Most Influential – #6 – Kingsmen

kingsmenThe top ten most influential artists in Southern Gospel music continues this week with the artist ranked 6th; the Kingsmen.

Started in 1956 by the McKinney brothers (Louis, Raymond and Reese) along with pianist Charles Matthews, the Kingsmen were born.  The man most Southern Gospel listeners relate to the Kingsmen, Eldridge Fox, first came to the Kingsmen in 1958.

Eldridge would leave the group in 1960 only to return in 1964.  By 1970, Eldridge Fox became owner of the group and remained so until his passing in 2002.  Eldridge steered the Kingsmen to success in the 1970’s, but it was the 1980’s that were the ‘glory days’ for this quartet.

It was in 1971 when another man synonymous with the Kingsmen legacy joined, Jim Hamill.  To this day, Jim is recognized as one of the greatest Southern Gospel emcees of all time.  Hamill knew how to read a crowd and rework a program based on the crowd.  He was truly a master at getting a crowd in the palm of his hand and holding them there for the group’s entire set.  It is hard to find an emcee nowadays with Hamill’s abilities.

The Kingsmen became leaders in the recording of live albums.  I don’t know of any other Southern Gospel artist in the history of this genre who recorded more live albums than the Kingsmen.  Some of their biggest include Better In Person, Big & Live, Chattanooga Live, Georgia Live, Live At The University Of Alabama, Live In Dayton, Live…Naturally, Mississippi Live, Singin In The Sun Live and Stand Up At Opryland USA.

The Kingsmen’s ‘three chords and a cloud of dust’ style is what made the Kingsmen who they were.  So many young quartets have patterned their style/music after this approach.  The legacy started in 1956 continues in 2013 with bass singer Ray Dean Reese at the helm.  The group is working toward their 60th anniversary in Southern Gospel music.


  • kingsmen NaturallyThe Kingsmen have garnered 56 Singing News fan awards during the course of their career including favorite group in 1980 and 1985.  The Kingsmen have picked up three Dove awards for Southern Gospel album of the year in 1974 (Big & Live), 1978 (Chattanooga Live) and 1980 (From Out Of The Past).  The Kingsmen were inducted in to the Gospel Music hall of fame in 2000 and Anthony Burger (2007), Eldridge Fox (1998), Jim Hamill (2004), Squire Parsons (2008) and Ray Dean Reese (2008) have all been inducted in to the Southern Gospel music hall of fame.
  • As already mentioned, the Kingsmen’s ‘three chords and a cloud of dust’ style has been used by many young quartets that include:  Anchormen, Called Out Quartet, Carolina Boys, Crossmen Quartet, Down East Boys, Journeymen Quartet, Kingdom Bound Quartet, Old Paths, Paul’s Journey, Skyline Boys, Soul’d Out Quartet and the Woodsmen.
  • Hit Songs:  “A Place Where The Hungry Are Fed”, “Anchors Aweigh”, “Angels Are Hard To Find”, “Apple Tree Song”, “Back To Grace”, “Beautiful Home”, “Behold The Maser Cometh”, “Called Out”, “Child, Child”, “Cloud He’s Coming Back On”, “Cross Has Won Again”, “Empty Vessel”, “Even John Couldn’t Tell It”, “Excuses”, “Getcha To The Other Side”, “Glory Road”, “Go And Tell Somebody”, “God Can Save Anybody”, “God Saw A Cross”, “Gonna Be Movin”, “He Did Not Fail”, “He’s All I Need”, “He’s Everything I Need”, “He’s Still Living”, “Hello Mama”, “I Can’t Even Walk”, “I Stand Upon The Rock Of Ages”, “I Will Rise Up From My Grave”, “I’d Rather Be An Old Time Christian”, “I’ll Have A New Song”, “I’ll Live Again”, “I’ll Not Turn Back”, “I’m Glad I’m Serving A God”, “I’ve Got A Reservation”, “I’ve Made A Covenant With My Lord”, “Is That The Old Ship Of Zion”, “It Made News In Heaven”, “Jesus Is Coming For Me”, “Jesus Knows My Name”, “Joy’s Gonna Come”, “The Judgement”, “Just A Little Closer Home”, “Just As The Sun Went Down”, “Just In Time”, “Look On The Brighter Side”, “Lovely Name Of Jesus”, “Loving Shepherd Gracious God”, “Master Of The Sea”, “Meet Me At The Table”, “My God Forgets”, “My Past Has Passed”, “Next Cloud”, “One Way Trip”, “Real Good Feel Good Song”, “Reverend Everette Beverly And Sister Anna Laura”, “Ring The Bells Of Freedom”, “Safe Now”, “Saints Will Rise”, “Satisfied”, “Shake Hands With A Poor Boy”, “Shoutin Happy”, “So High”, “Stand Up”, “Sweet Peace”, “Talk To The Man”, “Tell Everyone You Know”, “Upper Window”, “We Do Not Die”, “What I Found At The Altar”, “When God Ran”, “When Mama Prayed”, “When My Feet Touch The Streets Of Gold”, “Wish You Were Here”, “The Word”, “You Keep Praying”, “You’re Not Alone” and “Your Ride’s On The Way”.
  • Best Album:  Live…Naturally (1981)


Here is a YouTube clip, published by herecalico, of the Kingsmen at the height of their career (circa 1983) performing “Child, Child”.  Enjoy!


2 thoughts on “Most Influential – #6 – Kingsmen

  1. I will be very interested to see who you think has been more influential than the Kingsmen in this business. If you went back to the early ’70’s you’d hear a lot of groups trying to be “mod” and “contemporary”.
    The Kingsmen came out with “Big and Live”, with that screaming tenor by Johnny Parrack and an emcee who could hold the audience in the palm of his hand. The Ton of Fun was born with all their energy and power, yet with a great show and the ability to slow it down when needed. The Kingsmen single-handedly defined what a southern gospel quartet was going to be for the next 30 years.
    I don’t think there’s been a major quartet in that time span that wasn’t majorly influenced by what the Kingsmen did. You could make a case for the Cathedrals to have influenced more because of Greater Vision, L5 and Signature Sound, but I’d say that when the Cathdrals went thru the big change in the early 80’s, that was largely influenced by the power harmony and big sound that the Kingsmen had introduced a decade earlier. I’d say the Kingsmen drew a lot from the Statesmen before them, but I still think, given where the industry was in the early 70’s, that if it hadn’t been for what the Kingsmen did, when they did it, the industry would have looked completely different for the past 40 years. Top 3 most influential in my book, no question!

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