Songfellows to sing at two local churches

A gospel quartet organized in 1954 will be sharing the story of Jesus’ love in song at two local churches on Sunday.

The Songfellows Quartet, now headquartered in Hendersonville, Tenn., was originally based in California. The Songfellows Quartet is one of the longest lasting groups in the history of Southern gospel.

They will be singing Sunday at 11 a.m. at White Oak First Baptist Church and at 6 p.m. at Providence Baptist Church on Providence Church Road.

The roots of the group go to the 1920’s when Bob Jones Sr. attended a Stamp School of Music in Sweetwater, Texas. Jones formed the quartet in San Diego.

One of the original members was Earl Weatherford. The group had a radio program on KFI, the 50,000-watt clear channel NBC station in Los Angeles, and people listened to their Sunday night broadcast from Guam to Des Moines and from Vancouver to Mexico City.

The Songfellows were featured on many early television shows originating on the West Coast. They appeared with country artists such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Red Foley and Glen Campbell.

They have also been on Gospel Music Southern Style, TBN’s Praise the Lord and the Voice of Calvary. Now they are the featured group on "Brush Arbor Jubilee," a syndicated Southern gospel program.

The Songfellows were featured in the historic concerts in the Long Beach Civic Auditorium along with the Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, Couriers and the Weatherfords. The quartet regularly traveled to Vancouver and Dallas and occasionally toured the entire country.

The Songfellows helped organize and create the Western States Gospel Music Association. For the last 15 years, the Songfellows have been featured at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Ky.

Bob Jones Sr. was joined by his teenage son Bob Jr. in 1958. They sang together until 2007 when Bob Sr. died at 93.

Bob Jr. remains active today as lead singer and manager. Others singing in the quartet today are Ed Hill, Brad Smith and Rick Strickland.

Bob Jones Jr. left singing for a time to build a business career. He was vice president of sales and marketing for Steinway and Sons, CEO and president of Baldwin Piano, board chairman and president of the John T. Benson Company/Zondervan Music Group and president of Samick Music Corp. He and his father reorganized the Songfellows in 1988.

Hill is known for his baritone voice. He brings 55-plus years of experience to the quartet. Best known for his years with J.D. Sumner and The Stamps, Hill also sang with the Prophets, Hovie Lister and the Statesmen, The Singing Americans and Golden Covenant.

Hill is also credited in giving a "hand up" to many rising young gospel artists — including Mike Lefevre, Michael English and Ivan Parker. He was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 2009.

A full blood Cherokee and an adopted Hopi, Smith proud of his Native American heritage. The bass singer had a long and successful career with the Impacts of Louisville, Ky. He also was a member of the Southmen, the Blackwoods, the Speers and the Statesmen.

Strickland is recognized as one of Southern gospel's finest tenors. Singing early as age 5, he began his professional career as tenor for the Singing Americans. In 1987 he joined Dollywood's Kingdom Heirs and even had his own show as "Mr. Imagination," a show for youngsters at the park.

Strickland joined J.D. Sumner and The Stamps and remained there until Sumner's death. A 1998 inductee of the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame, Strickland also received a People's Choice Award as favorite tenor in 1985. He also has received Dove and Grammy Award nominations.



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