“Does everyone see that green bus up ahead on the side of the church?” Duane asked as we pulled into the Second Baptist of Clinton, Tennessee. “We’ll go out the side door up yonder where that bus is…and make sure you get on the right Cavallo bus! There are two here this weekend and that one is staying at the Super 8 where they have hot and cold running cockroaches!” LOL
Well, Duane’s bus was not staying at the Super 8 no matter the type of cockroach they boast of! In fact, we had a nice room at the Holiday Inn. Duane and Micki had Subway catering brought to the hotel for dinner so we could eat whenever we wanted to – before or after the concert. Though the ride from the hotel to the church was just a mile or so, I loved the backdrop of mountains amidst the Clinch River. It was beautiful. Ronnie (our driver) dropped everyone off at the front door and we meandered into the church. A generous lobby with staircases on each side welcomed us in, a verse in Acts painted on the outcropping of the upper level saying, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
When I walked into the sanctuary I noticed some men lingering in the back wearing identical suits. The thought crossed my mind that they must be part of a quartet, and then it struck me, there were far too many to be a part of a gospel group! But the perfect number for a men’s choir.
Peg stood center stage and welcomed everyone to their 31st Annual Hometown Sing. She mentioned that many buses came from different states and they wanted to recognize them. There had to be at least fifteen buses present! Ruben joined her and added, “The Preachers Choir is going to open for us this evening.” All the men in matching suits ambled up on stage with their binders and when their pianist played the introduction, they began with Yes, I Know and closed with I’d Rather Be An Old Time Christian. As the preachers filed off the stage Danny Jones appeared, “Boy, that brings back some memories! Both of my grandpa’s taught singing schools back in the day.” After introducing himself as the weekend’s emcee, he took a moment to remind everyone of why we were gathered. “To hear singing by what I feel is one of the greatest families in Southern Gospel,” said Danny, but first he had to introduce this group, “How many of you were around in the year 1964? Well, over in the mountains of North Carolina a group formed and little did they know that songs like When I Wake Up To Sleep No More and Touring That City would become household names in Southern Gospel Music. From Bryson City, North Carolina…Martin Cook and all The Inspirations!” With the house lights dim and the stage lit, The Inspirations walked on stage. Now, when this quartet comes out to sing, they sing! So we heard tunes like Jesus Is Coming Soon, Talk About Dying, I’m a Winner, Touring That City and When I Wake Up To Sleep No More. “Ah, I tell you what,” said Martin, “I talked to a man this week, didn’t know if he even goes to church, but he said Gospel Music makes him feel good.” (I’m sure we can all agree – there’s nothing like a good song to bring a smile to your face!) Martin mentioned that they had many songs they wanted to sing for us, so he quickly introduced the group…singing bass is John Epley, “the soup man” Melton Campbell on baritone, Matt Dibler singing lead, and Darren Osborn, tenor. Of course, we can’t forget the band! – Myron and Luke. Altogether, there were 117 years represented on stage. “Now he’s going to sing one of the greatest songs ever written,” said Martin. Matt stepped forward and began singing, “I have not forgotten, God’s only begotten…” The chorus was repeated acapella at the end. The following song featured Melton and was called He Swept Me Off My Feet. “How many can go back to the time when He swept you off your feet?” asked Melton, “I do! And I’m so glad.” He went on to tell about the old campmeeting he went to in Georgia. It was outside under a tent and only gnats and the Holy Ghost were there. He said he didn’t go there to get saved but God went there to save him! Then they did an encore. Their next song was introduced as the cure to America’s problems – It’s Still the Blood. The crowd ate the chorus up! There was shouting, standing, hands stretched out to the ceiling. An encore was in order! In the Saviors Hands and I’m Not Ashamed closed out their first set.
Danny came on stage to bring on the McKameys and talked about the time he was in the Singing News office and opened a letter from a 99 year old lady who wrote, “Gospel Music is the happiest music in the world.” One day later he read a letter from a 5 year old little girl, who had written in crayon, that Gospel Music is the happiest music in the world.
With that The McKameys came on stage while our attention was driven to the big screens playing the original recording of Don’t Forget the Family Prayer…after a verse, The McKameys picked up where the video left off and sang the tune through. “That was the year 1968,” said Reuben. The next ballad featured Sherrell and goes by the title Underserved. Just To Make A Way For Me, Unspoken Request and Hold On, followed. Peg had her hanky swirling in circles on that last one! Afterwards, Peg talked about how Rueben and her sisters Dora, Carol and herself sang on the opening song (the family prayer). “Dora is the one who started it off, so if you don’t like it see her!” Peg teased. Speaking of sisters, Peg asked Carol to come sing the next song, Sometimes He Calms the Storms (sometimes He calms me.) Carol pointed out how that song is a favorite and always requested, but she added, “I do know more than one song!” (Because that’s the one she always sings now when on stage…) The next tune was a father and son duet with Roger and Eli called I Want To Be That Man. (Note: this is not the Brian Free and Assurance song! Completely different!) They played their guitars and sang; it was a wonderful message and since Father’s Day was right around the corner at that time, it was a perfect fit for the program. “This next song is called A Hill Worth Dying On,” said Sherrell, and went on to explain that the phrase is a Military term. “It’s when the enemy is at the top of the hill and you’re at the bottom,” she went on, “and you have to decide if it’s a hill worthy dying on.” After Sherrell sang the song about the hill it was time for Peg to sing about the mountain! So God On The Mountain was next. Then Peg told the crowd that brother Rueben had a request to do a song but he wouldn’t want to do it, yet, she knew if she told him he couldn’t do it, he would…so she was going to let him think about it! LOL So she went on to talk about her birthday and their anniversary until she turned to Rueben and asked, “Hon, did you decide?” He decided and said no. Instead of the request, he and Peg sang I’ll Be Looking For You as a duet. He Is Everything To Me followed. “The word grace is used a lot of different ways,” said Peg, “but here’s what grace really is…Jonathan had a little son name Mephibosheth. He was lame on both feet. David called for Mephibosheth to come down to the palace and he was expecting a sword on his neck, but David said, ‘Mephibosheth, you’re gonna’ eat at the king’s table!’ That’s grace. When I had nothing to give He gave me grace!” A song about that very subject was next, I Know How I Made It. I’ve never been to a sing where folks run up and down the aisles…but for the first time I saw this old preacher man jump up from his seat on the front row and jog up one aisle and down the other! Once the spirit was felt, there was no stopping it. The rest of the song was drowned out from all the amen’s and hallelujahs going up in the building. There went Peg’s shoes…off the stage and onto the floor!
The sing broke for intermission and then the second half began with the Preachers Choir singing I’ll Fly Away and I Feel Like Traveling On. As the preachers were exiting the stage Danny brought the next group up, “You seemed to enjoy this quartet a little while ago, how ‘bout it for The Inspirations?!!!” Their second set began with What’s That I Hear? If You Only Knew, Holding Up The Ladder and after an encore of that peppy song, Hide Me Rock of Ages. He Broke the Chains and Resurrection Ground followed. Martin asked the Veterans to stand as he explained the feelings he has for his country after serving in Korea. “I’d do it again for this country,” he said. He talked about being on deck of the ship when the Golden Gate Bridge came into their view, how the other men acted like children in a candy store and how good it felt to be back after fighting in Korea. “I don’t know how to describe it,” said Martin, “but home.” Their ballad, That’s Why I Call It Home, concluded their time on stage.
“These folks you know like your own family,” said Danny, “and I still believe that a family that prays together stays together. One more time for the McKameys!” I Have A New Song Every Day kicked off their time on stage and Peg reminded the crowd, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” as Sherrell came to sing The Shepherds Point of View. “I’m thankful for the plan of salvation,” said Reuben before his song, An Old Sinner Like Me. He shared with everyone how he came to know the Lord then turned to Peg and said, “We need to wrap up Honey.” So they finished the evening with a new song How Does It Feel? That one was well received with a standing ovation all over the house!