The Southern Gospel Story Of My Life (1981)

Kingsmen 81The Southern Gospel story of my life continues this week with the year 1981.  Two Methodist churches came together, in 1978, and began hosting an annual Southern Gospel concert at the Westminster High School auditorium in my home town of Westminster Maryland.  1981 was the first year my mother decided she would take me and my brother to this specific concert.  The event always had three artists on the program.  The group that headlined the 1981 concert was the Kingsmen.

As a kid, after seeing the Kingsmen, I thought they were the greatest thing.  I remember the antics of the group on stage.  I remember Jim Hamill picking on tenor singer Ernie Phillips.  I remember seeing all the instruments and the band members.  I distinctly remember the big crowd pleasing songs like “Beautiful Home”, “I’ve Made A Covenant With My Lord” and “When My Feet Touch The Streets Of Gold”.

Along with Connie Hopper and Ed O’Neal, Jim Hamill became a Southern Gospel hero for a young kid.  I remember months after listening to Live…Naturally and re-living the concert I had just witnessed.  To this day, this album is still among one of my favorite Southern Gospel albums of all time.  During the rest of the decade of the 1980’s, the Kingsmen remained my favorite group to see in concert.

Listen to a mash-up of music the Kingsmen were staging in 1981.

heavenbound1981piconeAlso on that particular concert in 1981 was Heaven Bound.  Heaven Bound was just beginning to make a name for themselves among Southern Gospel listening audiences.  The album, Thinkin’ ‘Bout Home had just been released and folks were just starting to hear what would become a Southern Gospel classic; “Canaanland Is Just In Sight”.

That particular song launched the career of Heaven Bound and by the mid 1980’s, Heaven Bound was the most popular trio in Southern Gospel music.  The impact the Kingsmen had on me this particular concert overshadowed many of the memories I had of Heaven Bound.

The impact of Heaven Bound’s music came after when I started playing the record albums purchased at the concert.  Listen to a mash-up of music from Heaven Bound from 1981.

WBS 81The third group this kid saw in 1981 that made a lasting impact was Wendy Bagwell & Sunliters.  The trio came to the Maryland Theater in Hagerstown Maryland (the same venue I had seen the Happy Goodmans a year earlier).  I can still remember the group first walking on stage and seeing “little” Jan and Jerri wearing identical white dresses.

I don’t know why, but for a kid, it seemed like the coolest thing.  I remember the group singing to only the guitar accompaniment provided by Wendy, Jan and band member Charlie Beatenbo.  I remember “little” Jan moving around the stage while she sang and thinking she must really enjoy what she is doing.

While I didn’t quite understand the stories Wendy was telling the audience that particular concert, I remember the laughter from the crowd.  The group became an instant favorite of my parents and as a result this wouldn’t be the last time this group saw Wendy Bagwell & Sunliters in concert.

Listen to a mash-up of music the group may have been staging in 1981.

I also want to mention 1981 was the second time I would see the Hopper Brothers & Connie in concert and also saw the Lewis Family at the Westminster High concert.


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