by David Bruce Murray | February 25, 2019 2:00 PM
The Southern Gospel Music Association is currently accepting nominees for the Hall Of Fame. Each member of the SGMA is asked to submit two living and two deceased individuals for consideration.
After carefully considering the requirements outlined by the SGMA Hall Of Fame, I am pleased to be nominating Oak Ridge Boys lead singer Duane Allen, comedian/songwriter and former Gaither Vocal Band baritone Mark Lowry, former Blackwood Brothers pianist Jack Marshall, and former Kingsmen tenor Ernie Phillips.
Duane Allen began his career as a professional singer in 1965 when he replaced Ed Hill with the Prophets. In 1966, believing he was about to be drafted into military service, Allen resigned his position with the Prophets. Hill returned to the group before Allen learned he was not being drafted after all. Allen joined the Oak Ridge Boys as their lead singer that same year, and celebrates 53 years with the group in 2019. During Allen’s tenure with the Oak Ridge Boys, they were one of the leading groups in Southern Gospel throughout the 1970s. By the 1980s, they had become one of the top acts in Country music where they became household names after their hit song “Elvira.” In 1997, the Oaks once again began releasing a steady stream of gospel quartet albums. Now 75 years old, Allen continues to maintain a full-time touring schedule along with the other long-time members of the Oak Ridge Boys. In addition to his contributions as a singer, Allen co-authored a book titled The History Of Gospel Music (1971) and a popular stage play titled “The Three Nails.” Allen is also a songwriter.
Mark Lowry’s first album on the Impact label was released in 1970 when he was only 12 years old. Lowry was also represented by Skylite Talent Agency at this time alongside other top gospel artists. By 1988, Lowry’s entertaining combination of stand-up comedy and singing had attracted the attention of Bill Gaither who invited him to join the Gaither Vocal Band. Lowry was instrumental in the success of the Gaither Homecoming Series beginning in 1991, while simultaneously carrying on a solo/comedy career. He continued to headline his own tours after leaving the Gaither Vocal Band in 2001 and after returning to the GVB from 2009-2013. In addition to singing, Lowry wrote the lyric to the most popular Christmas song of the modern era, “Mary Did You Know”, which has been recorded by dozens of artists spanning various genres. In recent years, Lowry has remained in the public eye through his successful podcast series.
Jack Marshall began his career at the age of 19 playing piano for the
Hartford Quartet. He was the pianist for the Blackwood Brothers during their rise to national prominence from 1949-1959 including their successful appearances on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. After the Blackwood Brothers, Marshall launched a music store, studio, and label in Memphis which he operated for approximately two decades. Marshall was also a successful businessman in the food industry, founding his own company, Jack Marshall Foods which at one point included more than 50 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises.
“Little” Ernie Phillips sang tenor for the Kingsmen Quartet in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His voice can be heard on several Kingsmen recordings including Chattanooga Live, Just A Little Closer Home, The Upper Window, Your Ride Is On The Way and Live…Naturally. After his stint with the Kingsmen, Phillips carried on a solo ministry. He also traveled with Squire Parsons And Redeemed and finally with the Land Of The Sky Boys. In recent years, Phillips returned to the Kingsmen on more than one occasion to fill in while they were between tenor singers, giving eager fans another glimpse of the Kingsmen’s glory days.
Here is an image of my nomination ballot. As you can see, the ballot forces SGMA members to condense each nominee’s list of accomplishments down to just a few lines. I hope they can read my chicken scratch!
It’s too bad the Hall Of Fame has only added four new members per year for the past several years. There are MANY other deserving individuals. For the living nominees, I only considered those who have been active continuously for more than 40 years, for example. This decision ruled out all of the well-known singers who got their start in the 1980s. I just didn’t feel right putting any of those names ahead of folks like Duane Allen and Mark Lowry who have been in the public eye for 50 or more years.
Please leave a comment with your thoughts on my nominees or list your own if you are a voting member of the SGMA.
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