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GOGR Music History -
The Dixie Echoes
By Alan Kendall

The Dixie Echoes continued to remain among the top quartets in the gospel music world during the 1970s, now under the leadership of Dale Shelnut. Many outstanding musicians passed through the Dixie Echoes’ bus doors during this period, but Dale, his sons Randy and Andrew, and Randy Allred, remained the core of the group.

The group by 1972 consisted of Tim Riley – Bass, Randy Shelnut – Baritone (along with various musical instruments), Dale Shelnut – Lead, Billy Dale Sexton – Tenor, Vaughan Thacker – Pianist, Jerry Washington – Drums, and Randy Allred – Bass Guitar. Tim Riley left the group after a two year stint, eventually joining the Southmen Quartet, and becoming the patron and leader of Gold City Quartet by the 1980s. Replacing Tim was bass singer Wayne Diamond. Jerry Washington departed and Dale’s younger son, Andrew Shelnut, joined as the group’s drummer. This lineup recorded one of its best albums, The Dixie Echoes Live. This album, recorded in Gadsden, Alabama, was recorded on the same concert at which the Mighty Kingsmen recorded their landmark album, Big and Live.

Billy Dale Sexton, who penned a couple of the Dixie Echoes’ most popular songs at the time, "I Want to See Jesus" and "Salvation’s Plan", left the group in 1973, and Wayne Diamond soon followed. Tim Shelby and Eugene Hathcoat were hired to fill the tenor and bass roles, respectively. Shelby soon left the group and was replaced by Gerry Stroup. Randy Shelnut had been carrying the

The Dixie Echoes - 1971
Clockwise from Left: Randy Shelnut, Dale Shelnut, Tim Riley, Billy Dale Sexton, Jerry Washington,
Jim Garstang

dual role of playing piano and singing baritone for a couple years, following the departure of Vaughn Thacker, but in 1974, the group added Keith Palmer. Palmer not only brought a great piano style to the group, but also a wonderful singing voice, and he was featured on popular songs such as "I Gave Up Misery" and "A Good Ole Gospel Song".

When Gerry Stroup and Eugene Hathcoat both individually parted ways with the group, Dale Shelnut didn’t have to look far to find his bass and tenor. Randy Allred, who had been playing bass guitar, and Andrew Shelnut, who had been playing drums, simply stepped into the bass and tenor positions. Jimmy Holmes became the group’s drummer.

Cover of Dixie Echoes LIVE - 1973

At this point in the group’s career, the Dixie Echoes more or less became more of a band featuring Dale Shelnut on lead vocals, and less of a traditional quartet. This shift in style did no harm to their performances however, as all of the younger members of the group were so talented, they could easily entertain the audience with their musicianship alone. Dale Shelnut, ever the consummate entertainer, tied the program together with his wonderful spiritual singing and lively stage antics. Along with recording such great heartfelt hits as "Hallelujah Square", "I’ll Take Jesus", and "My Real Home Is Up There On High", the group released several novelty songs such as "Singing News Blues", a song in which Dale humorously vented his aggravations at not having a featured article in the magazine, and "I’m No Kin to the Monkey", a song that lightly and directly addressed the theory of evolution.

The Dixie Echoes - 1975
L-R: Andrew Shelnut, Keith Palmer, Randy Allred, Dale Shelnut, Gerry Stroup, Randy Shelnut, Eugene Hathcoat

Following the departure of Keith Palmer, Randy Harper stepped in as the group’s pianist. Harper’s stay was brief and he was replaced by Garry Jones. Andrew Shelnut eventually left the road, opening the door for young tenor singer Eddie Broome. In early 1983, the lineup of Allred, Shelnut, Shelnut, and Broome released another fine recording, Assurance, which featured Dale’s hauntingly beautiful song, "I’ll Meet You On the Other Side of Jordan".

Charlie Waller recently shared a story with me of when he and Dale were out plowing the field at Dale’s farm in Alabama, just months before he died. Charlie and Dale took turns making rounds over the field with Dale’s horse. When Dale paused for a break, he sat down, and taking a handful of dirt and rubbing it through his hair he sighed and said, "Charlie I love this place! When I die, I wouldn’t mind if it happened right here."

Sure enough, on May 11, 1983, Dale Shelnut went home to be with the Lord on that very field. Only 48 years old, the loss of Dale Shelnut was a tremendous loss to the Dixie Echoes, as well as the entire gospel music world. While at Dale’s funeral, group founder JG Whitfield said, "This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to take, but God makes no mistakes." This tragic blow cast a large shadow of question over the Dixie Echoes and their future. Many people, including fans, had their doubts. Would the group continue? CAN the group continue? And if the group can continue, how can it possibly be done without its fearless leader?



Dale Shelnut gives directions
to the bus driver.

 


The Dixie Echoes - 1977
Clockwise from Left: Randy Allred, Jimmy Holmes,
Dale Shelnut, Keith Palmer, Andrew Shelnut, Randy Shelnut

The Dixie Echoes - 1979
L-R: Randy Allred, Dale Shelnut, Andrew Shelnut,
Randy Shelnut, Randy Harper

The Dixie Echoes - 1980
L-R: Dale Shelnut, Garry Jones, Randy Shelnut,
Andrew Shelnut, Randy Allred

 


Cover of Assurance - 1983

 


The Dixie Echoes - 1983
Dale Shelnut, Randy Shelnut, Rick Gibson,
Eddie Broome, Randy Allred

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