Friday was a full day at “The Cave.” In the afternoon Karen Peck and New River had a matinee in a cave adjacent to the main cavern, this low ceiling place of entertainment has been nicknamed the “Little Cave” and we had a wonderful afternoon there with KPNR! In the evening, we gathered back in the main building for a night with The Dixie Echoes, McKameys and Lesters.
“Let’s hear it for The Lesters!” exclaimed Duane. Our host group opened with their up-beat version of My Lord Will Lead Me Home. “Thank you so very much,” said Brian, as the music for Fanny Crosby’s I Shall Know Him began and Brian sang the same. “I tell you what, this is the house of the Lord,” said Brian, energized by that sweet old hymn. He called Ginger (his sister) up on stage to sing a song and remind their fans of the years when they were a mixed trio. Though, Ginger had something else in mind! She came up on stage carrying her granddaughter, Charlotte, who is ten days older than “little Jon” and showed her off to the crowd. Brian teased her for a few minutes and then they kicked off into Surely Goodness and Mercy. “Is Gene here?” Brian asked. Duane answered, “No,” from the side and Brian explained that Gene is the writer of He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away and he wanted to be sure and greet him if he were in the crowd. Their last song featured Matt and was the classic O, What a Savior. This old ballad never ceases to bring the crowd to their feet no matter who sings it!
“Well, we were talking earlier this evening during sound check and it has been 18 years since this group has been here,” said Duane. The crowd quieted down to hear what group it was and he went on, “They got all kind of awards but that doesn’t matter ‘cause they’re here to sing about Jesus. From Clinton, Tennessee, The McKameys!” The Family Prayer began their set and went right into Shepherd’s Point of View. (One of my favorites!) “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” Sheryl added as the last few notes echoed in the ballroom. Peg introduced the next song by reminding everyone of the passage where Elijah told Ahaz that it was going to rain; then Connie began singing Hold On. An up-beat number followed and when the folks recognized it as God On the Mountain they began applauding. Group introductions were next and Peg mentioned that her sister, Carol, retired five years ago. “She’s not sick or old or anything,” Peg said matter of factly, “she just retired.” The sparkle in Peg’s eye gave away that she enjoyed teasing her sister, and of course, picking on their ages! The men in the group each sang a song afterward; Roger with Unspoken Request and Reuben on The Blessed Old Book. “There are young people here and every person here needs to be challenged to be the person God wants them to be,” said Peg, setting up Eli’s song, I Want To Be That Man. While he sang, the only music that backed him up was his Dad’s guitar and his own. (Roger also added some harmony here and there in the song making it a father and son duet.) The audience was completely captivated as Eli sang, not a person stirred. Sheryl explained the meaning behind their song, A Hill Worth Dying On, which followed. There Is Jesus, a beautiful ballad describing the Lord’s life featured all the ladies on a verse and closed out their part of the program.
This year was the 25th anniversary of the recording of He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away and when Duane saw that Gene Reasoner made it, he called Gene up on stage. Immediately, the crowd shouted and applauded for him. “I wrote the song in 1986,” said Gene, “I was in a revival meeting in Oklahoma and the preacher preached on the potter and the clay. Have you ever heard a sermon where every line seems to be just for you?” Gene asked the crowd. “He didn’t throw the clay away – that was my line.” Then Gene encouraged the crowd by saying, “’Cause He loves you even when you’re messed up and your vessel is broken.” Gene said he wrote the first verse and chorus on an offering envelope in the revival meeting and the second verse back at the hotel.
The Dixie Echoes, who were next, kicked off with Jesus Will Be There, Walk With Me and Living Within My Heart. Randy talked to the crowd for a few minutes and then introduced the quartet. “You know quartet music came out of guys coming out of music schools singing beautiful harmonies, those days are lost,” said Randy, and so he told the crowd how he set out to learn how to do that again. Therefore, we heard “true” four part harmony in their next song If You Know the Lord. After the applause died down Randy said, “I’m glad people still like that kind of singing.” Another good old quartet song, Roll On Jordan, followed…and what followed that one was an encore! “I told you, you would like that,” said Randy, “Basses and tenors. I’ve been singing for 45 years and people always ask for the bass singer to sing low and the tenor to sing high…and I’m not supposed to be bitter about that!” LOL “I got to thinking, there’s got to be something I can do that folks like,” he went on. So he picked up his guitar and played Happy Rhythm as a solo. Sure enough, people liked that! (If you’ve never heard Randy play that on the acoustic guitar I highly encourage you to find a concert and go hear it. It’s amazing!) Winging My Way Back Home and Crumbs From the Table received much applause as well and closed out the first half of the night. Duane encouraged the crowd, “Come on, let these guys know it they did some great singing for ya’!”
Conclusion: I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t they sing longer than that?” Why, yes they did! Once the Dixie Echoes finished up their set they broke for intermission and then came back for another round. On the other hand, I made it a habit to blog the first half and enjoy the second part during that weekend. Friday evening was special to me, I had never heard the story behind He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away and to hear it from the writer on the songs 25th Anniversary was a moment for sure! Hearing the McKameys and Dixie Echoes again was a treat too! Those groups normally don’t frequent the Missouri area much, unless for special events like the cave and Silver Dollar City, so it is always special to hear them in my home state whenever I can!