Year of 2005
Lewis Family, The
Organized in 1951, The Lewis Family has achieved worldwide recognition as an icon of bluegrass gospel music and has been called the genre’s “First Family.” From a modest but proud beginning in its hometown, Lincolnton, Ga., the group continues today as it began; made up entirely of family members. Now encompassing three generations, the show offers a broad appeal to all ages. The Lewis Family has recorded for Daywind Music Group since 1995, but has recorded more than 60 albums and six videos in the group’s career. The Lewis Family has their own event, “The Lewis Family Homecoming & Bluegrass Festival” held annually the first weekend of every May at the Elijah Clark State Park four miles east of Lincolnton. “Pop” Roy Lewis died in 2004, but despite the loss of its patriarch, The Lewis Family continues to maintain its rich heritage and the “First Family of Bluegrass Gospel Music” is still going strong today.
At the age of 19, Walter Hawkins had not considered a musical life for himself. His recording debut actually came anonymously when he sang in the Ephesians Church of God in Christ’s youth choir – based in Berkeley, Calif., and directed by older brother Edwin. The choir recorded the song, “Oh, Happy Day,” one of the most popular gospel songs of all time. Because of the world-wide success of “Oh Happy Day,” the Edwin Hawkins Singers toured nationally and internationally before Walter Hawkins set out on his own. He entered the ministry and in 1973 founded the Love Center Church in Oakland, Calif. With his Love Center Choir, Hawkins recorded a live album, Going Up Yonder released on Light Records. The album became a mainstay on Billboard‘s Gospel Top 40 chart for three consecutive years, making it one of the decade’s biggest selling gospel albums. Between 1978 and 1989, the multiple Dove and Grammy-winning Hawkins recorded more than a dozen albums, among them Love Alive, Love Alive II, Love Alive III and Love Alive IV, selling millions of records in the process and earning numerous awards. In addition to his own recordings, Hawkins was also an adept songwriter and producer and has collaborated with a number of other artists including Edwin Hawkins, Van Morrison, Lee Oskar, Diahann Carroll, Jeffrey Osborne, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, The Williams Brothers, Tramaine Hawkins, Shiley Miller, and Lynette Hawkins.
Hildreth, Lou Wills
Texas-born Lou Wills Hildreth was a member of the Wills Family, known as Texas’ first family of gospel music. In her 50-year music career, she has been an artist, songwriter, publisher, journalist, television host and industry leader. Hildreth was the first woman to own a gospel music artist booking agency and was Mark Lowry’s first agent. She is a veteran of gospel television having hosted “Wills Family Inspirational Time” in the ‘60s, one of the original syndicated shows. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, she hosted a daily television show in Nashville and was a Dove Award nominee. Currently, Lou is host of “Hill Country Gospel TV,” co-host of “Inside Gospel” with J.P. Miller, and chronicles her travels with husband, Howard, in the U.S. Gospel News. A 20-year member of the GMA Board of Directors, Hildreth is also a strong supporter of the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and is a member of the Texas Music Hall of Fame. The “Lou Hildreth Award” – recognizing excellence within the gospel music industry is presented during the Diamond Awards at the National Quartet Convention.
Inducted as a non-performing member of the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Ronn Huff’s legacy is well-known to anyone who has directed church choirs in the last 30 years. While minister of music in a Denver church he arranged and published two highly successful books of hymns, “Celebration, Music for Festival Choir” and “Celebration II.” But his arrangements and recording of Bill and Gloria Gaither songs into a 1973 musical called “Alleluia, A Praise Gathering” brought national prominence and was the first religious recording to receive an RIAA Gold Album certification, selling over a million records and books. A Christmas work called “His Love, Reaching,” a collection of early Praise and Worship songs entitled “Exaltation” and a series collaboration with the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma are among the successful church music publications he authored. Huff claims to be an arranger, not a composer, but his work is found on many recordings, both sacred and secular. In the past two years alone his name appears on and arrangements are heard in the recordings of Faith Hill, Charlotte Church, Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Jewel, Martina McBride, Allison Krauss, Sandi Patty, John Michael Talbot, Keith Urban, George Strait, Clint Black, Lonestar, Boston Pops, and The American Boy Choir. Until recently Huff held the position of Pop’s Director for the Nashville Symphony, but a battle with Parkinson’s Disease has limited his activities in recent years.
Le Fevre, Mylon
Mylon Le Fevre was born into a gospel-singing family. When Le Fevre was 17 years old, his first song, “Without Him,” was recorded by Elvis Presley. Over the next year 126 artists recorded Le Fevre’s songs. At 19, he made his first album, marking the beginning of the contemporary Christian music era in the ’60s and paving the way for a new generation of gospel music that today is the best-selling style of gospel music. After a decade of recording success in the secular rock world, Le Fevre returned to the gospel after re-dedicating his life to Christ at a Second Chapter of Acts concert in 1980. With recording contracts at Word and later StarSong, Le Fevre founded Mylon Le Fevre and Broken Heart, becoming one of the most successful Christian rock bands in the 1980s. Broken Heart disbanded in 1991, but Mylon Le Fevre’s ministry has lived on and he remains a preacher and teacher of the Gospel today.
Don Light, who began his career as a Grand Ole Opry drummer and general manager of Billboard Magazine’s Nashville office, secured his place in gospel music history by launching the first booking agency for gospel music artists. Don Light Talent launched with the Happy Goodman Family and the Oak Ridge Boys in 1965, soon adding to the roster the Chuck Wagon Gang, Governor Jimmie Davis, The Florida Boys, the Lewis Family, the Rex Nelon Singers, the Cathedral Quartet, the Singing Rambos, Wendy Bagwell & the Sunliters, the Thrasher Brothers and others. Over the years, Light added independent record producer and artist manager to his bio, producing more than 50 albums and discovering and managing a diverse roster of artists such as Jimmy Buffet, Delbert McClinton, Keith Whitley, Steve Wariner, Marty Stuart, Mark Collie, the Oak Ridge Boys and others. Light was one of the original organizers of the GMA and served on both the GMA and Country Music Association (CMA) Board of Directors for a number of years.
Before there was Amy Grant, there was Evie. The Norwegian singer best known as simply Evie was phenomenally popular in the ’70s, during the early years of contemporary Christian music. Born in 1957 as the daughter of Norwegian immigrants, Evie Tornquist first became a child star in her parents’ native land. At age 17, she recorded her first album for American audiences. The self-titled debut on Word Records was an immediate success, featuring a range of songs from Ray Hildebrand’s “Say, I Do” to Andraé Crouch’s “My Tribute” and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” to Larry Norman’s “Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation.” Later albums featured hit songs: “Clean Before My Lord” “Pass It On” and “Give Them All.” It was Mirror, however, that has become the ultimate Evie album, offering four of her biggest hits: “Mirror,” “Born Again,” “Praise You Just the Same,” and “Just Because I Asked”. In all, Evie recorded more than 30 albums, including several featuring songs in Scandinavian languages, two albums with her husband, and two more featuring the whole family (Pelle, Kris, and Jenny). In 1981, Evie, who was named Female Vocalist of the Year at the 1977 and 1978 Dove Awards, officially retired from performing.
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