This week’s article will be focused on some of this year’s inductees into the South Carolina Gospel Music Association.
First is H. I. (Ingram) Willis, Sr. He lived in Greenville County and was a very big part of the “Shape Note” singing and schools for the better part of his life, in fact for some 50 years. During his involvement in Gospel Music he was the president of the South
Carolina State Singing Convention and President of the North Greenville Singing Convention. In addition to these activities he was choir director for 2 churches and sang second tenor in the Nelson Stamps Quartet, as well as playing guitar for the group. At one time the members of this group included Paul Burroughs singing Bass, W. H. Nelson singing Baritone, Woodrow Pittman singing First Tenor and as mentioned Willis rounding out the group. This group had a regular spot on WESC radio on Sunday morning.
In an article in the Greenville News in 1984 Willis tells of going to singing conventions as a child riding in a horse and buggy. During this time the conventions would last for 2 weeks and during that time one would be taught the “shape” notes, choir directing, song writing and would come together as a group to sing and put in practice what had been learned. Willis also stated in that article that much of the conventions activities in the 40’s and 50’s centered around the Tremont Avenue Church of God. During Willis’ tenure as president of the North Greenville Singing Convention they would meet monthly on the third Sunday at different churches in the Northern part of Greenville County. As I have written from time to time this convention stills meets monthly on the third Sunday of each month. Ken Ward assumed the responsiblies for this convention from Mr. Willis. As you can see from this brief history Mr. Willis’ musical impact on the state certainly makes him a deserving candidate to be a part of the South Carolina Gospel Music Association.
Next, Bobbie Jean White from Anderson - she will soon be 80 years young and has been singing gospel music since the age of 3. She like some others began her musical career in the local church. White sang with the Hi Neighbor Quartet for some time. She has sung on WGGS-TV, as well as other radio and TV programs. She sang with Eva Mae Lefevre and the Smitty Galtin Trio and had a recording contract with Skylite Recording Company in Nashville, Tennessee where she recorded 21 projects.
In the 70’s she left the road to be at home with her family but continued to be a part of gospel music as a “DJ” on WHPB in Belton and WRIX in Anderson. In 1996 she received the Living Legend Award from the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion and in the same year a Living Legend Award from WRIX.
White was known for having one of the best singing voices in Southern Gospel Music but in 1997 tragedy struck. She was going to listen to her latest release but discovered that her hearing was not what it should be. So for the next 12 years she lived in silence until she was able to receive a cochlear implant which enabled her to once again hear many of the sounds that had been lost for over a decade. I think you will agree that Bobbie Jean is certainly deserving of this award.
At the induction ceremony we will have a commemorative CD available which will include songs by Dr. Charles B. Wycuff, Hovie Lister, Otis Forrest, Wayne Shuford, Trav’lers and Bobbie Jean White. I expect this collector CD to sell quickly at the induction ceremony so if you would like to order in advance and pay at the ceremony call me at 864-979-9626. The cost is $5 and the money will go 100% to the South Carolina Gospel Music Association. Don’t forget the ceremony will be September 19th at Washington Baptist Church beginning at 7pm.
For more information about this event visit our website: www.scgospelmusicassoc.com or contact me at (864) 979-9626 or (864) 895 –1287. Hope to see you there.