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2006 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

This month, I will take a break from the Blackwood Brothers to write my annual report about the SGMA Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Again, Charlie Waller and Liz Autry presented a stellar program set in the mountains of East Tennessee. With the beautiful scenery of Dollywood as a background, wonderful gospel music filled the crisp autumn air.

The park opened earlier this year than in years past, and the people enjoyed the musical stylings of the Booth Brothers, Talleys, Crystal River, and Southern Sound in the outdoor theater. While the groups were singing, many of the fans enjoyed meeting and greeting the many legends that gathered to celebrate this special moment with their friends and peers.

Charles Waller presented a great induction ceremony highlighted by rare video footage of the gospel legends from the past. The crowd filed into the theater to hear the sounds of the Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Stamps, and many others. Emcee Jerry Goff kept the program rolling along with his homespun humor, and Charlie kept things moving backstage.

The Hall of Fame had announced an induction class of ten members, but there was a special induction that was kept secret until the program began. Maurice Templeton was inducted unbeknownst to him or the crowd. This humble gentleman had often removed his name from the Hall of Fame ballot. Mr. Templeton has been a friend of gospel music in general for many years and the SGMA Hall of Fame in particular since its inception. He owned the Singing News magazine for many years and helped to revitalize this important publication. His acceptance speech was very heartfelt and humble just as you would expect.

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Bob Jones is one of the gospel music pioneers responsible for bringing gospel music to the West Coast. A graduate of the Stamps School of Music, Jones spent several years with the Stamps Quartet in Texas prior to moving to Fresno, California. He formed the Stamps Harmony Boys Quartet in California and later formed the Songfellows Quartet. Bob still sings with the Songfellows, and did a wonderful job singing the classic "Mansion Over the Hilltop" at the awards ceremony.

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Charles Key spent his professional career with the Harmoneers Quartet. He was one of two Harmoneers inducted into the 2006 class of the Hall of Fame. Mr. Key is a very modest gentleman, and is still an excellent pianist. During his time with the Harmoneers Quartet, they were known as one of the finest groups in the industry. They signed a recording contract with RCA Victor Records shortly after the group organized. Charles recently recorded his first piano solo CD for his many fans. He performed "No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus" at the induction ceremony for those who may have never heard his wonderful keyboard skills.

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The Rangers Quartet was the first gospel quartet to make their living solely based on their singing engagements and not through an association with a music company. They were able to accomplish this due to the promotional expertise of their innovative manager, Vernon Hyles. Vernon was a fine lead singer, but his sales ability kept the Rangers Quartet in the public eye and has made them legendary in the minds of their many fans. The Gaither Vocal Band made an appearance at the Hall of Fame to honor Mr. Hyles with the song "Journey to the Sky". Donnie Hyles accepted the award on behalf of his late father who joins his brother Arnold and several other Rangers in the Hall of Fame.

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Henry Slaughter was on hand to accept his award into the Hall of Fame. Mr. Slaughter is a noted writer, singer, and arranger, but he is most noted for his keyboard skills. He as accompanied some of the finest quartets in gospel music such as the Stamps-Ozark Quartet, Weatherford Quartet, and was instrumental in forming Jake Hess and the Imperials. Henry’s arrangements were paramount in the overnight success of the Imperials. In recent years, Henry was instrumental in forming the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Piano Roll of Honor of which he is a charter member. Henry showed the crowd that age hasn’t affected his skills as he played a wonderful arrangement of "Faith Unlocks the Door" prior to his induction speech.

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The second of two Harmoneers was the next inductee. The late "Happy" Edwards was the consummate stage performer. His tenor voice wasn’t especially high or lovely, but his stage presence was second to none. He combined humor with tender believability to become a fan favorite. His wife accepted the award, and the Florida Boys did an intricate arrangement of "Moving Up to Heaven" to remember this gospel great.

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Mary Tom Speer-Reid completed the original Speer Family’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame. She joins her parents, her brothers, and her sister in the Hall of Fame. She is the youngest daughter of G.T. and Lena Speer and provided the lovely alto in the early Speer Family performances. Although she has experienced some health concerns in recent months, Mary Tom was there to accept her award with a very sincere and humble speech. The Talleys performed the Speer classic, "Sweeter Each Day" in honor of this lovely new Hall of Fame inductee.

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Jack Pittman has been singing gospel music since his teen years. His induction into the Hall of Fame came as no surprise to people who follow gospel music. Another graduate of the Stamps School of Music, Jack sang with the Palmetto State Quartet for over forty years. He provided the financial backing for the first Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. This astute businessman has never forgotten his friends in gospel music. Southern Sound did a fitting tribute to Mr. Pittman with their harmonious version of "When They Ring Those Golden Bells".

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One of the finest and flashiest pianists in the history of gospel music was the late Wally Varner. Wally played for many of the major groups in the history of gospel music including the Melody Masters, Revelaires, Jubil-Aires of Texas, and Homeland Harmony Quartet. He finished his professional career with a long and storied career with the famous Blackwood Brothers. Not only was he one of the finest pianists to ever sit at a piano stool, but he was also a great song writer. His wife, Polly, accepted the award for her late husband and his protegee, Jeff Stice, donned Wally’s trademark white dinner jacket and red bow tie as he played the Varner classic "Bell of Joy Keep Ringing" in honor of his mentor.

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With the possible exception of Bob Jones, Gerald Williams is the only 2006 inductee that is still traveling the gospel music circuit on a weekly basis. He began his career at the tender age of 16 with the Melody Boys Quartet and continues to provide his leadership and bass vocals to that fine quartet. Gerald is a man of integrity and at the age of 73 still has one of the finest voices in the industry today. In his acceptance speech, it was obvious that Gerald is a humble man that gives God the glory for his talents. Three former members of the Melody Boys Quartet reunited to sing one of Gerald’s best known songs, "I’m Free Again". It was great to again see Mike Franklin, Jeremey Raines, and Jonathan Sawrie take the stage with Mr. Williams.

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Last but not least in the ceremony was the induction of Rose Carter Karnes into the SGMA Hall of Fame. "Sister" Rose provided the clear soprano vocals for the Chuck Wagon Gang for many years. Her name is synonymous with the Chuck Wagon Gang. The current members of the gang gathered to honor "Aunt Rose" with her signature song "Higher". The ladies donned red dresses and soprano Julie Hudson wore those famous "cat eye" glasses to honor Sister Rose.

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Two other special folks were honored at the ceremonies. Bob Brumley was presented with the James D. Vaughn Impact Award. Liz Autry was also presented with a special award for her two years of service to the SGMA Hall of Fame. We will miss you, Liz!

If you have any questions or suggestions, please send them to me at john@grandolegospelreunion.com.



I'd also like to suggest you visit the following web site for more discussion of gospel music of days gone by:

http://abkdal.blogspot.com/
Our webmaster has a great gospel music site here and I hope you will visit it and leave him your comments.  I am priviledged to have known Alan Kendall for more years than I'd like to admit, and he has some wonderful things to say about the state of gospel music today.  I almost hate to send you to his site, for you may never return to my writings. LOL!  He's a great guy and I have the utmost respect for him.  Your blog is great, Alan.  Keep up the good work, my friend.


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Last Modified: November 3, 2006
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