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2007 SGMA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Itís past time for my annual review of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Charlie Waller never ceases to amaze me as he pulls from his wealth of knowledge to honor the pioneers of the gospel music industry. Of course, this year was no exception to the rule.

Dollywood again hosted this event which SHOULD be one of the greatest events in the world of gospel music. Unfortunately, many who benefit from the paths blazed by these inductees donít see the need to attend the ceremonies. I think this is sad for the world of gospel music. These heroes and their families deserve to see that the legacy theyíve left behind hasnít gone unnoticed.

Now that Iíve gotten off my soap box, let me tell you a bit about the wonderful time those who DID attend were allowed to experience.

Eight people were inducted with the 2007 Hall of Fame class. The inductees ranged from promoters to musicians to singers.

Charlie Waller began the program with a pre show video featuring some of the greatest performers in gospel music history. Although many have gone on to sing in the Heavenly choir, the video presentation brought them to the stage once again. The seats in Celebrity Theater are always full in anticipation of this great presentation. Groups from the past such as the LeFevres, Oak Ridge Boys, Blackwood Brothers, and Statesmen once again thrilled the audiences with their great singing.

Bob Brumley, new president of the SGMA, got the awards ceremony started as he led the crowd singing his fatherís great song "Iíll Meet You in the Morning." Emcee Jerry Goff then introduced the presenters for this yearís awards: Arthur Rice and Karen Peck-Gooch. Jerry kept the crowd laughing with his homespun humor. Although many of his jokes are as old as gospel music itself, the crowd never seems to tire of them.

Lou Wills-Hildreth

Lou Wills-Hildreth was the first inductee for 2007. Through her work within the gospel music industry, her name is synonymous with class and dignity. She is the first female to have owned her own booking agency. She has proclaimed gospel music in so many ways including publishing, television, print media, promotions, song writing, and singing with the famous Wills Family. She has served on the board of directors for many gospel music agencies, and was inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame. To honor her, the Melody Boys Quartet performed the first song she ever published, "Walk, Talk and Sing." Lou accepted the award with her own brand of graciousness.

Pianist Anthony Burger was the next entry into the Hall of Fame. If my math skills are accurate, he is the youngest member in those hallowed walls. Anthony started his professional career with the Kingsmen Quartet when he was in his mid teens, and remained with them until 1992. He was voted the Singing News Favorite Pianist for ten years and the award was renamed the "Anthony Burger Award." He later went on to perform with the Gaither Homecoming Friends as their pianist in residence. Burger died much too young, succumbing to a heart attack in February of 2006 while on stage on a Gaither cruise. His wife, Lou Ann, accepted the award on his behalf and pianist Matthew Holt played one of Anthonyís arrangements in honor of his mentor.

Anthony Burger

David Reece

When the name "David Reece" is mentioned, many things come to mind. Comedian, entertainer, arranger, pianist, singer, and songwriter are just a few. David played for several major quartets including the Blue Ridge Quartet, the Rangers Quartet, the Stamps-Ozark Quartet, the Imperial Sugar Quartet, the Harvesters Quartet, and the Deep South Quartet. His association with the Rangers Quartet led him to form the quintessential trio in gospel music history, the Rangers Trio. This trio set the standard by which all other gospel trios will be judged. He also recorded one of the first (if not the first) instrumental albums by a gospel artist, "Musical Meditations." Greater Vision performed one of Davidís best loved arrangements, "Life Will Be Sweeter Someday" in his honor and Davidís son DaNeel and his brother, Leon accepted the award for the late Mr. Reece. It was most fitting that Leon accepted the award in character of "Willie P. Potts" which was made famous by his brother.

Archie Watkins was the next inductee. For more than forty years, Archie has filled the tenor spot with the Inspirations of Bryson City, NC. He has epitomized the sound of the Inspirations with his unmistakable tenor voice. He has been the recipient of many Singing News fan awards including Favorite Male Singer and Favorite Tenor. He also earned the most prestigious honor given by the Singing News: The Marvin Norcross Award. To honor Archie, the original Inspirations (Troy Burns, Jack Laws, Ronnie Hutchens and Martin Cook) assembled to sing a chorus of the great hit "Jesus is Coming Soon" joined on the second verse by the current Inspirations.

Archie Watkins

Eva Mae

The James D. Vaughn Impact Award was then presented to Eva Mae LeFevre. Karen Peck-Gooch presented the award and Eva Mae was there to accept the award. Her accomplishments in gospel music were noted and she accepted the award in typical "Eva Mae style."

Roger Bennett was the next inductee into the Hall of Fame. Roger became a household name in the world of gospel music by his long tenure as pianist with the Cathedral Quartet. When the Cathedral Quartet retired from gospel music, Roger joined Scott Fowler to form Legacy V to continue the Cathedral tradition. Although he is generally remembered as a pianist, he also had talents as a vocalist, songwriter, and comedian. He also taught many gospel pianists through his piano video series. Roger was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995. His fight with cancer was well documented throughout the gospel music industry. He passed away March 17. 2007 . . . just a few days after learning that heíd been inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame. His quartet, Legacy V, honored him by singing "Strike Up the Band" and his award was accepted by his widow Debbie and their children.

Roger Bennett

James Sego

The Sego Brothers and Naomi were a very entertaining gospel group. James Sego never failed to entertain the gospel music faithful. His induction into the Hall of Fame was well deserved for a gentleman who loved singing almost as much as living. The Segos recorded the first gospel music million seller with "Sorry I Never Knew You." Although James fought the demons of alcohol, he was a great entertainer. He overcame those demons and continued to sing the praises of the God that helped him overcome two massive strokes. One of the most inspiring books ever written about a gospel music artist was "Sego: What Really Goes on in the Life of a Gospel Singer." I recently read this book and have a new appreciation of James Sego. The current Segos honored James by singing "Good Morning Neighbor." His widow, Naomi Sego Reader and his son, Carlton, accepted the award on his behalf.

Another multi-talented individual, Joel Hemphill, was the next recipient. Joel is a singer, writer, evangelist, musician, and author. He and his wife, LaBreeska, formed the Singing Hemphills in the 1960s and traveled the quartet circuit for many years. He wrote and recorded six #1 songs. He and his family received eight Dove Awards and three BMI Awards of Excellence. The Hemphills were on hand to honor their namesake and sang one of his greatest hits, "Heís Still Working on Me" in his honor. Joel was on hand to accept his award.

Joel Hemphill

Jimmy Jones

Concluding the evening was the induction of Jimmy Jones. Jimmy is one of those folks that never took center stage, but was a solid as a rock. He began his career with Otis Echols and the Melody Boys Quartet. He joined the Rangers Quartet as bass singer in 1951. In 1953, he and his brother, Brownie, formed the Deep South Quartet. This was one of the most underappreciated and unknown quartets in gospel music history. Jimmy joined the LeFevres in 1957 and remained with them for a decade. During this time, he was instrumental in assisting in the formation of the Gospel Singing Caravan. Jimmy also was featured in the "Poetry Corner" segment of the Caravan. Upon his retirement from the road, he owned and operated the LeFevresí Sing Publishing Company. Until his death, he continued to sing with two part-time groups: The Heralds and the Sunshine Boys. Few could perform a recitation as well as Jimmy Jones. Tonight, in honor of Jimmy Jones, Charlie Waller presented a video of Big Chief Wetherington and the Statesmen in a 1971 recording of Jimmyís composition, "The Common Man." Jimmyís brother, Vesper, accepted the award for his late brother.

It thrilled me to see other gospel artists and industry folks there such as Les Beasley, Eddie Wallace, Jeff Stice, Buddy Burton, Joshua Pope, Calvin Newton, Miles Cooper, Chip Cooper, Dan Keeton, Judy Nelon, Arthur Rice, Duane Garren, Les Butler, Melvin Klaudt, Jonathan Sawrie, Wayne Shuford, Eddie Broome, Joel Duncan, Tommy Brown, John Rulapaugh, Ron Blackwood, and R.W. Blackwood. Iím sure I missed some and I apologize for that oversight. I just want your folks to know that I appreciate you being here to honor our legends.

I also appreciate the Dove Brothers, Inspirations, Karen Peck and New River, and the Melody Boys Quartet for providing some great singing in the park prior to the induction ceremonies. I was able to sit in on some of your performances and you did your predecessors proud!

I trust that those of you who read these accounts will attend the next Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It means so much to the inductees as well as the world of gospel music. Iíd also like to encourage you to join the SGMA so that you may have your voice heard in the next Hall of Fame class. Visit us at for details.

Thank you Charles Waller and Liz Autry for all you do to preserve the history of this great genre that we call Southern Gospel Music!

The Melody Boys Quartet pay tribute to Lou Wills-Hildreth with "Walk, Talk, and Sing".

Greater Vision paying tribute to David Reece with "Life Will Be Sweeter Someday".


Former and current members of the Inspirations
(Archie Watkins, Daron Osborne, Ronnie Hutchins, Matt Dibler, Jack Laws, Melton Campbell, Chris Smith, Mike Holcomb, Troy Burns, Martin Cook, Myron Cook) reunite to sing "Jesus Is Coming Soon".

Legacy Five pays tribute to Roger Bennett with
"Strike Up the Band".


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Last Modified: December 1, 2007
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