Gospel tunes of yesteryear spark memories

Published 2:58 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

I know many of you remember those Gospel singings at Byrne Field back in the 1950s. There were few empty seats to be found as well-known quartets filled the air with glorious Gospel songs until the early morning hours.

More about those singings later, but now I want to tell you about a Brooks Memorial Singing scheduled this Saturday night, June 19, beginning at 6 p.m. Several quartets, soloist and singing groups will be on hand to entertain you. There will also be finger foods and snacks following the concert.

Those scheduled to appear include Steve Summers, Teresa Brown, Brooks Men Quartet, Lana Langford, Erica Bondurant, Brooks Gospel Ensemble, Scott and Dianne Stillman, Jordan McGill and Brooks Ladies Quartet.

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Everybody is invited to come and enjoy this gala event. You will be amazed at the talent and harmonizing qualities these singers have. I have already heard some of them and I can tell you they will inspire you to no end.

So, be sure to tell your friends to come out and enjoy this unique affair. Then stick around for some good food and snacks. You will get a warm reception from all the fine folks at Brooks. And, that comfortable, spacious fellowship auditorium will make it even more enjoyable.

About those quartets of the 1950s, I remember Ruth Fillingim and J.G. Whitfield would often tell us at WATM how much they delighted in booking singings here because the turn out was outstanding. These two Gospel promoters were known throughout the entire south for bringing together some of the best singing groups in the country.

The Byrne field singings usually began between 6 p.m.-7 p.m. But, those quartets arriving early came by the station in the afternoon where Tom and Ernestine gave them free air time for promotional purposes.

In the control room where I “put them on the air,” I had the opportunity to listen to many popular quartets as I watched and listened, while they sang. We only had one studio, but Tom designed it so that acoustics were simply great.

I told you a couple of years ago about the Blackwood’s coming by the station. Tragically two weeks later two members of that quartet, Bill Liles and R.W. Blackwood, perished when their new plane went down prior to a concert in Clanton. Bill Shaw, James Blackwood and Jack Marshall, the piano player,were not in the plane. Incidentally, Jack owns many of the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises throughout the south, including the one here in Atmore. I understand he still maintains his Tuscaloosa home.

“Suppertime Gospel” was one of our most listened to shows. Jimmy Cruise, Wayne Butts, Sam Ford, Tom and Ernestine and I swapped around deejaying that program. It came on at 5 p.m. each weekday and featured all the singing groups of that era.

The theme song “Suppertime” was sung by former Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis. What a great voice he had. I read where he was still capable of singing at the age of 100 near the time of his death in 2000. You know he wrote the song “You Are My Sunshine” and historians say this is one of most popular songs in the history of recorded music. His resonant voice only surpassed his ability to properly use a microphone when singing and speaking.

In my 30-year career working with the National Flood Insurance Program, I had the opportunity to visit his birth place in Quitman and his burial place in Baton Rouge. Following the death of his first wife he married Anna Carter Gordon, one of the original members of the famous “Chuck Wagon Gang.”

Now let’s take a look a few current news items.

I spoke with a man who is “in the know” about all the oil drilling activities. It is my information that some of the old drilling sites may soon be “revisited” by drilling companies. These are sites that were plugged for various reasons. Now, encouraged by the discovery of the new wells it appears some drilling companies want to go back and “take a look” at some of these old sites.

The sites were not identified, but it is assumed they are located in the areas including McCullough, Huxford, State Farm, Butler Street and Barnetts Crossroads.

Pruet Production is expected to soon announce test results of their apparent producer, Chunn 12-10, which is located near Butler Street a few miles north of the prolific Mason family producing well.

Venture Drilling is also hoping to release results of their Fountain Farm 2-2 well. This unit is situated on state property near the Mason and Hauss Nursery wells.

Venture is also looking for favorable test results from its Mack 1-1 unit located near McCullough.

We also learned interest is growing in obtaining leases in areas just west of Escambia County in Baldwin County and areas near Escambia County and Conecuh County.

Incidentally, a couple of friends contacted me regarding all the heavy equipment located up North Main and Hwy 21 North. These big rigs and huge pieces of equipment are temporarily stationed here for the purpose of laying a lengthy section of piping. They are not affiliated with the new oil wells in the State Farm-Butler Street areas. However, if new wells continue to surface it is possible we be seeing more and more flourishing oil related activities.

It is gratifying to see so many new faces, many of whom are oil workers, at our local restaurants and dining places. I am sure our Chamber of Commerce is pleased with this too.

Next week I will try to get back at some news of people, places and events from the year 1966.

…yes….it always whispers to me..…those days of long ago…..

Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net.

Lowell McGill| File Photo