, which she won for eleven consecutive years.
In 1991, she joined her husband, Rickey Gooch, along with her sister, Susan Peck Jackson, David White and Danny Crawford on piano to form Karen Peck and New River. Because of her years in the industry, the group's success was almost immediate. Through the years, many talented singers and musicians have contributed to their success. Today, KPNR has evolved into a family group with Karen and Rickey’s daughter, Kari, their son, Matthew, sister, Susan, along with Grant Gibson. Matthew’s wife, Preslee, serves as product manager.
Karen and her group have received five Grammy nominations, eight GMA Dove awards and over thirty Absolutely Gospel Music awards. In 2012, Karen was awarded the “Susan Unthank Memorial Award,” an award handed out each year by the staff of absolutelygospel.com that recognizes women in the Southern Gospel industry for their contributions. Her songs have reached #1 on the Singing News charts seventeen times. In 2018, she was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. Her signature song, Four Days Late, which was written by fellow member of the SGMA Class of 2021 Aaron Wilburn, was named “Song of the Decade 2000-2010” by Singing News magazine. The song is the story of Lazarus. In 2017, during a tour in Israel, she was blessed to sing it in front of the traditional site of Lazarus’ tomb.
Karen is not only a superior vocalist, but an accomplished songwriter as well. She has written and co-written several chart-topping songs for her group, including “I Know I’ll Be There,” “The River,” “Revival,” “Pray Now,” “Gotta Be Saved,” “Everybody’s Going Through Something,” “On The Banks Of The Promised Land,” “Daddy’s Home,” “I Am Blessed,” “I Wanna Know How It Feels,” “Calling,” “Finish Well,” and “Hope For All Nations.”
Karen extended her career from stage to screen with a role in the 2012 hit film, “Joyful Noise,” starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. She later appeared in 2014’s "Redeemed." KPNR is featured on many Gaither Homecoming videos. She is a co-host of the weekly cable program, Gospel Music USA with Danny Jones and Mike LeFevre.
Mike LeFevre shared, "Truly, Karen is someone who has dedicated her life to serving God through the gift that was given her. Her calling has been evident to me in the forty-plus years I’ve known her. Her heart for the Lord, her heart for her family, her heart for people, and her heart for the music makes Karen so deserving of this great honor here on earth. Congratulations, Karen!"
Karen’s contribution to the Southern Gospel industry continues off the stage as well. She has served on the Board of Directors for Abraham Productions, an events’ promotions company that promotes several Christian cruises and concert events each year. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Board of the Southern Gospel Music Association and has served two terms as President, the first woman to be so named. She also holds an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Toccoa Falls College in Georgia.
Ed Leonard, president of Daywind Music Group said, "It has been an honor and a privilege to work with such an amazing, anointed, renaissance woman like Karen Peck Gooch. She can, of course, sing like no one else. Her God-provided gift for communicating through song is what put her in the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and now into the SGMA Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. However, Karen’s gifts extend well beyond singing, to songwriting, acting, ministering, mentoring, and leading. Where she goes, everyone follows. She sets the bar high, and then takes it higher and higher."
Welcome to the SGMA Hall of Fame, Karen! God has used you to spread the Gospel all over the world. It has been gratifying to be part of your wonderful ministry – Dottie Leonard
One of Karen’s favorite events is her “Karen Peck and New River Homecoming” in her hometown of Dahlonega, Georgia. On Friday night of that event this year, she was informed of her induction. “It was a perfect and special moment to be honored in front of the people that I love the most,” says Karen. “My heart is full of joy and gratitude. I’d like to give special thanks to Arthur (Rice), Travis (Bridgeman), Tammy (Rice), and Alan (Kendall) at the Southern Gospel Music Association for making the announcement a forever heartfelt memory. Most of all I’m thankful to the Lord for allowing me to live my dream for forty-one years. I am committed to do all I can to reach the world for Jesus Christ through the greatest music this side of Heaven.”
Reflecting on her life, Karen says, “I was saved at eight years old, and as a small child, God placed in my heart the desire to sing Gospel music. I am very thankful to the Lord for giving me the desires of my heart. I am very blessed to travel with my husband, Rickey, and my children, along with my sister, Susan, and her family. I am living my dream.”
This month, Karen Peck Gooch, will join her legendary friend, Rex Nelon, in the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame.
MARLIN RAYMOND TAYLOR
CLASS OF 2021
While Marlin Taylor is not a household name in Southern Gospel, almost every group owes a debt of gratitude to the platform he has provided them through XM Satellite radio’s, enLighten.
Marlin was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1935. His first memory of listening to the radio was on December 7th, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor. At age 10, his mother sacrificed to buy him a Philco Transitone radio for $19.40. He loved listening to radio series like Tom Mix and Sky King. But, even at that age, he became interested in not just the programs, but the programming. His first radio broadcasting experience was in 1955 at WTNJ 1300 AM in Trenton, New Jersey. He answered calls from listeners making requests, which resulted in his being offered the opportunity to engineer a series of remote broadcasts. Although having no formal training nor college education but being blessed by the Lord with an intuitive sense and understanding of how things should be done, Marlin was able to utilize this small beginning and build it into a successful and rewarding career.
Marlin’s only experience as a DJ came after he was drafted in 1958 and later assigned to Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, 1,000 miles south of the north pole. While there, he was assigned to the evening shift at the base radio station, KOLD (how appropriate for the climate there!). He dubbed the station, “the warm voice from the cold north.” After his discharge in 1961, he went to work for WHFS in Bethesda, Maryland, his first FM station. In 1963, he joined a new FM Station in Philadelphia, WDVR, as station manager and program director where he developed a new approach to easy listening music. Marlin is widely known as the father of the “Beautiful Music” radio format. Under his leadership, WDVR became the number one rated FM radio station in the country. His success would lead to general manager and program director positions at several large market stations along the Northeast Corridor, including Boston and New York. He founded Bonneville Broadcast Consultants in 1971 to syndicate the “easy listening” programming to more than 200 stations for nearly two decades.
In 1975, he married Alicia Blood, who he first met in 1957 while recording a community choir. Alicia was a professional singer and would be the voice of the enLighten station ID’s from 2004 to 2013. She passed away in 2019 after forty-three years of what friends said was “the perfect marriage”. Marlin is the father of three children, Scott, Linda and Patricia.
In 1998, Marlin learned of a new station platform called satellite radio. In 2000, he was hired to program the “40’s Big Band” channel for XM Radio, and in 2002 an easy listening channel. Then in 2004, out of subscriber demand, a Southern Gospel channel was added called enLighten. As management was not enthusiastic about the genre, they did not wish to hire a person specifically for the channel, so Marlin felt led to take on the challenge of managing and programming it. While he had always had a love for God’s music, he was not in touch with the current artists or their music. He called Singing News magazine and ordered the last six issues to learn who the current artists were. He then called Crossroads and Daywind asking for a box of CD’s for programming. He, along with former associate, “Country Dan Dixon,” attended a Bill Gaither “Homecoming” taping. They met several of the artists, including The Isaacs, who recorded what became the channel jingle: “We’re the Isaacs, and this is enLighten!” At that time, it was only offered online. A year later, the XM music channels were added to DirecTV, and enLighten was included. This led to the channel joining the satellite lineup on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2006. The response was tremendous! Singing News editor-in-chief, Jerry Kirksey, said at the time: “enLighten is the greatest thing that has happened to Southern Gospel since the “Gospel Singing Jubilee” television program began airing across America in 1964. This industry’s gratitude is unending. XM Radio is truly taking our music from sea to shining sea.”
While the primary emphasis was always on the popular artists and groups, Marlin believed there was a place for lesser-known groups, some that were already part of history and others just on the way up. In most cases, the decision was based on the message in the song over the familiarity of the group’s name. One such group at the time was The Hyssongs, who he first heard in Spring Hill, Florida, around 2006. Providentially, it was SGMA board member, Richard Hyssong, along with SGMA President, Arthur Rice, who notified Marlin of his induction.
Marlin served enLighten and Southern Gospel music until turning the channel over to Kyle Cantrell in 2013. He has garnished several awards in the broadcasting industry. In 2001, he was presented the American Broadcast Pioneer Award, and in 2015, was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame of Philadelphia. In 2012, enlighten was the recipient of the “Les Beasley Impact Award”.
Marlin’s life story is chronicled in his radio life memoir, “Radio: My Love, My Passion”. Today, he lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Marlin’s lifetime motto is “What can I do to bring joy to others?” His journey from “AM to XM” has certainly brought joy to untold millions!
This month, Mr. Marlin Raymond Taylor will join radio legends, Bazzel and Lady Mull, Warren Roberts and Paul Heil in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
AARON WILBURN (07/09/50 - 11/27/20)
CLASS OF 2021
Aaron Wilburn was born in Ardmore, Alabama on July 9, 1950 to the late Eugene and Lola Wilburn. Aaron first gained national attention as a band member of The Happy Goodman Family. Playing rhythm guitar and often singing as a guest soloist during the group's appearances, Aaron traveled with the legendary family group during the early 1970's.
It was also during Aaron's time with The Happy Goodman Family that his talent as a songwriter began moving to the forefront of Gospel music. Throughout Aaron's five decades of songwriting, he either wrote or co-wrote many of Gospel music's most beloved songs, including "Four Days Late," "Home," "It Won't Rain Always," "That Sounds Like Home To Me," "What A Beautiful Day (For The Lord To Come Again)," and dozens more.
Aaron's ability to present family-friendly comedy was quickly discovered as he developed the solo career that he enjoyed for more than 40 years. By blending humorous tales with quick one-liners and a seemingly endless repertoire of comical songs, Aaron was able to share his talents in Gospel concerts, church services, secular conventions, corporate banquets, and events of all sizes throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and numerous other countries. Frequently seen on Bill Gaither's Homecoming Concerts and videos, Aaron was also a pioneering Christian performer on YouTube, quickly garnering more than 4,000,000 views in the video sharing website's earliest days.
During his career, Aaron was honored with several No. 1 songs, multiple Dove Awards, and numerous Grammy nominations. Two songs, "What A Beautiful Day (For The Lord To Come Again)" and "Four Days Late," were voted as "Song Of The Year" by subscribers of Singing News Magazine in 1975 and 2001.
In 2005, Aaron was honored in his home state by being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.