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GOGR Music History -
2008 SGMA Hall of Fame Inductees
By Alan Kendall

It's way past time to review the 2008 Inductees into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  The SGMA once again hosted its annual Induction Ceremony this past October 9, and once again it was a grand success.  Itís amazing to think that Charles Waller has been producing this program for five years now, and what continues to amaze me is how he seems to top the previous yearís ceremony each time.  This was simply the finest program he has ever assembled in this capacity.

Six worthy individuals, ranging from singers to promoters to songwriters entered the Hall of Fame for 2008.  Here are some brief historical sketches on each of them.

The first of the inductees was longtime Kingsmen bass vocalist Ray Dean Reese.  Ray was born the son of a Baptist minister in Asheville, NC.  He attended monthly singing classes in his mid to late teens held in local churches with his friends Rex Nelon and London Parris.  After Ray graduated high school, he sang bass with a couple of gospel groups before joining the Army at age 18.  While in the Army, Ray was stationed mostly in Germany. He then joined the Kingsmen in 1965.  Ray also spent a brief stint with the Pine Ridge Boys, joining Miles Cooper, Wayne Shuford, Charles Burke, and Charles Abee.  He rejoined the Kingsmen in the early 1970s, where he has remained ever since.  He was recipient of the Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Bass Singer in 1979 and 1985.  He was also inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame with the Kingsmen in 2000.  Reese joined the Mighty Kingsmen as they sang their classic "Is That the Old Ship of Zion".  Accepting his induction, he expressed deep humility and sincerity.  He shared memories of old friends such as Rex Nelon and London Parris, and gave much of the credit for his accolades to friends and fellow musicians.


Ray Dean Reese



Polly Grimes

Polly Grimes is certainly one of gospel musicís ground-breaking promoters.  She promoted her first gospel concert in 1960 and almost single-handedly established gospel quartet music on the West Coast, proving that it was okay to mix religious music with solid family entertainment.  Groups that enjoy successful tours of the West Coast owe Polly Grimes a great deal of gratitude.  Those Long Beach, CA, concert albums featuring the Blackwood Brothers and Statesmen Quartets were recorded at concerts promoted by Polly.  She has hosted gospel music concerts in Israel, and was also the first to host a gospel music cruise, a phenomenon that remains quite popular today.  Polly Grimes flew in from California to accept her induction, and Triumphant Quartet did a fantastic job as they sang her favorite song, "Oh What A Savior".  

Fred Daniel was a true pioneer with a career covering practically all aspects of the entertainment world. After serving two years in the navy in World War II, Fred spent the early days of his career singing with Covington, GA based quartet, The Happy Four, formed by lifelong friend Happy Edwards. In 1949, Fred left the Happy Four and began a 16-year tenure with one of the most versatile groups in the country, The Sunshine Boys.  During Fred's years with the Sunshine Boys, he appeared with the group in the Charles Starrett B-Western, Prairie Roundup. The Sunshine Boys not only pioneered in recording and in movies, but they also pioneered in radio, performing on WSB Barn Dance in Atlanta and WWVA Wheeling Jamboree in the late 40s and early 50s.  In 1951, The Sunshine Boys recorded, along with Red Foley, the first gospel record to top a million in sales entitled, "Peace In The Valley", which is still marketed today. The Sunshine Boys did five shows a week on the ABC radio network for 6 years, sponsored by Minute Rice.  In the 1960s, the Sunshine Boys performed at The Golden Nugget on the strip in Las Vegas.  Such accolades were due not only to their ability to sing spiritual quartet music with expertise, but also their versatility in performing country, western, pop, and jazz music as well. In 1965, Fred joined the Blue Ridge Quartet in Spartanburg, SC. Some of the quartet's best years were with Fred, as his exciting style captured audiences on songs such as "I Wanna Go There" and "Somebody Touched Me".  Following his retirement, he continued to perform with the Sunshine Boys on a limited basis until his death.  Fredís awards are simply too numerous to mention.  Fred Daniel passed away on November 6, 2007, following the death of his wife Hilda just a few weeks earlier.  No one was more fit to sing Fredís exciting classic, "I Wanna Go There", than McCray Dove and the Dove Brothers.  McCray did a fabulous job, even duplicating Fredís famous leap during the song.  Fredís sons, Gary and Scott, accepted on behalf of their father.


Fred Daniel



Impact Award
Lari Goss

Lari Goss was the recipient of the prestigious James D. Vaughan Impact Award.  Goss, while known for his many years performing with the Goss Brothers, has become more noted for his studio work.  A Lari Goss production is truly a work of art, and Goss has produced such artists as The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, The Cathedrals, Anthony Burger, The Gaither Vocal Band, Janet Paschal, and others.  In addition, Lari is also a great songwriter, having penned great songs such as "Had It Not Been for Jesus", "Shout Brother Shout", "He's Living In My Heart", and "Cornerstone".  Lari was unable to accept his award, as he had had a reaction to his chemotherapy treatment.  However Lari accepted by way of letter, noting this award as the greatest accolade he has ever received.

Perhaps gospel musicís most prolific songwriter of the last 40 years has been Squire Parsons. Parsons, a native of West Virginia, was raised in a Christian home and was introduced to gospel music as a baby by his parents.  In 1975 he became the baritone singer for the Kingsmen Quartet.  In 1979 Squire went into solo ministry. Since 1978, Squire Parsons has been nominated by the SINGING NEWSí fans for "Favorite Baritone", "Favorite Gospel Songwriter" and "Favorite Gospel Singer". He was named "Favorite Baritone" in 1986 and 1987 and in 1986, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995 "Favorite Gospel Songwriter". In 1988 he was named "Favorite Southern Gospel Male Singer."  He has also been nominated for the Dove Award for male vocalist and songwriter. In 1990, he was presented the coveted Marvin Norcross Award.  Not many among Parsonsí generation can claim they have written a song that is included in many hymnbooks, but Parsonsí most popular song, "Beulah Land", has become a standard in gospel music concerts and churches across the world.  Other Squire Parsons compositions include "He Came To Me", "I Sing Because", "Iím Not Giving Up", and "I Go To The Rock". Many gospel recording artists and groups have recorded at least one of his songs.  In addition, Parsons is a true southern gentleman, with one of the most loyal fan bases in gospel music.  The Booth Brothers were very excited to honor Parsons, and it showed as they sang his classic and their 2008 Song of the Year, "Look for Me at Jesusí Feet".  Squire Parsonsí acceptance speech was given with much of the same class and grandeur that is found in many of his wonderful songs.


Squire Parsons



Herschel Lester

Herschel Lester was born March 6, 1927, in Maplewood (St. Louis,) MO, the only child of Harvey and Opal (Bobo) Lester. His early childhood was spent with his parents playing and singing Gospel Music on the street corners and churches in the St. Louis area. This laid the foundation for the Lester Family group that is currently singing and ministering today. Herschel Lester became an accomplished musician and singer and was a huge part of the Lester Family and Band as it was known in those days. In World War II, Herschel enlisted and served in the Navy. Herschel Lester earned a degree in teaching and did just that until his passing in March 2004. He was a music and band director in both the St. Louis and East St. Louis Public School Districts. With a total of 50 years of teaching, needless to say, he influenced and touched the hearts of thousands of people. Herschel taught private music lessons at the family music store everyday. One of the highlights of Herschelís life was when he and his mom were asked to help teach a singing school for the late Governor Jimmie Davis in Peckerwood Hill, Louisiana at the Jimmie Davis Tabernacle. In the late 1960s Herschel also taught at the Stamps School of Music held in Waxahachie, Texas. Herschel Lesterís life was music. Through the years one of Herschelís most requested songs to sing was "Thanks To Calvary." The Lester Family has shared many great experiences led by the patriarch of the family, Herschel Lester. They had a weekly Gospel Music TV show in the Midwest for 27 years. The Lesters hosted several tours to the Holy Land and stateside bus tours in the 70ís, and cruises to the Bahamas in the 80ís. Herschel loved to travel and sing with his family and countless friends. Now featuring third, fourth, and fifth generation family members, the Lesters humbly and emotionally took the stage, accepted for and paid tribute to Hershel Lester with the beautiful song "Iíll See You Again".

Luther G. Presley is not necessarily a household name in gospel music, yet his work has impacted the music world as a whole.  It would be a rare occasion to open a convention songbook and not find many classics from the pen of Presley.  A few of Presleyís 1100-plus songs include "On the Jericho Road", "Iíll Have A New Life", and "Getting Ready to Leave This World".  Perhaps his most popular song, however, is the enduring classic, "When the Saints Go Marching In", a song that became literally immortalized in the world of jazz and folk music, in addition to being adopted as the theme song for the New Orleans Saints Football Team.  Presley is also the publisher of the Heavenly Highway Hymns Songbook, which is still distributed to churches today.  The Florida Boys paid tribute to Presley as they sang "When the Saints Go Marching In".  Lutherís 96-year-old son, Leister, accepted on behalf of his late father by way of video.  


Luther G. Presley


It was a thrill to see several of gospel musicís finest in attendance for the Induction Ceremony.  Among the artists attending were Hall of Famers Les Beasley, Maurice Templeton, Eddie Wallace, Naomi Sego Reader, Charles Key, Lou Wills-Hildreth, and Jack Pittman, along with Bob Brumley, John Rulapaugh, Ron Blackwood, Gary Casto, Josh Singletary, Wayne Shuford, Tom Brown, Arthur Rice, Jeff Chapman, Andy Stringfield, Greg Fox, Melvin Klaudt, Randall Franks, Duane Garren, Earl Eleton, and Promoter Hayne Tatum.  Jonathan Sawrie filled in expertly at the piano for both the Florida Boys and the Kingsmen.  The Dixie Echoes, Crist Family, Dove Brothers, and Lesters each provided fantastic afternoon performances at the Celebrity Theatre.  I apologize if I have missed anyone, but I sincerely extend my appreciation to all of the singers and industry insiders that were able to attend.

For more information on the Southern Gospel Music Association, its Hall of Fame, and what you can do to help preserve our history for another generation, please visit their website at www.sgma.org.  


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