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One of the most consistent groups to ever take the gospel music stage is the Palmetto State Quartet. These gentlemen have provided some of the best singing in gospel music for sixty years.

The Palmetto State Quartet began singing in the late 1940s. Leon Sutherland organized the quartet in Greenville, South Carolina. Mr. Sutherland was very active in singing conventions, and formed this quartet to further this music. Little did he know that this group would continue to thrill gospel music audiences for more than sixty years.

The early membership of the group consisted of Jamie Dill, Clarence Owens, Woodrow Pittman, Malone Thomason, and Paul Burroughs. This group did a live weekly radio program on WFBC radio in Greenville, S.C. Each week, their listenership increased as did their popularity on the gospel music circuit.

Jack Bagwell joined the quartet in 1952, replacing Malone Thomason as baritone. Soon thereafter, Jack Pittman replaced his cousin, Woodrow, as lead singer. Ellison Jenkins soon replaced Paul Burroughs as bass singer.

The quartet experienced a few changes through the years. The personnel of the quartet soon solidified between 1959 and 1960. Claude Hunter joined the quartet as tenor and Ken Turner became the bass singer. This group remained intact for several years and opened many doors as the Palmetto State Quartet.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1950
L-R: Jamie Dill, Clarence Owens, Malone Thomason,
Woodrow Pittman, Paul Burroughs

In 1959, the Palmetto State Quartet helped to organize one of the first gospel quartet programs to be televised in Greenville, S.C. on a weekly basis. They joined forces with Bob Poole to develop Bob Pooleís Gospel Favorites. This program, aired early on Sunday morning, was an immediate success. Several of the top quartets of the day joined the Palmetto State Quartet each week on the program. Despite what the "experts" said, Bob Pooleís Gospel Favorites flourished due in no small part to the Palmetto State Quartet and their extensive fan base. After a trial run of thirteen weeks, "Bob Pooleís Gospel Favorites" began to run in syndication and at one time was shown in 128 cities. Soon, the Palmetto State Quartet became a household name across America.

Cover of First Palmetto State LP

Jamie Dill led the quartet until his death July 23, 1987. The quartet respectfully referred to Jamie as their "Den Mother." He was their pianist, emcee, and leader.

In addition to their television programs, the Palmetto State Quartet spent a great deal of time in the recording studio. The group recorded a few singles prior to their first album on the Sing label. Their self-titled album featured Hunter, Pittman, Bagwell, Turner, and Dill singing some of the finest songs from the early 1960s.

Although the quartet relied on good ole four part harmony combined with Jamie Dillís soothing emcee work, bass singer Ken Turner would soon become a featured part of every Palmetto State concert. His humor and his famous "trombone" enthralled fans all over the country. Two of his "sugar sticks" were included on their first album: 

Palmetto State Quartet - 1961
L-R: Jamie Dill, Claude Hunter, Jack Pittman,
Jack Bagwell, Ken Turner

"This Ole House" and "When the Saints Go Marching In." Later, the quartet incorporated these songs into a medley featuring Kenís trombone.

The popularity of the Palmetto State Quartet and their first album soon led to another album, "On Bended Knee." More popular songs from the early 1960s were on this project. The group continued to perform several of these songs throughout their career. Another album on the Skylite label featured a recitation by Bob Poole of television fame.

Claude Hunter left the quartet in 1964 and was replaced by Jerry Hovis. He remained with the quartet for several years. In 1968, lead singer Jack Pittman left the group for a short time and was replaced by noted songwriter Laverne Tripp.

The Palmetto State Quartet left the gospel music circuit for a short time, but Jerry Hovis continued to lead a group that carried the Palmetto State Quartet name.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1968
L-R: Laverne Tripp, Jerry Hovis, Ken Turner,
Jamie Dill, Jack Bagwell

Laverne Tripp joined the Blue Ridge Quartet in the late 1960s replacing long time lead singer Elmo Fagg. He brought his country style and great song writing ability to one of the greatest groups in gospel music.

Ken Turner was soon hired by the Dixie Echoes. He brought his trumpet, trombone, and great impressions to the Dixie Echoes. Ken helped the Dixie Echoes to rise to a new level in gospel music, for his entertainment skills fit Dale Shelnutís humor in fine form. Ken later spent many years with the Blackwood Brothers. This was a great testament to the skills and abilities he learned while singing with the Palmetto State Quartet.

In 1971, the Palmetto State Quartet returned to the gospel music circuit under the able leadership of their Den Mother, Jamie Dill. Former tenor Claude Hunter joined Jack Bagwell and Jack Pittman and new bass singer Cliff King. For several years, the only changes in the quartet involved the bass position. Jerry Trotter replaced Cliff King and soon Joel Duncan replaced Jerry Trotter. Joel had spent many years with the Travílers Quartet who were also based in Greenville, S.C.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1983
L-R: Jack Bagwell, Jack Pittman, Jamie Dill, Claude Hunter, Joel Duncan

The quartet consisting of Claude Hunter, Jack Bagwell, Jack Pittman, Joel Duncan, and Jamie Dill brought the finest in gospel music to their appreciative audiences.

Jack Bagwell brought great dignity to the Palmetto State stage. He joined the group as the baritone singer but moved into the lead vocal spot after several years. Jack possesses a dynamic lead voice. Thereís nothing pretentious about his singing. Itís straight forward gospel music.

Jack Earl Pittman spent many years in the Stamps organization as a part of various groups. He had the ability to sing several vocal parts. In addition to singing baritone with the quartet, Jack assumed the emcee work for the Palmetto State Quartet after the death of Jamie Dill. Jack is a great businessman. He is also a noted philanthropist who helped to establish the first Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. Jack was also inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame in 2006.

Eddie Broome spent several years with the Dixie Echoes. He also worked with the Palmetto State Quartet, filling various roles for the quartet. When Claude Hunter retired from the quartet, Eddie stepped into the tenor role. Eddie is a great singer that added a great deal of musicality and personality to the Palmetto State Quartet.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1987
Top: Jerry Jennings, Jack Pittman, Jack Bagwell
Bottom: Joel Duncan, David McAbee, Eddie Broome

A major change occurred with the quartet on July 23, 1987 when their Den Mother, Jamie Dill, passed away after a short illness. At the time of his death, plans were underway for a 39th Anniversary Concert for the Palmetto State Quartet. Noted promoter Charles Waller had rediscovered the Palmetto State Quartet and planned a celebration of their 39th year in professional gospel singing. He booked the Greenville Memorial Auditorium for this great event and procured the services the Kingsmen, the Carolina Ladies, the Travílers, and the Masters V to celebrate the event. He also located Bob Poole to serve as emcee of the concert. This would prove to be a grand celebration of the great days of gospel music. Although Mr. Dill wasnít able to participate in the concert on this Earthly plane, he was certainly enjoying the festivities in his own little corner of Heaven.

After Jamieís passing, Jack Earl Pittman assumed the emcee and management duties of the Palmetto State Quartet and the group hired David McAbee as pianist for the quartet. In spite of the great loss suffered by the quartet, they would continue to sing the gospel.

The Palmetto State Quartetís 39th Anniversary Celebration not only was a great celebration for the quartet, but it was also the impetus for the first Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. The Greenville Memorial Auditorium was packed for the event, and 

Former bass singer Ellison Jenkins & Jack Pittman reunite at Palmetto State's 39th Anniversary

many old timers enjoyed the celebration. Several of the older members of the Palmetto State Quartet attended the event including Ellison Jenkins and Clarence Owens. The mayor of Greenville, South Carolina, W.D. Workman, III, designated August 15, 1987 "Palmetto State Quartet Day" in Greenville, S.C.

Charles Waller produced a great video tribute of this event. Soon thereafter, plans were set in motion for the first Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. The Palmetto State Quartet served as the host group for the early Grand Ole Gospel Reunions.

In 1989, the Palmetto State Quartet experienced another interesting change in personnel. The Masters V disbanded shortly after the first Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. The great Hovie Lister was without a quartet, so Jack Pittman suggested that he join the Palmetto State Quartet in his hometown of Greenville.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1990
L-R: Hovie Lister (seated), Joel Duncan,
Eddie Broome, Jack Bagwell, Jack Pittman

Hovie Lister joined the group, and brought his great abilities to this fine quartet. Many folks began referring to them as "Hovie Lister and the Palmetto Statesmen Quartet," for Hovie brought many of the great Statesmen arrangements to the Palmetto State Quartet. Hovie also assumed the role of emcee for the quartet. Hovie was the consummate emcee and did a wonderful job with the Palmetto State Quartet. Woody Beatty also joined the quartet in this time frame playing the keyboard synthesizer as an added accompaniment for the quartet.

Eddie, Jack, Jack, Joel, and Hovie produced two great projects before Hovie left the quartet to create another version of the Statesmen Quartet. These were some of the finest years of the Palmetto State Quartet.

Fortunately, Woody Beatty was standing in the wings of the Palmetto State Quartet. When Hovie left the quartet in 1992 to reform the Statesmen Quartet, Woody was ready to assume the duties of Mr. Lister. Woody became the pianist, emcee, and arranger for the quartet.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1994
L-R: Brion Carter, Harold Gilley, Woody Beatty,
Jack Pittman, Jack Bagwell

Several changes awaited the Palmetto State quartet in 1993. Eddie Broome retired from the road and was replaced by Brion Carter. Itís been said that Bill Gaither earmarked Brion to sing tenor for the newly reformed Statesmen Quartet, but that never came to pass. Brion brought his great voice and stage presence to the Palmetto State Quartet and became one of their most beloved members. Shortly after Eddie left the quartet, Joel Duncan turned in his resignation and was replaced by Harold Gilley. Interestingly enough, Joel and Eddie soon found themselves singing together once again in the Travílers Quartet.

Harold Gilley had the ability to sound like many of the great bass singers of the day. He did a great imitation of J.D. Sumner as well as George Younce. His impressions were so good that folks often wondered if he had a voice of his own.

Jack Bagwell, Jack Pittman, and Harold Gilley retired from the Palmetto State Quartet in 1997. Brion Carter and Woody Beatty were left to carry on the Palmetto State tradition. Woody asked his son, Kerry, to take over the lead position. Jeff Pearles was tabbed to sing the bass for this quartet. Tony Peace assumed the baritone role and soon became a great emcee. The Palmetto State Quartet once again became a great fixture in the world of gospel music.

Palmetto State Quartet - 1999
L-R: Brion Carter, Kerry Beatty,
Tony Peace, Jerry Kelso, Jeff Pearles

The group became quite beloved in the world of gospel music. Tony Peace was a great emcee who could read a crowd better than any emcee in the business at that time. Brion Carter was one of the finest tenors in the business. Jeff and Kerry continued to fill the bass and lead roles with the quartet in great style.  When Woody Beatty left the quartet, they procured the services of Jerry Kelso for a short while.

Brion Carter developed some vocal problems late in 2002. John Rulapaugh, former tenor singer with the Dove Brothers, filled in for a few dates before being hired as a full time member of the quartet. He became an official member of the Palmetto State Quartet in January 2003.  Andrew Ishee also replaced Jerry Kelso as pianist for the quartet.

Jeff Pearles left the quartet in mid 2003, leaving another void in the group. At that time, the group was in the studio without a bass singer. Jason Brooks joined the group for a short time, but that didnít last for long. West Virginian Aaron McCune came along to take over the bass position in the quartet. He did a great job with the Palmetto State Quartet until Gold City came calling a few years later.

More personnel changes awaited the quartet in 2004. Emcee, manager and baritone Tony Peace left the quartet, eventually joining the Kingsmen Quartet. Former Statesman Rick Fair replaced him as baritone singer in the quartet. Aaron McCune soon left the group to join Gold City and he was replaced by another former Dove Brother, Burman Porter.

Palmetto State Quartet - 2005
L-R: Aaron McCune, Rick Fair, Andrew Ishee,
Kerry Beatty, John Rulapaugh

The Palmetto State Quartet boasted one of the finest tenors in gospel music in John Rulapaugh. In addition to his work with the Palmetto State Quartet, John also did limited engagements with the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Quartet and also did a few dates to fill in with the Inspirations.

John Rulapaugh, Kerry Beatty, Rick Fair, Aaron McCune, and Andrew Ishee did a great job furthering the efforts of the Palmetto State Quartet.

As always happens among good Christian singers, changes occur. John left the group to join Ron Blackwood and his Blackwood conglomerate. Wesley Smith replaced John in the PSQ. Andrew then left and was replaced by a former Anchorman, Bryan Elliott.

Palmetto State Quartet - 2008
Clockwise from Left: Larry Strickland, Jeremy Calloway, Brian Beatty, Kerry Beatty, Casey Martin

In recent months, Burman Porter, Rick Fair, Wesley Smith, and Bryan Elliott have all left the quartet. Kerry Beatty has joined members of the Classic Sound Quartet to form the "New" Palmetto State Quartet. Burman Porter sang bass with the Blackwood Gospel Quartet for a short time. Rick Fair is now singing bass with the Blackwood Quartet.

As of February 2008, the members of the Palmetto State Quartet are:

Jeremy Calloway- tenor: Jeremy has previously sung with Southern Sound and the Blackwood Gospel Quartet

Brian Beatty - baritone: Son of Woody Beatty and brother of Kerry Beatty

Kerry Beatty - lead: Long time lead singer and manager of the PSQ and son of Woody Beatty

Larry Strickland - bass: Manager of the quartet is the former bass singer with JD Sumner and the Stamps and husband of Naomi Judd.

Casey Martin - keyboardist: An African American gospel music artist who traveled with Andre Crouch for several years.

Although the current members Palmetto State Quartet no longer live in South Carolina, they still embody the desires of the original quartet: to present "good ole southern gospel singing" to thrill their audiences.

If you have any comments or questions, Iíd encourage you to leave them here or respond to me at john@grandolegospelreunion.com.


View More Photos of Palmetto State Quartet Through the Years

 

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