Thank You Old-Timers - 8/14/13This past week, The Rebels had the privilege of taking part in another Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, and what a wonderful time we had! My heart remains full even almost a week after it has been over. Charlie Waller never ceases to put on a good program. The legends of gospel music that are still with us remain GOGR’s greatest charm. Even though I am finally getting a little “wet behind the ears” as a gospel singer, I still find myself very shy, awkward, and at a loss for words when I am around the “ol-timers” of gospel music. These men and women are my heroes, and while I still find myself tongue-tied in their presence, maybe I can write a tribute to them here, and hope that someone would share these writings with them, so they can know what they mean to me. Here are my tributes and my thank-yous to the GOGR attendees who are the reason that any of us can enjoy and be blessed by gospel or Christian music in any commercial form today.
First of all, thank you to Les Beasley, Derrell Stewart, Ed O’Neal, Ed Hill, Archie Watkins, and The Original Couriers (Dave, Duane, and Neil). You men have all been solid as a rock, with each of you having put more than half a century of your life towards singing gospel music. You have stuck with it through the good times and the very lean times. You kept going when no one would have blamed you for quitting and going into more lucrative fields. You each have shown not just true raw talent, but integrity and character, and set examples for literally millions of people. Thank you so much for what you have done!
Thank you to Jack Clark for being one of the greatest, and probably the most underrated piano artist of all time. Caleb Matheny and I were talking, and we agreed that we could listen to you play “Life Will Be Sweeter Someday” fifty times and it still be as fresh as the first time we heard it. What a musical genius you are. Got to hear you and your son David on “Miracles Will Happen On That Day”, and how cool was that?! Praying for you as I know you recently lost your wife. Also, thank you for your book. I have enjoyed it greatly so far!
Thank you, Sue Dodge, for “I Never Shall Forget the Day”. It would never rock as much as it does without your signature vocal. And thank you for being one of the most fun and gracious individuals I encounter all year.
Thank you, Willie Wynn, for being one of gospel music’s “elder statesmen”, for cheering young talent on, for your hilarious sense of humor, and for all those times I’ve listened to THE BEST version of “Jesus Is Coming Soon” EVER!
Thank you, Kenny Gates, for a quarter century of piano for the Blue Ridge Quartet, for the kind gentleman you are, and for trusting me to give you advice over whether to choose the iPad or the Samsung tablet. I hope I said something to you that sounded remotely intelligent!
Thank you, Bill Shaw, for still blessing all of our hearts with your amazing tenor voice at the young age of 89. You have shown all of us that with proper care of our voice, we can sing for a long, long time. If I have half of the longevity that you have had, then I will do very well.
Thank you, Tommy Atwood, for “My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me”, “A Bible Loving Man”, “I Saw the Face of Jesus”, and for your fiddle playing with The Florida Boys. You made the group during those early Jubilee years. I will always be a big Tommy Atwood fan.
Thank you to The Trav’lers (Joel, Tom, Carl, and Wayne) for being the most underrated quartet in the business. You guys have always been a “quartet’s quartet”, and I have admired you for a long time.
Thank you, Ken Turner, for not only being a great entertainer, but for being the great blending and melodic bass singer that you truly are. You have delivered not just low notes, but some beautiful low baritone features. I doubt anyone has delivered “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” any better or anymore sincere than you.
Thank you, Buddy Burton, for being a great talent, and for the advice and the unwavering support that you have passed along to me through the last few years. I’ve even listened to a few of the things you’ve told me!
Thank you to Dot and Pam Abner for sharing your husband and father, Buford Abner, with us all those years, and for coming to our table and telling us that we were your new favorite group! We hope we have done "I Am the Man" and "Lifted From Sin" justice!
Thank you, Gerald Williams, for being gospel music’s greatest bass singer, for giving me my first chance at singing in a quartet, for the 60+ years of your life that you have so graciously given to our music, and for giving me advice that you probably never realized I would use so frequently. You are truly a mentor that not just all bass singers should look up to, but anyone who would ever wish to step before a microphone and sing a gospel song.
An extra thank you to a "young old-timer" who is showing us youngsters how it is done. Thanks to Junior Shelton of the Dixie Echoes for your friendship, your constant encouragement, and for bringing your family, The Sheltons, to GOGR. Some great singing there. And you have no idea how much admiration you generate from the other singers the very moment you step on the stage and share that awesome, classic tenor voice.
One legend that I must mention who was unable to attend GOGR for the first time in many years due to health concerns is Hall of famer Eddie Wallace of the Sunshine Boys. Eddie and the Sunshine Boys were actually the first gospel group I ever saw back in 1986 at 3 years old. His daughter Debbie came to GOGR and was so gracious and complimentary. I called his wife Genny today, and it was so good to visit with her. Eddie is 89 years old now, suffered a stroke just a couple years ago, and is just doing okay. He has good days and bad, and cannot play the piano anymore. More than anything, Eddie wants to be remembered for the lively singing, story-telling, piano-playing character he was. Eddie, I don’t think that will be a problem. Thanks to you and Genny for choosing to be my friend 27 years ago, and for unselfishly extending your love to my family so many times. You were missed this year! If you would like to send a little encouragement Eddie’s way, email him at email@example.com.
A big thank you to Charlie Waller, for allowing me to come face to face, share the stage, and get to know so many of these greats. You will never know what your friendship means to me and to our family, and what a blessing you have been to The Rebels. Keep doing this Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, and I will do whatever I can to invite more people to this event every year.
And thank you to the fans of gospel music, who are the reason that any of this takes place, and for the many compliments you gave our group. We love you! See you soon!
Suwannee, Dixie Echoes, Live Music - 5/31/13I had the privilege of going to see my friends the Dixie Echoes last night just a couple miles from where I live. What an enjoyable night we had with those guys! The Dixie Echoes have always been an inspiration to me. They always "keep it real" in terms of the music, which is what we try to do with the Rebels as well. Their tenor, Junior Shelton, is the new kid on the block at the tender age of 59, and is hands down one of the finest "classic-style tenors" in our music. He really knows how to interpret a lyric. And piano guy Ben Hart is a truly talented guy. He can not only play piano, but several instruments, and even sings a little with the guys as well. I appreciate the Dixie Echoes for what they do, and thank them for giving a great spirit-filled evening.
Speaking of the Dixie Echoes, they are hosting what I believe to be one of the best events in gospel music, The Suwannee River Jubilee in Live Oak, Florida. The Rebels are excited to be a part of this event not just because it is one on the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Campground, but because this will be gospel music's only ALL-LIVE music event this year! Isn't it crazy that only one time a year you can hear southern gospel music for three days without any tracks? It used to not be that way. Now I promise I'm not knocking tracks because sometimes they do come in handy on certain powerful arrangements where an orchestra is just not handy to take on your bus, but we seem to have forgotten the magic and the pure energy of all the music right there on stage. Who can forget The Statesmen On Stage at the Ryman? Or The Blackwood Brothers In Concert album? The Kingsmen Big and Live? What made those albums sell hundreds of thousands of copies? All music must evolve, this is true, but we have learned quickly that audiences young and old are still dying for "unplugged" gospel music, and we intend to give it to them! If you're one of those people, this whole weekend is just for you! We are excited to see what happens at Suwannee River Jubilee for sure. We will be performing on Thursday night. It's only a couple weeks away....June 13-15. You still have time to make reservations for a campsite and/or purchase tickets! Be sure to visit their website at www.suwanneeriverjubilee.com.
The Rebels love you. You're not just our fans, but our friends. We hope to see you soon!
In Memory of Little Jimmy Taylor ~ 5/19/2013
We were saddened to hear of the death of our friend and original Rebels pianist, Little Jimmy Taylor. I have shared this bit of history on Jimmy on the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion website, but I will share his story here with you as well.
James A. “Little Jimmy” Taylor was born on April 4, 1934 in Hahira, Georgia, to A.B. and Eva Taylor. His father A.B. was a quartet pianist, singer, and songwriter, composing the song, “Good News”, which was recorded by several quartets. Jimmy began his professional career singing with his father in the Stamps Melody Quartet as a teenager. In 1951 he joined the Rebels Quartet as their pianist. With a lightning quick left hand, consistent tempo, solid arrangements, and crowd-pleasing turnarounds on songs such as “I Want to Get Closer” and “Jubilee’s A Comin’”, Jimmy quickly gained notoriety as one of gospel music’s very best rhythm pianists.
Jimmy remained a staple of the Rebels Quartet for almost two decades. He left the quartet in 1970, only to return to the quartet two years later. Jimmy remained with the quartet until they disbanded in 1975. It takes an exceptional talent to fill a dual role of pianist and singer in a quartet, and Jimmy did this on multiple occasions. Jimmy served as pianist and lead singer for the quartet on at least three separate occasions during the late 50s and early 60s, and again in the 70s as pianist and baritone singer. Jimmy had the longest tenure of any member of the original Rebels, having spent all but three years of the quartet’s 25-year career as their pianist.
Jimmy was also a founding member of the Singing Americans. During the late 70s and early 80s, Jimmy performed with The Premiers and The Little Jimmy Taylor Family. In 1987, Jimmy formed Little Jimmy Taylor and the CampBells, whom he performed with for the final quarter century of his life.
Jimmy wrote many gospel songs including “Angels Will Stand”, “When I See Him Face to Face”, “The Angels Must Have Cried”, and “Ole Brother Noah”. In 1954, Jimmy penned his most popular song, “Dear Jesus Abide with Me”, which has been recorded by the Rebels, the Blackwood Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, Couriers, Jimmie Davis, Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters, and others. In 1995, Jimmy received the Living Legend Award at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, and in 1998, Jimmy was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Piano Roll of Honor.
Little Jimmy Taylor contacted MRSA shortly following his 79th birthday in early April, and passed away on May 13.
Jimmy and I kept in touch occasionally on Facebook. It had been a great honor to meet and visit with him back in 2011 when I was singing with Freedom, and we were so looking forward to seeing him again this coming November on our Florida trip. When we made Jimmy aware of our desire to revamp the Rebels, he could not have been more supportive and helpful. In June of last year, Jimmy offered me the following advice:
"My best advice to you is to remember that the Rebels was known as the “friendliest group in Gospel music” and to
carry on that tradition. Sing some of our old arrangements with four voices and a piano. There are very few groups
today who can do that. When you are in the area it would be my honor to come and hear you. Always remember you
aren’t singing a program, you are worshiping the King of Kings through song and sharing that worship with those who
come and hear you."
Along with the bits of advice I always gained from Gerald Williams, no finer advice have I ever been given. He was a kind man and such a great "elder statesman" of gospel music. He will certainly be missed. RIP Jimmy, we love you!
Happy New Year! ~ 1/5/2013Well it's hard to believe that 2012 has passed us already, but here we are facing another 12 months of great possibilities. We hope you all had a great Christmas. I assure you we all did! We even managed to do four "Somewhat Christmasy" dates in December. We managed to work up a few Christmas songs, two quartet tunes as well as two solos each by myself and David, and we had a tremendous time doing this. I thought we worked up pretty decent reditions of "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" if I do say so myself, and David Fair did a beautiful job on "Why Can't Every Day Be Like Christmas". I was very privileged to sing one of my favorites, "My Grown Up Christmas List". We even got the audience involved on some of our favorite Christmas tunes we learned as children. These dates were great successes, and we hope to come back next year with an even more Christmas-y program.
One of the most oft-asked questions we receive is with Mike and I living in Georgia, Rick and David in Tennessee, and Barry in Kentucky, "How do you guys rehearse??" The best answer we can give is...we do our homework. Sometimes we will meet on a weekend we are not singing specifically for rehearsal to learn more songs, and sometimes we will work more music into our programs as we are doing sound checks. When we have picked out songs to sing, we have stressed to each other how important it is to have our lyrics and vocal parts well memorized before the next time we meet. So far, this arrangement has worked out beautifully. Plus, I am constantly reminded of the seasoned professionals I travel with. They are true pros!
Speaking of true pros, I had a great opportunity this New Years Eve to help pay tribute to one of the greatest pros of our music, Gerald Williams, as we held the final concert of the Melody Boys Quartet in Little Rock, Arkansas. Those of you who are familiar with my background in gospel music will know that the Melody Boys are one of the oldest names in gospel quartet music, and the group that gave me my first chance at singing gospel music. After 63 years of singing bass in professional quartet music, Gerald Williams finally decided that he had earned the right to retire! I was very honored to join 17 other former members of the Melody Boys, and about 1200 enthusiastic fans in bringing the full-time career of this great group to a close. We sang from 7:00 until midnight and no one left the building! It was one of the most memorable nights of my career, and I will always be indebted to the Melody Boys for their faith in me.
The Rebels are very excited about 2013. This coming March will mark a year since the first little "jam session" concert in Cumming, Georgia, that brought this quartet together. We have many exciting things in the works, another recording now in the planning stages, a new booking agency, some new states to add to our travels, several exciting concerts in the works, we will return to almost all of our venues from last year, and once again, we will perform at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in Greenville, SC, this time for all three days of this wonderful event. These are just some of the exciting things we anticipate in the year ahead. We can't wait to come to your town and bring this exciting music and the message of Jesus Christ not just to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but to those who need Him in their lives. We love you, and the best is yet to come!
Christmastime! ~ 12/10/2012
Well, we are in my favorite time of year, and nearing the end of what has shaped up to be a year that has blown the members of the Rebels Quartet away. We came together in February of this year with nothing more than a desire to keep alive the desires in our hearts to continue singing. We began with no name, no money, no matching suits, and no recording. In time, we became driven to continue the heritage of the Rebels, and somehow everything lined up in favor of our group being named the Rebels, and bringing back some of their great songs. We were soon blessed with benefactors to help launch our group. Words however, cannot describe the friendship we have enjoyed with Bob and Anita Vandergrift, who are the primary reason we were able to record our Revived CD. They have fed our group, loved on each member, and have helped us so much in these early stages. For this we say THANK YOU Bob and Anita! You will never be forgotten for your contribution to our ministry! Over the past 10 months, some of our quartet have even been offered more lucrative singing jobs, which were eventually turned down because for some reason, there was a stronger desire to sing with this group. God has blessed this group with a means of transportation, a Chevrolet Tahoe that is very comfortable to ride in, and get us to our dates very smoothly and in a very cost-efficient manner. We have managed to do 15 dates for 2012, all of which were great successes and very moving concerts. For a group starting with very little means, you can now see how God has blessed the Rebels Quartet. And from the looks of things 2013 will be another year that will blow each of us away. So many exciting things are in the works, and we can't wait for you to be part of it! Keep visiting our website for further developments, and until I touch base with you again, in the meantime please have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
It has been far too long since I last updated everyone on the latest happenings with the Rebels. We are having an incredible time these days! Our dates are still few as can be expected when starting a new group, but all have been great successes! We have sung for some wonderful audiences over the last couple months. During July we sang on Seminole Indian Reservations in south Florida, with Pastor Phil Enloe at Harvest Chapel in Venice, Florida, at McConnell Memorial Baptist Church in my hometown of Hiawassee, GA. The Lord showed up and truly blessed us at all of these venues, and the people have received our music so well.
We were honored to sing at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion last month. Charlie Waller ever so kindly gave us our first appearance on a major concert promotion, and he certainly treated the Rebels right. There's no doubt about it, Grand Ole Gospel is our crowd! Nobody appreciates quartet music like these people. Their response to our music overwhelmed all of us. Rick was unable to make this weekend due to a scheduling conflict, so we were honored that Hall of Famer and my former boss-man Gerald Williams stepped in to help us out. This 78 year old bass singing legend didn't miss a beat! We sure hope that Grand Ole Gospel Reunion will continue next year, and that the Rebels will get to come back.
We were so glad to see Rick back with us this past weekend when we sang near Murphy, NC, at Boiling Springs Baptist Church. I use the term NEAR Murphy, NC, very loosely. This church was WAAAY back in some of the most beautiful wooded and farm country I have ever seen, in a little community called "Hanging Dog". If you're wondering where you can find Hanging Dog on the map, it is to the west of Owl Creek and to the east of Beaver Dam. Hope that helps. The church was celebrating "Old Fashioned Day". We chose to get in on the fun ourselves and dressed in bib overalls and matching shirts. I thought I would be singing much more comfortably than normal, but those overalls were definitely hotter than any suit I have worn. Bro. Eddis Dockery and his congregation gave us a very memorable Sunday morning. We look forward to getting to come back to Hanging Dog again next summer!
Our CD "Revived" is out and is receiving GREAT response. I don't call our style "vintage" or "classic quartet" style, I just call it good music. It is simple and straight from our hearts, and we hope you feel that when we sing!
If you would like to have the Rebels come sing at your home church, or if you know of any venues in your area who are having gospel concerts on a regular basis, please contact us! We would LOVE to come sing in your area!
Your prayers, love, and friendship are treasured. Keep it up. We love you!
Well, it's hard to believe that it has already been a couple months since my first news installment on The Rebels. We have been busy making preparations, booking some concerts, recording our debut CD....that is when we are not tending to our families! We had our first "official" concert (I guess "Official" would mean our first time actually where a venue knew The Rebels were coming several weeks in advance) at Central Baptist Church in Crossville, TN. Upon hearing of our formation, they were kind enough to invite The Rebels to be a part of their Memorial Day service, and what a thrill it was to be a part of this program. The service began with one of our veterans who shared his story of witnessing the loss of a fellow soldier in war. Needless to say, the chill bumps were all over us as we sang our new song "Another Hero's Coming Home" right after paying tribute to these soldiers. Thank you Central Baptist for allowing us to be a part of this service.
In the meantime, we are in the process of finishing our "Revived" recording, which will feature 10 songs from The Rebels days covering from 1955 through 1972. Many of these songs have not been heard in years. For those who have asked if we're recording "Lily of the Valley" and "The Fourth Man"...YES, we have recorded them! David Fair does an incredible job on "Lost, Searching, Found". Mike Young brings that classic tenor sound to "Lifted From Sin". I am very excited about singing "He'll Understand and Say Well Done". And ol' man Rick Fair has re-recorded "It Is No Secret", which he sang on his record with The Rebels in 1972. Those are just a few of the favorites we've brought back. We can't wait to stage all of these songs for you.
We're very excited to be coming to Florida in July. We look forward to traveling to Hollywood, Clewiston, and Venice. Most of the guys in the group have performed at these venues before, but I look forward to singing at all three for the first time. Sometime next January or February, we hope to have a Homecoming concert in the Tampa area with as many former members of the Rebels as we can get to attend. We will keep you posted on that.
Keep checking our schedule for more dates. We hope to be coming your way soon!
I cannot begin to tell you of the excitement we feel, and blessings that God is bestowing on the Rebels in this early stage of our ministry. So many doors are already being open for us, and so many have outpoured their love to our group.
We just had our first concert on Sunday Night (March 25, 2012) in Cumming, GA, at Antioch Baptist Church. With only two days notice, Pastor Travis and Alicia Bridgeman graciously opened their doors for us, and allowed our group to "practice" on an audience. The Bridgemans made phone calls, emails, facebook announcements, etc, and the large crowd they brought in for our debut performance was nothing short of a miracle. Southern Gospel DJ Danny O'Day even came to introduce our group and show his support. We were merely looking for a place to rehearse and get an offering that would maybe cover driving expense for the members of our group, and God provided so much more! Pastor Travis prayed over our quartet, we sang as close to perfection as five men with only a few rehearsals under their belt could, and the spirit and energy of the audience truly moved our souls. Thank you Bridgeman Family, Danny, and Antioch for your contribution to our ministry!
Plans are already underway for two new albums. One will feature several new songs, including two songs written by our pianist, Barry Patrick, along with several favorites like "How Big Is God", featuring our bass singer and "Rebels patriarch" Rick Fair. Our other project will feature songs that the Original Rebels made famous, such as "The Fourth Man", "The Lily of the Valley", "I'm Going Back", and many others. As time develops, we will be accepting more bookings for concerts. In the meantime, it's back to the rehearsals, the meetings, the rehearsals, the phone calls, the emails, and of course, the rehearsals! We will keep you posted right here on our website on the latest happenings of the Rebels.
Be sure to check us out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RebelsQuartet. We're excited to bring the legacy of our gospel singing heroes back to life, and we hope to see you soon!