FIRST, A LITTLE BACKGROUND: The idea for this page had been running
through my mind for a couple of years, but the time just never seemed right to add it. As
our close friends already know, the Inspirations hold definite ideas on how we should
conduct ourselves, how we should present our music, and how we can best carry on the work
that God has given us to do. Also, we have never been afraid to take politically incorrect
stands on hot-button issues.
In the past few
months, and definitely in the last few weeks, (since the 2003 National Quartet Convention)
we have received an unusual number of letters, emails, and phone calls from young people
who desire to make Southern Gospel Music their life's work, and they have been asking how
The Inspirations ever got this far! LOL
We may never know the real answer ourselves, but I strongly believe
that we can point to the fact that we had great mentors, wise teachers and
Best of all, we had
families and hometown friends who never failed to gently remind us when they felt we were
perhaps losing some of the focus that had first brought us to the attention of the SGM
industry and audiences. We thank God
for those wonderful people, like Les Beasley and J G Whitfield; Revs. Ralph Sexton, Sr.
and Maze Jackson; and all the true heroes of the faith who had the courage to keep us in line.
I pray that we never
forget their advice.
Now, having completed
our 52nd Year, this finally seems like the right time
for us to pass along some of the lessons and wisdom those great men passed on to us. For this first installment, we are using words
from a legendary, multi-faceted and very successful SGM personality; a pioneer who helped
shape the SGM industry into what it is today; and a man we considered our friend.
At times he
followed his own advice, and at other times he missed the mark. Some people loved him,
others didn't, but no matter what anyone thought, he was always outspoken. We will hold
his identity til the end of the article, so read the words first (no cheating) and
prayerfully consider this sage advice:
if you currently are, or ever hope to be, a full time Southern Gospel Singer.
NOTE: Following is the original text, without change
or correction, including the original punctuation, grammar, phrasing, layout, etc. The
only change is in the color we added.
To you, the regular
members of our All Nite Singing Family, and especially, you, who may be in our midst for
the first visit, we extend an invitation to you to come back and enjoy Gospel Singing with
us each month. Please tell your friends and bring them along.
ourselves with music, in singing, playing instruments, blending our voices together in
harmony melody and rhythm - FELLOWSHIP. To sing the praise of our Lord; renew our faith by
singing and listening to the gospel in song.
INGREDIENTS (of our productions)
Gospel and Spiritual Singing
No. 1. That
enough gospel in song may be rendered in any one All-Nite Singing; that any one who has
not accepted the "faith" may learn enough about the plan of salvation to have a
desire to consult an interpreter of religious faith, a minister of the gospel in the
church of his choice.
We do not
advertise that we do preaching, but our prayer and purpose is that we may be helpful as
gospel singers in starting men and women, boys and girls to thinking about the higher
meaning in life. Our prayer is that God may use us in serving Him through the gospel in
song as a channel of blessing. The nearest to preaching of the gospel in our All Nite
sings is "Sermon in Song." Our All Nite Sings are not revival meetings not
evangelistic meetings nor church worship service but rather:
No. 2. Many
people have told us that our monthly gospel sings are their primary entertainment. They
feel that it is the one source and place of entertainment they can carry their entire
family and not feel condemned.
No. 3. Our
singers come on the stage with an enthusiastic spirit, and there is no problem of a group
ever short-changing, so to speak; their audience in not taking the maximum time allotted.
More often, the singers over-run their time, and though, it sometimes upsets schedule, it
still seems commendable.
No. 4. Some
people have said that the singers, at least some of them, feel that they have
short-changed their audience if they do not supply a little humor in their presentation.
This humor is important in our production. However, with some of the singers, this can be
very easily overdone. And we feel sometimes it is overdone. It surely is a fact, that a
little humor (between songs) is good - A VERY LITTLE. No one would want even their pastor
in their church to be morbid. It seems the most effective sermon by any minister carries
with it at least one or two stories of humor if only in an illustrative form to get a
No. 5. Surely
Gospel Singing to everyone is inspiring.
No. 6. Whatever
we do in life, we should be sincere, but more, especially, in singing gospel songs.
Those of us who
listen to gospel singing, that the gospel singers are human beings, just the same as the
listeners and are prone to err. Would to God that all Gospel Singers were God's best
Christians! Does not the pastor of his church feel the same, "Would to God that all
the members of my church were God's best Christians," so: Some say that many of our
Gospel Singers lean stronger towards humor and entertainment! So therefore, they are prone
to overdo this.
Let us seek the
happy medium and not the radical. God forbid that any part of our production, by any of
the singers presentations, ever be offensive. Then, our purpose to the higher
meaning in life and 'Peace on earth, good will" should be defeated. Some have said
that some of our Gospel Singers lean towards sometimes preaching long and perhaps loud.
(Understand, no one, surely, would criticize the preaching of the gospel, at any time or
at any place and certainly, not the writer of this article, but again, preaching is not
advertised.) We advertise gospel and spiritual singing, and if the people hear preaching
rather than gospel singing, perhaps they have a right to say' "We come to hear gospel
singing, and we think we shall go to church to hear our preaching." In an
"All-Nite Singing" we expect to hear singing. When we go to church, we expect to
hear preaching and some real good singing of hymns, but not usually, the "Camp
Meeting, rhythmical, spiritual type of singing that we expect to hear in the All-Nite
One of our
greatest gospel singing personalities is Brother Hovie Lister, manager of Statesmen,
dynamic Emcee, pianist and sometimes called the "Country Boy Preacher." Once on
the stage in Birmingham, Alabama, at one of the monthly "sings," Bro. Hovie got
to feeling real good and almost preached. He did give out loud with an "on fire
testimonial" and many of the people asked him to preach then and there, but he told
them to come to the little Mt. Zion Baptist Church that he pastors near Marietta, Ga., and
he would preach. I took him up on it and paid a visit to Mt. Zion. Bro. Hovie preached and
we feel that his sermon was comparable to some of our greatest interpreters of religious
faith. Bro, Hovie preached in Birmingham at Jones Memorial Baptist Church. I attended
services there later. The pastor, Rev. Ben Daniels, makes one feel that Peter Marshall is
still preaching on this earth. So, our prayer is that the gospel singers will find the
happy medium and progress with sincerity at all times never giving way to antics, feeling
that the people have to be overly entertained. Nor, that any would try and take the
preacher's position away by any measures of radicalism, in order to create emotionalism.
Just, plain, good gospel singing alone stirs our deepest emotions. However, dear friends,
if anything in our entire production and presentations do not please you in every respect,
remember, it is our aim to please and ever RAISE THE STANDARDS OF THAT WHICH WE REPRESENT!
statesman, A. Lincoln, once said, "You can fool some of the people half of the time,
half of the people all of the time, but, you can't fool all the people all of the
May we paraphrase
this, and say, you are fortunate indeed, if you can please all the people HALF of the'
time, half the people all the time and NO ONE can ever please all the people all the time.
national survey, 2300 radio stations are programming Gospel Music daily!
IT IS A FACT over
five million people are filling the nations largest auditoriums, stadiums, etc., to hear
Gospel Singing annually.
Is it necessary
to ask ourselves the question "Is Gospel Singing growing?"
A Gospel Singing America is a Peaceful America. Ask yourself an important question.
MAKES AMERICA GREAT? Could you not be justified in saying that only the good in America
makes it great, and if the good in America be taken away, then would not the greatness of
America also be taken away?
One man said that
he searched diligently for what made America great, and that he found it in the churches
of our land. Is not, "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and
all of thy mind" and St. John 13:34, "a new commandment, I give unto you, that
ye love one another; as I have Loved you, that ye love one another."
Today, in our
country is no "Love Thy Neighbor" policy needed more than anything except to
"Love thy God" and is not "Loving thy neighbor," also to "Love
thy God"? Our prayer is "Our Father, Who Are in Heaven, give us a greater
capacity for LOVE for our fellowman." Because, we know we have enough love in our
hearts at all times for our fellowman that we have complied with the fifth through the
tenth commandments; and create a desire in our hearts to love God and put Him first to
love God and put Him first and in so doing we have complied with the first through
the fourth commandments, Realizing that, through LOVE, Christ died for us and "Give
us the courage" to change the things in life that we know we should and can, and to
accept those conditions that we cannot change, and give us the wisdom to know the
difference, and lead us not into temptations, but deliver us from evil for thine is the
kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever, AMEN."
The man who wrote those words, "Genial, Jolly Wally
Fowler" was the founder of the Oak Ridge Quartet. He was also the man who is credited
with creating the All-Nite Sing. His All Nite Sing programs were first held at the Ryman
Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, the original home of the Grand Old Opry. After the
Friday night Opry show ended at midnight, Wally, with his Oak Ridge Quartet, along with
the top SGM groups of that era, would then take over the Opry stage and literally 'sing
all night'. The concept quickly caught on, and the All Nite Sings began to be held all
across the southland.
Wally's thoughts, penned sometime before November, 1956, were found in the souvenir
program pictured below. We present them not only as a part of our history (because
of the Atlanta Auditorium connection - not the year, LOL), but we also believe they are
worthy of discussion, consideration and application in this new millennium. Hopefully you
All we can add is this:
'Whether we are the singer or the fan, the lesson is simple:'
"It's all about Him (Jesus Christ), not
Hopefully, everyone who reads this will find
Wally's words to be good advice; but if you would like to respond, you may email us at
email@example.com We promise to read every
one, but due to the number of emails we receive, plus the fact that I'm an old man who
still types with two fingers and a guess, we will not be able to respond individually.
We will tally the responses, (yeah and nay if there are any), and report the results with
the January updates to the website. The best responses for both views will be included
To be considered as the representative for your viewpoint (whether SGM fan or industry
member), your email must include your real name and a valid daytime telephone number
This souvenir program is one of my
favorite pieces of SGM memorabilia,
and we owe special thanks to Reverend John and Mrs.
Frances King of Monroe, Georgia for the loan.
Please forgive the patched together scan of
the view from the old Atlanta City Auditorium stage, but my scanner bed
couldn't accommodate the double page spread in one pass. The Atlanta City
Auditorium on Courtland street is now gone, but it will always hold a
special place in the Inspirations' history and hearts. This is close to the
sight we saw on the very first night that we sang there for Mr. Whitfield,
when the Spirit fell on and blessed four young boys and a teacher as we
first introduced "Jesus Is Coming Soon" to the Atlanta audience.
INSPIRATIONS' WALLY FOWLER TRIVIA NOT IN OUR BOOK
When we were kids just starting out -probably in 1966 or 1967- Wally was kind enough to
invite us to appear on his nationally syndicated television show,
The Wally Fowler Show, which was filmed in Nashville, Tennessee. In
those days, long before the advent of satellite uplinks and current communications
technology, programs like the Gospel
Singing Jubilee, the
Gospel Singing Caravan,
Singing Time In Dixie,
Porter Wagoner Show,
and all the other syndicated
and most network shows of the
time, were filmed in blocks of shows. Each show was filmed in multiple song segments so
local television stations could insert their commercials. The idea was to film as many
shows as possible in one or two days.
That meant long, tiring days and nights of filming segments; and if anyone messed up, or
there was a glitch in the production control room, the cameras had to be reset, and the
filming for that segment had to be repeated. Of course, we never goofed (yeah right! LOL)
but goofs occasionally happened, so you can imagine that tensions might creep in,
especially late in the night.
one such occasion, the segment had been restarted several times, (no, we were not the ones
that goofed that time) and even Wally was beginning to tire. Henry Slaughter was the
session leader, and he and his musicians always played for Wally, Lois Jane Neal, and the
other regular soloists on the show. (MORE
TRIVIA: Mr. Slaughter was, and still
is, one of the most revered professionals ever in our business. Along with my hero, the
incomparable Mr. Jake Hess, he was a founding member of the Imperials,
but I digress.)
Tensions were becoming evident in the studio, so we just stayed on the sidelines, out of
camera range, watching . . . and learning. (Come to think of it, that's still a good
that point, Mr. Slaughter taught us all an invaluable lesson.
He didn't say a word . . . just sat back down at the grand piano and
began to softly play the opening melody of "Down By The Riverside." The melody
is very recognizable, as well as highly infectious; and in a singer's brain, we think
lyrics, so what we started thinking was "Gonna lay down my sword and shield . .
few seconds later we heard somebody giggle, (my best memory is that it was Wally himself)
and soon everyone started laughing. The tension was broken, the air was cleared, and that
segment was completed, plus a full additional program. As I said, we learned a valuable
lesson that evening; so when Rev. King shared his wonderful piece of SGM history with me,
it triggered this memory, and I couldn't resist sharing it with you.