march 2011


Gospel News & Notes

chuck wagon
The original Chuck Wagon Gang, 1936: (from left) Jim Carter, Anna Carter, Rose Carter and D.P. 'Dad' Carter

The Gang Rolls On: Exit Dave Emery, Enter Jeremy Stephens 

Seventy-five years ago this year, Texas cotton farmer D.P. (Dad) Carter (tenor, mandolin) formed a gospel group with his son Jim (Ernest, bass vocals and guitarist) and daughters Rose (soprano) and Anna (alto). Billing themselves as the Chuck Wagon Gang, the quartet signed with Columbia Records and at one point was the label?s best selling group with more than 37 million record sales. Come the late ‘70s, Columbia lost interest in the group--even stopped servicing its records to radio--so Dad Carter's children took their music to Copperfield Records and kept on going, always mindful of what Dad had told them so long ago: “Sing the old songs, and sing them the way I taught you.”

As group members have come and gone, the Chuck Wagon Gang has followed Dad’s dictates to the letter, hewing to tradition and never wavering from their close harmony sound.

dave-emeryChange is in the air again for the Gang, with long-time bass singer and guitar Dave Emery leaving the group on May 31 to realize his life-long dream of moving to Florida with his wife Phyllis. Though his immediate professional plans are uncertain, Emery told Absolute Gospel he will likely be found singing again in the future “because gospel music in my blood.

“To have been a member of The Chuck Wagon Gang has been a great honor, and to have sung their songs has been a real thrill,” Emery adds. “I have had a wonderful time and great experience with The Chuck Wagon Gang, and wish the group well as they continue a 75-year legacy, but I can't wait to move back to Florida!"

Twenty-six-year-old Jeremy Stephens is replacing Emery. No stranger to Chuck Wagon Gang fans, Stephens recently filled in for tenor singer Stan Hill while the latter was away from the group taking care of his ailing wife. In the Gang, Stephens will be performing double duties as guitarist and bass vocalist.

The Chuck Wagon Gang, 1950s, with Howard Gordon on guitar: ‘Echoes From the Burning Bush’

Born in Lynchburg, VA, and raised in Danville, VA, Stephens embraced traditional bluegrass and old time music at an early age. At age five he began playing fiddle and banjo, and soon after gravitated to the guitar. He began playing with a bluegrass band at age 10. Banjo has been Stephens’s primary instrument in the various bluegrass bands he’s been with over the past 17 years. Stephens graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, with a B.A. degree in Graphic Design. He first heard the Chuck Wagon Gang at age 12 when he started listening to his grandparents’ gospel records—the attraction was immediate, especially the guitar playing of Annna’s husband, Howard Gordon, who was with the Gang in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Being a bluegrasser at the core, his favorite version of the Gang is the original group of Rose, Anna, Dad, and Jim.

‘Heaven Is My Home’: The original Chuck Wagon Gang, 1940, with Dad Carter, Jim Carter (guitar, bass vocal), Anna and Rose

Speaking from her home in Hertford, NC, the Chuck Wagon Gang’s owner/manager Shaye Smith states: "Dave has done a great job for several years in handling many positions. He performed as guitarist, bass singer, and MC, while also overseeing many administrative duties. We will miss him, but wish him well in his future endeavors. There is great excitement as we bring on board a very talented, young man, a dedicated CWG fan, and one who can play the style of my late grandfather, Howard Gordon.”

Says Stephens: “I am so excited to be working for my favorite gospel group. I have loved their music for years, and I’m so thankful to God for putting me here at this place in my life.” --David McGee


Dixie Melody Boys’ 50th Anniversary Album Set For July 1 Release

According to Absolutely Gospel, the Dixie Melody Boys are preparing for a July 1 release of its 50th Anniversary album, The Call Is Still The Same. "It's been nearly ten years since we have done a project of this scale. It will be a milestone for the Dixie Melody Boys,” says Ed O'Neal, Hall Of Fame bass singer/owner. To honor the legendary group’s history, two older DMB songs are part of the repertoire, supplementing new material written by contemporary gospel stalwarts such as Gred Day, Marty Funderburk, Daryl Williams and Rodney Griffen. Two new songs come by way of lead singer Donald Morris, who says the anniversary album is also a showcase for the DMB’s fusion of gospel styles. "We are excited to blend our traditional Southern Gospel roots with a fresh approach reminiscent of the DMB Band era,” Morris says.

Vintage Dixie Melody Boys, 1997: ‘Welcome Home’

The Dixie Melody Boys will be joined on this historic album by group alumni as well as a few friends. "When we started working on this, so many of our friends wanted to be involved,” says tenor Matt Felts. “It evolved into having them lend their talents on several of the songs. It will truly be a special event for us.” Jason Crabb, Ernie Haase, Ben Speer, McCray Dove, Rodney Griffen and Harold Reed are a few of the guests on hand. This will be the group’s first album since signing with Song Garden Music Group earlier this year. For more information on the new album or where it can be purchased, visit the Dixie Melody Boys website or the Song Garden Music Group website.


Far City Boys: New Bluegrass Gospel Album This Summer

The Far City Boys, boasting one of bluegrass gospel’s great lead singers in Kevin Street, are at Son Sound Studios near Charlotte, NC, completing their first New West Records album, slated for release this summer. The project will feature a variety of bluegrass gospel songs including a new verse added to the group’s radio hit, “I Have Been Blessed.”

Bassist Kevin Michael Street describes the content of the album as “some straightforward bluegrass style gospel along with some songs that have really touched a lot of people out of a different genre. These songs selected come straight from the heart of The Far City Boys. The songs have such powerful uplifting lyrics and promises from an almighty Lord. I am sure this will be a blessing to many folks as we finish up our last days here on earth. Jesus is coming soon!"

A rousing bluegrass gospel medley from the Far City Boys, live at Zion Baptist Church

For more information, visit the Far City Boys website.

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