Norman Holland passes away

Long-time Southern Gospel executive Norman Holland passed away yesterday of heart failure. In his role as A&R Director with Riversong, Chapel, and Daywind, he guided and helped shape the careers of many of Southern Gospel’s leading artists. 

He entered the Southern Gospel industry in 1980, and rose through the ranks until he reached the position of Vice President and A&R of Daywind Records. He held that position for sixteen years, through his retirement last year.  Though Holland’s impact was behind the scenes, it was massive. Countless colleagues have posted tributes to him, including these:

  • “There may never be another who cares for artists like Norman Holland did. He was an innovative and dedicated employee. This is a heartbreaking loss.” —Ed Leonard, President of Daywind
  • “The wonderful memories of working and sharing life with Norman for 16 years are precious. I will cherish them as I cherished him.” —Dottie Leonard Miller, Founder of Daywind
  • “Norman and I had a great working relationship for 27 years, but more importantly, he was one of my closest friends. His laughter was contagious, and his larger-than-life, magnetic personality always lit up any room he was in. Gospel Music has lost one of its most innovative and influential behind-the-scenes personalities, and I have lost a friend. But not for long. I know where he is.” —Gerald Wolfe
  • “So sad to hear of Norman Holland’s passing. He was such a sweet man. We will miss you, Norman.” —Wes Hampton
  • “Our hearts are broken today to learn of the passing of our great friend, Norman Holland. He was sooo much more than just our A&R director for years, but he was a true friend!” —The Perrys
  • “All of us at the Harper Agency are deeply saddened to hear about the untimely passing of our dear friend Norman Holland. At one time or another over the last 32 years, Norman worked with nearly all of the artists our agency currently represents and those in years past as an A & R director. He loved the music the artists sang and the God they all sang about. He was a true friend to the gospel music community and loved by all of us.” —The Harper Agency
  • “Please pray for his family and friends. He will be greatly missed.” —Mark Lowry

UPDATE, 6:45 P.M.: A Daywind press release offers the following information on funeral arrangements: “Funeral services for Norman will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 15th, 2014, with visitation taking place from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. that day.  The funeral and visitation will take place at Sorrell’s Funeral Home, 2744 W Magnolia Ave, Geneva, Alabama, 36340, Phone:(334) 684-9999.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Norman Holland Memorial Fund c/o Norman’s sister, Edith Brown, 1209 Glenwood Street, Dothan, Alabama, 36301.  The balance of the fund after funeral expenses will be donated to the Gospel Music Trust Fund. There will be a memorial service in honor of Norman held in Nashville within the next month.”

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Bev Lowry Passes Away

Mark Lowry has just posted that his mother, Beverly Lowry, passed away this evening. He said: “Mama went home to be with The Lord tonight. She was eating dinner at the nursing home and her heart stopped. She’s with Jesus now. Please pray for my sweet daddy.”

Beverly Lowry was a noted songwriter in her own right. Her best-known song was The Cathedrals’ “I Thirst”:

That was far from her only song of note; her other writes and co-writes include “When They Found Nothing” (Legacy Five), “Across the River” (Triumphant Quartet), “The Ground is Level” (Ernie Haase), and “Monuments” (Legacy Five).

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George Amon Webster passes away

George Amon Webster, baritone for The Cathedrals for a decade (1969-1979), passed away last night. He had been battling cancer, strokes, and other health issues for several years. Due to declining health, he was in hospice for the last few months.

News of his passing was confirmed on social media by several fellow alumni from his years with the Cathedrals and with his own group, the Heartland Boys, in the 1990s. Tributes included:

  • Mark Trammell: “The first time I saw The Cathedral Quartet in person, George Amon Webster was the baritone/bass player. I was 13 years old. Just a few years later I was standing in his place. Amon was a dear friend and always treated me like I was somebody. I will always cherish his friendship and kindness. Rest in peace my friend.”
  • Bryan Hutson: “Just got word that my old singing buddy from “The Heartland Boys”; George Amon Webster passed away about 8:30pm tonight. George, Roy Tremble and Brent Fredricks gave me my first professional singing job. Amon has been battling cancer for several years.. Tonight he’s not suffering and is in the arms of Jesus.. Love ya George.”
  • Stuart Cary: “Just received the news of George Amon Webster’s passing. George was a member of the famed Cathedrals during the 1970′s, then managed the Heartland Boys for a number of years. I will forever appreciate George for taking a chance on a twenty year old bass singer. I had the privilege to sing with him for a year, he was a great mentor and friend. Please remember his family in prayer.”

Webster was one of the longest-running Cathedral Quartet members. George Younce and Glen Payne, of course, were founding members and remained there for the group’s entire run. Roger Bennett was with the group eighteen years, Mark Trammell ten and a half, and George Amon Webster ten. Since the Cathedrals became the biggest group in Southern Gospel in around 1981, this means that Webster was, until yesterday, the longest-serving member still living from the lean years.

Here’s a video of George Amon Webster singing and sharing the story behind his signature song, “He Loves Me.”

UPDATE, 9/30/13: Tim Webster, George’s son, posted:

We will be having a memorial service for my dad, George Amon Webster, at 11am on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at Colonial Hills Baptist Church 5375 W Mount Morris Rd. in Mount Morris, MI. My Uncle Dannie is also planning on having a service in Daytona Beach, FL. When I get all of that information I will post it.

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and condolences. Our family appreciates it more than we could ever say.

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Jack Laws passes away

Jack Laws, longtime baritone for The Inspirations and current baritone for Smoky Mountain Reunion, passed away this afternoon. Smoky Mountain Reunion posted on Facebook: “Our dear brother, Jack Laws, has just passed from this life to GLORY!!! Please pray for his family and his quartet family, we will miss him so. He is in that wonderful place Where He Will Never Grow Old!!!!”

Laws toured with the Inspirations in three different stints, from 1964-1971, for about five years in the 1980s, and on a part-time basis from 1999 through 2008.

Here is a video of Laws singing “Too Much to Gain To Lose” with Smoky Mountain Reunion; it’s especially poignant today:

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Jeff Davis passes away

Down East Boys alumnus Jeff Davis passed away yesterday after an eleven-year-long battle with brain cancer. He was a member in the early ’90s, right around the time the Down East Boys picked up their Horizon Group of the Year honor in the 1990 Singing News Fan Awards.

Greg Bentley, who served alongside Davis in that Down East Boys lineup, posted the following tribute on his Facebook page yesterday morning:

Sitting here running sound for Jubilee preaching this morning at TBC [Trinity Baptist Church, Asheville, NC]. Wonderful encouraging words. Then I get the news that one of my former singing partners with The Down East Boys, Jeff Davis lost his battle with a brain tumor last night. Evangelist Tom Gilliam is preaching right now about running the race and keeping the faith. I can rejoice to know that Jeff has finished his race and has now crossed the Victory Line! May God comfort Cindy and the rest of the family!

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Furman Wilson passes away

Furman Wilson, a founding member of the Primitive Quartet, passed away on Tuesday. The Primitive Quartet was originally founded in 1973 by two sets of brothers—Furman and Norman Wilson, and Larry and Reagan Riddle. When Furman left, later in the 1970s, he was replaced by a third Riddle brother, Michael Riddle. Though other instrumentalists/vocalists would be fifth and sixth members through the years, this would be the sole change in the group’s four core/founding members during its forty-year-to-date run.

Furman Wilson was also a founding member of Bethesda Baptist Church in Candler, North Carolina, where he served as pastor. His funeral will be held there today; he will be buried in the church’s cemetery.

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Debra Talley injured; R.C. Talley passes away

As multiple online sources have reported, Roger and Kirk Talley’s father R.C. “Red” Talley passed away this afternoon. He had been ill for some time. He was preceded in death by his wife, Connie Talley, in 2010. The visitation and funeral will be on Monday.

It’s never a good time for a parent to pass away, but some are decidedly worse than others. Debra Talley is currently in a Nashville hospital with a concussion. Her chair fell off the back row of the stage at yesterday’s Gaither Homecoming video recording.

Please keep the Talleys in your prayers!

UPDATE (5/23): Debra has been released from the hospital and is on the mend.

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George Beverly Shea passes away

George Beverly Shea’s family confirmed that he passed away yesterday evening. He was 104, and had been hospitalized with a stroke earlier this week.

He began his recording and radio performance career in the 1930s. He joined the Billy Graham crusade team in 1947, and would remain associated with Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the next fifty-five years. Through his singing career, it is estimated that he sang to more than 220 million people live and in person. He has held the Guinness Book of World Records title for performing to more people live than any other person.

His impact on Southern Gospel is extensive; among other things, he co-wrote “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and popularized both “How Great Thou Art” and “To God Be the Glory.”

Two years ago, I attended a Gaither Homecoming taping. Shea was there, and, at 102, he got the strongest response of the night. 

UPDATE, 4/17/13, 8:45 PM: Shea’s funeral will be this Sunday at 3 P.M. at Anderson Auditorium in Montreat, North Carolina. It will be open to the public.

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Saturday News Roundup #165

Worth Knowing

  • Greater Vision is doing a going-out-of-print sale for FacesQuartets, and Live at First Baptist Atlanta here. The titles will undoubtedly remain in print digitally.
  • An Oklahoma newspaper has an article on Lily Fern Weatherford’s retirement.
  • NQC has updated their 2013 mainstage schedule, adding The Sneed Family on Monday, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound on Tuesday, The Bowlings and The Nelons on Friday, and the Down East Boys on Saturday.
  • Former Jordanaires tenor Gordon Stoker has passed away.
  • Former LeFevres soprano Teresa McNeill Burrell passed away on Thursday.
  • Canton Junction is discontinuing their debut recording, which we reviewed here, and replacing it with Show Me Your Way, releasing May 21. Eleven tracks will be from the discontinued debut, and will apparently be re-cut with new vocalist Shane McConnell. There will be three new tracks, live renditions of “Just a Little Talk with Jesus/Jesus on the Main Line Medley” and “In God We Still Trust,” and a new studio track, “Back On My Feet Again.”
  • Worth Reading: John Mathis’s column Southern Gospel Music – the 10% and the 90%

Worth Watching

Here’s a video of Gerald Williams’ Melody Boys Quartet in their prime:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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