The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion is a one-of-a-kind event due to the fact that we never assemble in the same way year after year.  Here we pay tribute to the legends and various contributors of gospel music who have passed away since the 2009 GOGR.

Jerry Barnette was born on October 17, 1935 in Caldwell Parish, Louisiana. As he grew up, gospel music was very popular in North Louisiana. Weekly singing conventions and summer singing schools were just a part of life. As a part of this environment, Barnette developed his musical talent and became an excellent singer.

 

In the early 1950’s Jerry was a part of Garland May’s popular Chordsmen Quartet in Monroe. Louisiana.  During the mid 1950’s there were two Stamps Quartets based in Dallas, Texas. The Stamps Quartet was the full time traveling quartet.  The Stamps Harmony Five Quartet was made up of men who also worked in the Stamps Quartet Publishing Plant and sang primarily on weekends. Frank Stamps hired Barnette to sing in The Harmony Five, as Jack Mainord replaced Don Randall in the Stamps Quartet. 

 

In 1957, when the Stamps Quartet left the Stamps organization and changed their name to The Plainsmen, The Harmony Five officially became The Stamps Quartet.  When the Stamps Quartet Music Company was sold, Jerry returned to his Louisiana roots where he lived until his death.

 

During his post Stamps Quartet years Jerry was involved in church music and sang in his own part time quartet.  Jerry Barnette passed away February 1, 2010.  He was 74.

 


For nearly 60 years, inspirational artist Doug Oldham blessed the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people, both in his concerts and through television. He ministered in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and throughout the world. Oldham first began singing in the early 1960s at tent revival meetings where his father was the evangelist. He soon met a high school teacher who was also a novice songwriter and pianist named Bill Gaither. They began traveling together on the weekends with Oldham singing the new songs written by Gaither. Oldham was the very first person to sing and record “He Touched Me."

Oldham recorded more than 65 albums and performed for national and international dignitaries including former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, as well as Prince Phillip and the Queen of England.

He was the recipient of two Dove Awards and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2007, Oldham received the Lifetime Champion Award for his many years of service at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty University named a remodeled room in their Fine Arts Building "Oldham Revital Hall", and an anonymous donor contributed to the beginnings of the Doug Oldham Music Scholarship Program at Liberty.

Doug Oldham passed away July 21 awaiting surgery, after falling and breaking his back.  He was 79.


Leonard Edward "Red" Mathis was born September 7, 1920 in Henrietta, NC.  During World War II, Mathis served with the 2nd Indian Head Army Division during "D" Day Operations.  He received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in France.  He was awarded the Two Star Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Metal, and Meritorious Service Unit.  Upon his discharge from the Army, Mathis worked at Converse Mill in Converse, SC.  

He sang in several choirs, and while singing in a choir at Zion Hill Baptist Church, he was chosen as the original tenor singer for the Blue Ridge Quartet.  Mathis joined James Smith, Rosie Rosebury, Shaw Eiland, and Jack Taylor in forming this legendary group.  Mathis remained with the Blue Ridge Quartet until 1950.

Following his tenure with the Blue Ridge, Mathis worked in New Jersey as a supervisor for Kazam Organization, and as a warehouse supervisor for Uddeholm Steel in Hartford, Connecticut, after which he took medical retirement.

In his later years, he returned to the Spartanburg area.  He was a member of Eastside Baptist Church, where he sang solo on several occasions.  He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans and American Legion Post #0045.

Mathis passed away at Richard Campbell Veterans Home on June 19.  He was 89.


CR "Pat" Patterson was born January 16, 1931 near Statesville, North Carolina.  In the late 1940s, Patterson was a member of the Calvary Boys Quartet.  When all members of Wally Fowler's Oak Ridge Quartet except for Fowler himself left the group in 1949, the Calvary Boys became Wally's "new" Oak Ridge Quartet.  Patterson remained with the Oak Ridge until he served in the Korean War in 1952.  Following his stint in the service, Patterson joined Bill Hefner, Buddy Parker, Herschel Wooten, and David Reece in forming the Harvesters Quartet, where he remained for several years.

Following his retirement from the gospel music world in the late 1950s, he worked as an insurance agent for 50 years.  Patterson died unexpectedly on May 18 at his farm in Hiddenite, North Carolina.  He was 79.

 


Priscilla McGruder was the voice and presence that propelled her family group, The McGruders, to the forefront of the gospel music industry.  Her life partnership with her husband, Carroll McGruder formed a team of songwriter and performer that would reach thousands.  Beginning in the 1970s, The McGruders released some of gospel music’s best-known songs of the last several decades, many recorded by other groups such as The Florida Boys, Cathedrals, Hoppers, and Gold City.  Some of their best known songs include "I'm Going Home With Jesus", " Saved", " I've Just Started Living", "Thanks", " I Lean On You, Lord", "A Great Homecoming" and "Most of All".

Mrs. McGruder was well-documented in her fight against breast cancer during her last years.  Her faith and strength remained an inspiration to many as her song and testimony never waned.  Priscilla McGruder passed away on April 29 after being placed in hospice care a few days earlier.  She was 61.

 


Through the years, Ray Shelton was an active part of Southern Gospel music. During the 1970s and 80s, he was leader of the Senators Quartet, which featured such gospel talents as Jim Hamill, Bill Shaw, London Parris, Rick Fair, Gary Timbs, and Ed Sprouse. 

In 1990, he was instrumental in forming the James Blackwood Quartet with James Blackwood, Ken Turner, Rosie Rozell and Brad White...then later Larry Ford. This group was a crowd favorite anywhere they went during most of the decade of the 1990s, earning a Grammy nomination.

Ray also started Senators Coaches. which was one of the most successful companies in bus leasing for many years.

Ray Shelton passed away on April 8. He was 83.

 


Jerry Dean Redd was born July 22, 1936 in Gadsden, Alabama.  At age 17, Jerry began singing with the Camp Meeting Boys, launching one of the most varied careers in gospel music.

The list of groups Jerry Redd has performed with reads like a who's who of Gospel music.  Jerry was a member of The Rangers Trio, Rev. John Hull & the Joymakers, Stamps Quartet with Joe Roper, The Rhythm Masters, Speer Family, Plainsmen, Lee Roy Abernathy's All-Star Quartet, Ron Blackwood Quartet, The Premiers, The Kingsmen, The Diplomats, The Rangers, and others.  In addition to the great tenor singing Mr. Redd provided for these groups, he was also a wonderful pianist.

He served as Minister of Music for several churches, and also taught guitar, piano, and voice in the Valley and Eufaula, Alabama area.  He was a 1999 recipient of the Living Legend Award at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, and twice inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame with the Stamps and The Kingsmen. 

Jerry Redd passed away March 12, after a period of declining health.  He was 73.

 


Born on February 27, 1933, Richard Coltrane served several stints with some of gospel music's most popular quartets.  After graduation from Allen Jay High School, he enlisted in the US Army, serving in Korea. Upon completion of his military service, Mr. Coltrane worked for the High Point Enterprise, managing the Photo Engraving Department, then opened his own business, PhotoPlate, yet Richard was always lured by his desire to sing gospel quartet music.

During the 1970s, Richard was a member of the Harvesters Quartet.  By the early 1980s, he was singing baritone for the Statesmen Quartet.  In the early days of the Masters Five, when James Blackwood was unable to fill certain dates due to his commitment to the Blackwood Brothers, Richard was the original baritone vocalist with the Masters Five.  

Always the dependable vocalist, he was often used for several special groups at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, most notably Charlie Waller's "Strangemen Quartet".  This quartet was unique as Lily Fern Weatherford donned Jake Hess's wig and a pin-striped mustache to disguise as a miniature male tenor, while the ever-unpredictable Buddy Burton dressed in women's clothes and played the role of "Sister Opal".  

Richard was awarded the Living Legend Award at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion for his many dedicated years in the gospel quartet field.  Mr. Coltrane passed away on March 5.  He was 77.

 


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, including Jimmy Jones and the Heralds, who maintained the same personnel for 23 years.

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.

Always a favorite at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, Charles Key will be missed.  He passed away on January 29, following a battle with cancer.  He was 83.


Kermit Jamerson was born on March 16, 1924 in Yancey County, North Carolina.  He first gained notoriety as as tenor singer for the Deep South Quartet, alongside group leader Jimmy Jones, Brownie Jones, and David Reece.  During the mid to late 1960s, Jamerson was a part of the Kingsmen Quartet during their steady rise to the top of the gospel music world, performing with Eldridge Fox, Frank Cutshall, Calvin Runion, and Ray Talley.  He was also a member of the Friendly Five, All-American Quartet, the Sheriff's Quartet, and others.

Following his stint with the Kingsmen, Jamerson retired from the full-time gospel music scene and became a salesman for a local Chevrolet dealer in Weaverville, North Carolina.  He was married to Alene McKinney Jamerson for 61 years, and was a 2000 inductee into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as a member of the Kingsmen.

Kermit Jamerson passed away on January 24 at the age of 85.

 


Roger Clark was born in High Shoals, N.C., on Nov. 4, 1926. His love of singing and music began at the early age of 3, when he belted out his first solo in his church. He later sang his way across the South as lead singer in the Stamps Quartet, alongside young lead singer Glen Payne.  He was also a member of the Sunny South Quartet with JD Sumner and Jake Hess.

Clark was an accomplished choir director, serving in several area churches, including East Tyler Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, Tyler. He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church, Tyler where he was a dedicated choir member and member of the Men's Radio Bible Class.

Roger Clark passed away on December 18, following a brief illness.  He was 83.

 


Born August 17, 1932, Jean Bradford was perhaps most widely-known as the wife of famous gospel vocalist Shorty Bradford, yet in addition, she was a wonderful  singer, and a fantastic song writer, having composed several popular gospel songs including "Lord I Need You Again Today", "We’re Not Home Yet Children", "Calvary’s Hill", and "It Will Be Worth It".  Her songs have been recorded by the Speer Family, Cathedrals, Weatherfords, Gold City, and others.

She was a member of the Shorty Bradford Trio, and led the Parkway Singers for 20 years.  She also worked for several years at Chattanooga Speech and Hearing Center. She was a lifelong resident of the North Georgia area and a member of the Rising Fawn Baptist Church where she was the church pianist and a member of the Auditorium Sunday School Class. 

Mrs. Bradford's performance of "Child of the King" was a highlight of Charlie Waller's video recording, "Atlanta Sings All-Nite".  She also appeared on several of the Gaither Homecoming videos. 

Mrs. Bradford passed away on December 13.  She was 77.

 


John Orvia "Tennessee" Smith was born on August 15, 1918 in Oneida, Tennessee.  Smith is not a widely recognized name in the gospel quartet field, yet he was a part of the origins of one of gospel music's most popular early quartets.

There are few groups in the entertainment world that have accomplished even a few of the many feats of the Sunshine Boys. The Sunshine Boys were formed in the late 1930's as a country and western band.  Smith joined his brother Smitty, Ace Richman, and Pat Patterson in forming the quartet.  Patterson was soon replaced by Eddie Wallace.  The Sunshine Boys recorded several sides for the Village Label and the Pan-American label with this personnel, as well as appearing in multiple western movies alongside Charles Starrett, Eddie Dean, Lash Larue, and Smiley Burnette.  The Sunshine Boys performed on several radio stations in the Atlanta area including WAGA and WSB.

The Sunshine Boys demonstrated their versatility at this time by performing as two different groups on radio station WAGA. The station needed a Western swing band, so the Sunshine Boys became their alter-ego: The Light Crust Dough Boys. They would perform a fifteen minute radio program as the Light Crust Dough Boys complete with a guitar, a bass, a fiddle, and an accordion as accompaniment. During a thirty-second commercial break, the group would then transform themselves into the Sunshine Boys. Eddie Wallace would move to the piano, swing the microphones around, and the Sunshine Boys would sing a fifteen minute gospel program. This setup lasted for several years. Very few listeners in the Atlanta area realized they were listening to the same group with different names. Their concert performances were always done under the name "The Sunshine Boys" and they featured basically gospel music. Their arrangements of these gospel tunes and spirituals were far superior to most of the groups of that day due to the vast musical abilities of all of the members of the group.

The Smith Brothers left the Sunshine Boys in 1949 to pursue country and western music horizons further, and remained in the Atlanta area for many years.

Smith passed away on September 2 at the age of 91.


Bill Hefner was born April 11, 1930 in Elora, Tennessee. He grew up in Sardis, Alabama and following his graduation from Sardis High School, attended the University of Alabama.

Following the death of popular tenor Bobby Strickland in 1953, Hefner became tenor for the Crusaders Quartet of Birmingham, Alabama, joining Herschel Wooten, Bervin Kendrick, Buddy Parker, and Dickie Matthews. The remainder of the Crusaders' career was short-lived, and the following year, Hefner, Wooten, and Parker formed the Harvesters Quartet in Charlotte, NC. The quartet enjoyed immense popularity from 1954 until their retirement in 1967, appearing on numerous National and North Carolina TV channels. Hefner became best known for his comedy, first-class emcee work, and his performance of the song "He'll Pilot Me".

Hefner continued promoting gospel music for many years in his home state following the disbandment of the Harvesters. In 1974, he was elected to the 94th United States Congress, where he served a total of 12 terms, from January 3, 1975 through January 3, 1999, before retiring from Congress. Hefner built a reputation as an advocate for military veterans, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina, was renamed in his honor in 1999.

Bill Hefner was always a favorite at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, serving most often as emcee for the concerts for the last 12 years.  His appearances at Let's Make A Deal are legendary.  It is highly doubtable that Hefner being dressed in a Dolly Parton wig and zebra-patterned bra at Let's Make A Deal this year will be forgotten anytime soon (see the photo gallery).  His performances of "Glory Road" at the Jam Sessions were a GOGR tradition.  He was a recipient of the GOGR Living Legend Award in 1998. His final concert appearance was at the 2009 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion will certainly miss his dry wit and classy emcee work.

Bill Hefner suffered a massive brain aneurism and passed away on September 2. He was 79.

Cards of encouragement may be sent to: 

Nancy Hefner
411 Browns Creek Rd
Guntersville AL 35976


 

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