GOGR Music History - GOGR

Often I'm asked how I learned so much about the early years of gospel music. My answer is simple: The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion!

For the past seventeen years, Charlie Waller has produced the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. It has grown from a one day event to a four-day celebration centered around the finest performers in gospel music history. I recently returned from this event, and wanted to use my History 101 column as my soap box to praise Mr. Waller and his unique production efforts. Special praise is also warranted for Liz Autry, Charlie's wonderful assistant who handles the details that make the weekend run smoothly.

The GOGR began in 1988. Mr. Waller with the help of Jack Pittman of the Palmetto State Quartet combed the country to put together some of the forgotten legends of gospel music on one stage for one concert. Charlie was able to put together members of many groups from the past including the Rebels, Rangers Trio, Blackwood Brothers, Sunshine Boys, Prophets, LeFevres, Lee Roy Abernathy Quartet, Blue Ridge, Masters V, Statesmen, and the Dixie Echoes. The Palmetto State Quartet hosted the first reunion, and was also featured on the program.

Mr. Waller's knowledge of the history of gospel music coupled with his artistic talents and abilities have made the reunion more than a concert. It's an "event" in the true sense of the word. Prior to the beginning of the GOGR, many pioneers of gospel music had joined the Heavenly choir. However, Mr.Waller's vast collection often has brought these pioneers to the big screen via audio and video clips from the past.

As the years have passed, Charlie (known a "Tha' Man" to the GOGR faithful) has expanded the reunion to a four-day event, always keeping the audiences in mind as he orchestrates new twists each year to keep them coming back for more. The family atmosphere is evident from the opening moments through the hugs at the close of the weekend.

Through the years, the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion stage has welcomed the finest artists in gospel music. The 1991 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion was the site of the first Gaither Homecoming presentation. This night, the concept video, "Where Could I Go But to the Lord" was debuted and performed live for the reunion crowd.

Several of gospel music's finest groups have debuted on the reunion stage. The Dove Brothers, recently voted "Male Quartet of the Year," made their debut at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. The reunion was also the site of one of the first performances by the outstanding Booth Brothers. Many other groups credit the GOGR for reviving sagging careers and opening doors to further their singing careers.

The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion has welcomed many groups from yesteryear to their stage. There are many highlights through the years. Some that come to mind include these: The original Cathedral Quartet reunited for the first and only time in thirty years on the GOGR stage. Tammy Wynette took the stage praising her musical hero, Jake Hess for the "Jake Hess -- This is Your Life" segment. Michael English joined the Singing Americans on stage after he had been rebuked by many in gospel music. The Johnson Sisters reunited in song after nearly thirty years. The Weatherford Quartet again had Glen Payne singing lead as they thrilled the reunion crowd. Hovie Lister joined the Dove Brothers to perform a classic Statesmen song, "Get Away Jordan." The memories just continue to flow. I would encourage the attendees to add their comments at the end of the article.

As in all things, change is inevitable. In a roll call of the 41 artists that performed at the first reunion, sixteen have passed away and three others are unable to sing due to health concerns. However, Mr. Waller continues to present the finest in gospel music each year at the reunion. The performers have expanded to include some of the finest artists singing gospel music today. It maintains the integrity of the original reunion while offering the audiences a close look at many of today's active performers.

This year, the reunion could have easily been titled "The Grand Young Gospel Reunion" as many of the groups presented their new talents. The Melody Boys Quartet, a reunion favorite for many years, showcased their new 17-year-old baritone, Joshua Noah. The Dove Brothers, fresh from their new video shoot at Angola State Penitentiary, featured their new bass singer, David Hester. Although David may not be considered "young," he has an outstanding voice and stage presence that will make him a favorite of gospel music fans for years to come.

The Florida Boys, Dixie Echoes, and Dixie Melody Boys all had new tenor singers in their lineup. Dan Keaton of the Dixie Melody Boys did a superb job singing the tenor classic, "Hide Thou Me." Harold Reed gave a new found energy each time the Florida Boys performed at the reunion. David Robinson also did a great job with the Dixie Echoes.

A special treat for the reunion crowd was twelve year old piano prodigy Joshua Pope. He performed not only on the main stage, but also joined the wizards of the keyboard at the Piano Roll of Honor. The young duet, Fresh Spirit, also delighted the audience.

Ben Harris and Southern Sound were in charge of the sound system at the hotel. They also had their new baritone, Trevor Haley, performing at the top of his game. Their performances both on stage and off stage were outstanding.

The SouthernGospelNews Message Board was well represented this year. I'm sure I'll omit some names, but I enjoyed conversations with Ben Harris, Dean Adkins, John Rulapaugh, Norman Graham, Jonathan Sawrie, Carol Hughes, and McCray Dove among others. Alan Kendall and Gayla Fooks were both quite active in making sure the reunion ran smoothly. If I missed someone, please forgive me! I also found out that there are MANY folks in the industry that read our message boards religiously, even though they don't post. Fellow posters may want to keep this in mind when stating their observations and opinions!

Although time and space won't allow me to go into details of all the events, there were a few things that were highlights to me. "Up Close and Personal with Mosie Lister" featured a stage full of artists singing their favorite Mosie Lister songs. Mosie shared some touching and humorous tales about his career writing gospel music. The Dove Brothers presented several songs from their new project, "A Tribute to Mosie Lister," and other groups expressed their thanks and love for Mosie and all he's done for gospel music.

The Piano Roll of Honor featured many artists from yesterday and today. It was great to see a youngster like Joshua Pope on stage with legends like Kenny Gates, Charles Key, Earl Brewer, Derrell Stewart, and Henry Slaughter. L.D. Young was inducted into the Piano Roll of Honor.

The evening concerts were held at Furman University. The programs were fast paced and full of energy. Each group took the stage with a special flair that seems to always be prevalent at the GOGR. The Saturday evening concert took the audience back to an earlier, more simple time in gospel music history. The groups performed around two microphones, and the soundtracks and vocal stacks were left on the bus. It was a return to classic four part harmony accompanied by intricate piano runs and fills. Many of the living legends in gospel music made their way across the stage performing the classic songs that have thrilled gospel music audiences for more than fifty years.

Charlie Waller never ceases to amaze the reunion faithful with his humor, creativity, and love for the people. He also pulled at the heart strings with his memorial tribute to the late, great Jack Toney. This may have been the finest seven minutes of the reunion. The Heavenly Choir have increased by eighteen members since the 2003 reunion, and Charlie paid tribute to these dearly departed musicians.

Charlie also surprised the reunion crowd with his singing ability as he joined his Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Quartet singing the classic, "Sweeter as the Days Go By." The crowd reaction was fabulous as they saw this tuxedo clad quartet singing that classic song in the style right out of the early 60s! Their staging and excitement brought the crowd back in time.

I would publically like to thank Charlie Waller for all he's done to further gospel music past and present. He was the first person to give me the opportunity to write about the history of gospel music. Without Mr. Waller's encouragement, there would be no Southern Gospel History 101. Thank you Charlie for being an encourager, supporter and friend.

 


Comments:
(Email any additional comments to webmaster@grandolegospelreunion.com)
 
Name:
Francis Cannon
Email:
babe357@bellsouth.net
Date:
09 Apr 2005
Time:
01:18 PM

Comments

i go to the show ever year I like it very murch but I hope i go this year,i don't know if i can had alot of sick this year but i be there


Name:
Francis Cannon
Email:
babe357@bellsouth.net
Date:
09 Apr 2005
Time:
01:18 PM

Comments

i go to the show ever year I like it very murch but I hope i go this year,i don't know if i can had alot of sick this year but i be there


Name:
Karen Farmer
Email:
kfarmer@englishboiler.com
Date:
10 Mar 2005
Time:
02:21 PM

Comments

It was a great time again! I brought some first time folks with me and they all will return for the 2005 one and I will bring some more folks from VA. Thank you for all of your hard work in this event. Thanks to all of the singers and back ground workers!


Name:
OpalHarris
Email:
fiddlesticksharr@aol.com
Date:
28 Feb 2005
Time:
08:50 PM

Comments

I was there and I met you when I first walked in the door. I enjoy all of your stuff too. Can't wait until the next GOGR


Name:
Charles Miller
Email:
chasdelmiller@juno.com
Date:
17 Feb 2005
Time:
11:55 AM

Comments

Are you having another concert in 2005?


Name:
Email:
Date:
09 Jan 2005
Time:
07:20 PM

Comments

I think Bluegrass is the best ever!!! I love to listen to it. Charlie Waller was a great musician and will never be forgotten.


Name:
DUANE RULAPAUGH/ RULAPAUGH PROMOTIONS
Email:
RUDAPOP@AOL.COM

Comments

THANKS CHARLIE FOR YET ANOTHER GREAT G.O.G.R. WE ARE ONLY SMALL POTATOES WHEN IT COMES TO PROMOTING SOUTHERN GOSPEL CONCERTS BUT WE KNOW WELL TO MUCH HOW MUCH WORK AND FINANCES GO INTO MAKING AN EVENT HAPPEN.THANKS SO MUCH ALSO FOR ALLOWING OUR SON JOHN BE A PART OF THE G.O.G.R.QUARTET! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW MUCH IT MEANS TO HIM AS WELL AS HIS MOM AND DAD.LOOK ING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR!!!


Name:
David Green
Email:
davidrgreen@comcast.net

Comments

Since the passing of so many of our "Legends", the GOGR has become more about the getting together with friends each year that we only get to see each August. The fans that make the pilgrimage to Greenville are a special group that have as many "tales" as the "ole timers" themselves. As you meet them and see the loyality to "tha man", it is easy to see why The GOGR has become so popular and still lives today. "Thank you, Charlie" and thanks to you, John for keeping the GOGR alive the other eleven months. I have as much fun telling others about Greenville as I do getting to visit the many special people that go year after year


Name:
Dean Adkins
Email:
adkinsda@marshall.edu

Comments

John, Thanks - it was an enjoyable event & your description certainly describes it accurately. Dean


Name:
Tom Loll
Email:
tlyn65@aol.com

Comments

I live in Michigan, so I've only been able to attend 3 of the Reunions over the years. My favorite part of each reunion, besides the performances of Legendary tenor Bill Shaw, who electrifies the audience through his humbleness and talented performances,is when Charlie Waller simply talks. He talks about the history of the groups, and he tells stories. Perhaps he could ask the performers for private stories that could be shared in 2005. Gospel sings spend their lives on the road and literally hundreds of millions of folks who have died in the last 60 years were blessed by some of those who are STILL performing, Bill Shaw included. My momma and daddy saw him singing in the early 1950s and they took me to see him when I was only 8 or 9 years old when he sang with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. I saw him at the GOGR and told him how I saw him 50 years ago. Charlie can tell those stories and it brings home the family spirit with all the singers. They don't compete with each other, and there's no jealousy; just the love of singing and the joy of bringing God's message home. Every year, I order tickets, even if I can't make it. I want the donatiion to be used to continue Charlie Waller's work. I think was Charlie does is 15 times BETTER than the Gaither's series, too. Charlie has a much better personality. I love how he teases Eva Mae. "Can you hear me now?" That was a classic. Thank you, Charlie.


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2005 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion
Last Modified: November 23, 2004
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