Singing News – 20 Years Ago (May 1991)

Number One Song
“Somebody Touched The Lord” by Perfect Heart (written by Sandy Knight)

Cover Story

The year was 1977, and many Gospel Music critics were asking Rex Nelon, “Why would you take the oldest name in the business and change it?” To that question Rex would simply reply, “We’ve run out of LeFevres.” Now, 14 years later, no one questions Rex’s decision. – Deana Surles

The May 1991 cover story focused on The Nelons in the aftermath of Karen Peck Gooch’s departure in late 1990. She was replaced not by another soprano, but by baritone Todd Nelon who had logged ten years playing bass guitar for The Nelons at this point in time. This move is described as “difficult.” Todd said it was like starting all over and his sister Kelly said for the first several nights, she “came off stage and cried and cried.”

In May 1991, the Nelons released A New Generation (also the subtitle of their article) which was produced by Lari Goss. Kelly describes the project as having a “richer, fuller sound.” Looking back with the benefit of 20 years hindsight, I would say the most memorable tune from this recording is “I’m Glad I Know Who Jesus Is.”

The article goes on to describe changes in the personal lives of individual members of The Nelons. Jerry Thompson, Kelly and Rex discussed baby Amber who was a one-year-old at the time of the interview. Rex talked about how he was looking forward to spending time with his granddaughter, while Jerry and Kelly said they’d never consider changing professions even though taking care of a child on the road could be difficult. Todd talked about the strain that being away from home can place on a marriage.

Although the cover story puts a positive spin on the situation, this all family, bass/baritone/tenor/alto version of The Nelons would prove to be short-lived. Kelly and Jerry Thompson left for a while to pursue a vocal duo career. At that point, Rex returned the group to its traditional format.

Other Highlights

  • A letter from RG told Singing News columnist Roy Pauley, “You have said a lot of dumb things, but that just topped the cake, and I finally couldn’t sit back any more. But I realize you are just ignorant.” In the March 1991 issue, Pauley had written, “Perhaps George (Younce) could tidy up his endings a little – no, a lot.”
  • Greg Bentley’s “Youth In Gospel Music” column featured Jeff Stice, who had just turned 31 at the time. The participation of youth in Southern Gospel must have been on the decline in 1991.
  • The highlighted line in Jerry Kirksey’s editoral read, “The road to the top of Southern Gospel Music’s only national chart, The Singing News Top 80 is usually not free or cheap.” Do tell! He took a few potshots at some “self-appointed geniuses” who attempted to start a national chart of their own, though he didn’t call them by name.
  • The ad for Naomi And The Sego’s announced she had just recorded her 65th album.
  • Oddly enough, this issue included an separate interview with Kelly Nelon Thompson on page 22 that ran for three pages. It actually longer than the cover story and more interesting. There are trivial questions like “What is your favorite restaurant” (it’s Chi Chi’s), but there are also insightful questions like “What is God’s favorite (style of music)?” Kelly replied, “I don’t think He has a favorite. We are all different and God uses us all.”
  • Roy Pauley’s “In My Opinion” column focused on the best newcomers in the industry. He liked Chris Allman, Scott Fowler, Keith Denson, Jack Hanks, Nathan Polizzi, and Karen Apple. Give yourself a gold star if you can name all the groups associated with those singers 20 years ago. Pauley also wrote that he had seen the “hate mail,” but would not back down from his statements about George Younce and JD Sumner in the March 1991 issue even though he loved both of them.
  • Bob Terrell bought a two-column wide/half-column high ad to sell a $4 pamphlet titled “Who Are These Iraqis?”
  • The article for Gaither’s “Family Fest In The Smokies” event featured a photo of the Cathedrals…and no one else. This issue was printed just a few weeks before the impact of the original Homecoming product had hit home. Sure, there had been the cover story a month earlier, but no one realized the Gaither Vocal Band was on the verge of becoming the hottest group in Southern Gospel. For the moment, the big draw for Singing News readers was still the Cathedral Quartet.
  • We’ve all seen “the quartet pose;” four guys smiling or pretending to sing with hands extended toward the photographer. An article for the Six Flags Over America event features a twist on this concept. It’s a photo of Gold City pointing their microphones at the camera.
  • In a role reversal, Singing News reporter Jan Cain is interviewed about the first 22 years of Singing News magazine. Topics she discussed included Cleavant Derricks’ return to gospel music, Bob Terrell’s characteristics as a columnist, the monthly chart including why chart reporting stations were kept a secret, and attempts on the part of two groups to stuff the ballot box for Singing News Fan Awards voting.


  • Pelenton L. “Teddy” Huffam of Teddy Huffam And The Gems died on April 3, 1991 at the age of 54.

Trade News

  • In a survey, Southern Gospel DJs overwhelmingly rejected the idea of switching to a bi-weekly chart.
  • One compilation and five new album releases were reviewed in the “Southern Review” section. Greater Vision received 5 out of a possible 5 stars for On A Journey. This was the first time the Singing News had ever awarded 5 stars to a CD. Walt Mills and Margo Smith & Holly got 3 1/2 each, while The Nelons and Quinton Mills received just three stars. A New Generation by The Nelons got three stars, but it’s described as being “nothing short of perfection” both vocally and lyrically. This is the sort of non-review that used to infuriate me as a reader. The compilation was Spectacular Hits by The Speers, but it wasn’t assigned a rating.
  • Glen Campbell signed a recording agreement with New Haven Records. Also pictured in the photo were New Haven’s president Ken Harding and executive producer Bill Gaither.
  • Attorney Russ Farrar’s “The Legal Side” column focused on what sort of language should be included in a booking contract.


  • quartet-man
    May 1, 2011 10:10 AM

    My favorite version of “I’m Glad I Know Who Jesus Is” has Joy Gardner on soprano and is found on the original “Christmas Homecoming” video. It is the first I heard, and by far the best. I believe Geron Davis played the piano on it.

    I remember Pauley’s original column about George and his endings. I didn’t much agree although in retrospect maybe he had a little valid point, but I don’t see that his endings were bad at all.

    I really like Allman these days, but back then I didn’t like him as much. Trammell and Wolfe were two of my favorites, but even with that, I preferred them in the Cathedrals.

  • mykidsdad
    May 1, 2011 9:04 PM

    I was thinking that Kelly and Jerry left the Nelons to start a new group. Maybe that came a little later. I remember seeing a group not long after that with Kelly, Jerry, Stan Whitmire, and another female singer, Kelly Benton, I think. I believe the group was called Kelly Nelon Thompson and Legacy.

    Fact is, the day I saw them sing, in Berne, IN, was the same day that the group laid their bus over on it’s side in a bad wreck. As I remember the story, they were on some icy roads north of Indy, on I69, and to avoid hitting a car with a child in the back seat, the driver of the bus decided to lay the bus on it’s side.

    The ladies in the group had to walk on stage with their shoes off, because the impact of the crash had jammed their feet into the front wall of their bunks, and their feet were so swollen, they could not get their shoes on.

    This story proves the fact that one should ALWAYS sleep feet toward the front of the bus. Much better your feet into the wall than your head!

    • May 2, 2011 11:01 AM

      I don’t remember them calling their group Legacy, but it’s certainly possible.

      I remember them being at a large choral festival event in Spartanburg, SC. I didn’t realize they were there at first, but a friend of mine met us after lunch and said he had sat at a table with Kelly and Jerry, that they had recently left the Nelons, and were going to be singing as a duo.

      I do remember a CD Kelly recorded called Kelly Nelon Thompson & The Nelons that had that lineup…Kelly, Jerry, Stan, and a female singer (perhaps Kelly Benton?). Rex and Charlotte were not part of that CD. The info we gathered at SGHistory said that CD was released in 1993, but I’ve also seen it listed elsewhere as a 1996 release. 1993 would make more sense, because by 1994, the group consisted of Rex, Kelly, Jerry, Stan, and Charlotte. Of course, Rex & Charlotte were also there in 1992.

      I suppose I’ll find out more specifics as I work my way through those 1990s Singing News magazines.

  • mykidsdad
    May 2, 2011 2:28 PM

    I found at least one other mention of the group Kelly Nelon Thompson and Legacy. From 2006, Averfineline mentions the group, but only in passing:

  • Jeff
    May 2, 2011 11:50 PM

    Kelly went solo. Jerry Thompson remained with the group when Charlotte Ritchie & Tammy Britton joined in late ’91. When Jerry left the Nelons in early 1992 him & kelly were going to form a duo. Kelly was still signed with Benson as a solo artist. Rex was going to disband the group but Kelly didn’t want him to do that so her & Jerry returned. They were in the middle of recording as Legacy when Rex Rejoined and that is why he only recorded one song on KNT&TN album. Charlotte & Tammy were let go since Kelly already had Kelly Benton as soprano in the group. She has 1 more album to complete on her contract hence after her last solo album in 1992.

    • May 3, 2011 12:13 AM

      Thanks for the info, but Charlotte sang with the Nelons for several years beyond 1992. Did they hire her back after Rex returned?

  • Jeff
    May 4, 2011 11:51 PM

    Charlotte returned 94-96

    • May 5, 2011 12:03 AM

      Thanks! I’ll get that updated in their bio on

      • May 5, 2011 12:37 AM

        I’ve updated the article on the Nelons. If you have time, please check it for accuracy and let me know if there any further adjustments need to be made. Thanks!

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