Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Give the World a Smile

Give the world a smile each day

Helping someone on life’s way

From the paths of sin oh bring the wanderers in

To the master’s fold to stay

Help to cheer the lone and sad

Help to make some pilgrim glad

Let your life so be that all the world might see

The joy of serving Jesus with a smile.

These words were penned by Otis Deason and the music was written by M. L. Yandell, in 1924, while they were music students at Stamps School of Music in Jacksonville, Texas.
V. O. Stamps paid each of them $5.00 for the song that became the theme song of the Stamps Quartet and the first gospel song to sell a million copies.
The early Southern Gospel was a capella, then some groups added string instruments, then the piano became the instrument of choice. Today many groups use pre-recorded music often of a full band.
This type music has become known as Southern Gospel or quartet music.
Southern Gospel music apparently developed in the early 1900’s , a descendant of Southern white traditional family group and shape note singing .
It is sometimes called “white gospel” to differentiate it from black gospel.
Singing schools such as Stamps- Baxter School of Music used what became known as “convention songs” to teach quartet members on how to concentrate on singing their own part.
Convention songs have contrasting homophonic and contrapuntal sections. In the homophonic sections all four parts, tenor, lead, baritone and bass sing the same words and rhythms. In the contrapuntal sections each group member has a different lyric and rhythm.
This music was called convention singing because different conventions were organized to gather and sing songs of this type. In many areas of the South there are still County Singing Conventions. “Give the World a Smile”, “ Heavenly Parade” , “I’m Living in Canaan Now” and “Heavens Jubilee’ are some well known singing convention songs.
Early Southern Gospel was heavily influenced by the Holiness and Pentecostal church movements.
Some of the early artists were, The Speer Family, The Stamps Quartet, The Blackwood Family, and The Leferves. They gained early popularity through their recordings and radio programs, setting the stage for the growth of this musical genre.
Some of the best known groups and quartets over the decades from the 1920’s to today include The Blackwood Brothers, The Statesmen Quartet, The Cathedral Quartet, The Florida Boys,
The Inspirations,, Jake Hess and The Imperials, The Kingsmen Quartet, The Stamps Quartet, The Oak Ridge Boys and Gold City.
Through the early years Southern Gospel was almost exclusively male quartets.The Chuck Wagon Gang was an early pioneer group that included female artists. The Happy Goodman Family , the Lesters, The Lefevres, The Speer Family , The Rambos opened the door for mixed and family groups such as the Hinsons, The Hoppers, The Isaacs, Jeff and Sherry Easter, The McKameys, the Perrys and the Talley Trio.
These groups have launched the careers of many well known soloists such as Squire Parsons, Ivan Parker, Jason Crabb and Janet Paschal.
The greatest surge in the Southern Gospel music popularity came with the Gaither Homecoming series started by Bill and Gloria Gaither in the 1990’s. This television series along with tours and videos has now claimed Southern Gospel fans across the nation and around the world.
The true base of Southern Gospel is still with local and regional quartets, trios, duos and family groups that each week- end gather to present their songs to small country churches and community singings. All of the major well known artists of today came from this background.

There has been a lot of local Southern Gospel participation over the years.
The Windham Four from Winham Springs, Alabama was an early gospel group. Three of the members were Evans brothers, Rufus, Willie and Clifton. The fourth was Heflin Christian. They sang in the Northern part of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama in the late thirties and early forties.
The gospel music man known by most in this area was W. G. Snider, organizer of The Rainbow Quartet. The Rainbow Quartet shared the stage with all the big name quartets and groups over many years. Many singers were part of the quartet over the years.
My cousin Hobert Evans did a stint with the Rainbow group before going on the sing with the Oak Ridge Boys for a short time. My friend, and favorite bass singer , Charlie Morris sang with W. G. for a period. Other local Southern Gospel names I remember are; Bernard Windham, Paul Barnett, James Adams, Bobby Eads, Jack Hannah, James Vice, Charles Spencer, Powell Hassell , Johnny Leslie, Greg Crowe are some who sang with The Rainbow Quartet. "Sunshine" Jack Springer was a long time piano player with the Rainbow Quartet.
There were other local groups such as the Golden Tones and The Camp Meeting Quartet.
A leading contributor to local gospel music was the blind music and piano teacher, Arnold Deason.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention my friend Jack ( Jackie) Marshall, award winning piano player with The Blackwood Brothers.
Jack went on to KFC fame after his time with the Blackwoods.
Today we have The Capstone Quartet, 4Given, The Heartmen and many more.
These groups load their sound equipment into small trailers and go from Gum Springs to Pensacola, literally all over the Southland and beyond. The songs they sing in many cases bring the gospel story to people who don’t know it.
How many groups are there like this across the country? Unknown, but literally hundreds.
Southern Gospel while not “praise music” in the modern usage of the term is definitely Praise Music to all who sing it and who listen to it.
Southern Gospel Music is yet another way of spreading that Old Gospel Story to the world.
Give the World a Smile Each Day!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hunting, Yesterday and Today

Now that another Fall hunting season is upon us I began to think of the changes in styles and types of hunting that have occurred over the years.
Gone are the days of overalls, jeans, brown duck hunting coats and Jones style caps. Hunters now have temperature rated multi-patterned camouflage hunting attire. Boots are insulated and different styles are available for different types of hunting.
A wide selection of firearms is now available for each type of hunting.
The greatest difference in hunting now is the approach.
Gone are the days of hunting clubs or family hunts with a pack of hounds and rows of “Standers” with shotguns. This was a hunting community with a mix of ages, from small youngsters to grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The mix of ages and relations was a great time of fellowship. Youngsters were taught manners, respect for their elders, sportsmanship, gun safety, hunting techniques, animal care, and many different skills that would serve them well the rest of their lives. This instruction wasn’t just by parents but the entire group by example and oral instruction.
Youngsters often learned to drive a pick up truck by putting the standers in place.
During meal times youngsters were made a part of the conversation and sharing of ideas. Their comments and questions were treated with respect. The wisdom of the ages was passed down during these gatherings. Knowledge, memories and friendships were made that would last a lifetime.
If a deer drive wasn’t being held the youngsters hunted small game such as squirrels and rabbits. This taught them marksmanship and woodsman skills.
How to know the difference between being lost and not knowing exactly where you are was a valuable lesson learned by many.
In those days hunting clubs cleaned and dressed their own game that was harvested. The entire group, including the youngsters, received a portion.
Sadly these days seem to be gone forever. There are now political issues involved. Anti- hunting zealots have pushed for laws forbidding dog drive hunts. If you hunt with dogs now you have to teach the dogs not to bark if they trail the game across posted property.
The cost of hunting land leases has caused many people to be unable to hunt in any manner.
Stalk hunting is the most talked of method of hunting done now.
Stalk hunting is really a misnomer, since very little stalking in the true sense of the word, is done. Ambushing would be closer to what occurs. The gun of choice is now a high powered rifle with a telescopic sight.
In the early stages of what is called stalk hunting tree stands were placed over planted food plots or known game trails.
Tree stands in many cases have given way to shooting houses with all sorts of creature comforts, cots, heaters and radios.
Access to these ambush points is gained by using small all terrain vehicles that cost more than luxury automobiles once cost. These ATV’s come in a wide variety of sizes, styles, paint schemes and camouflage designs. They are available with electric or gasoline engines.
There is little or no interaction with other hunters in this type of hunt.
Most hunters go to a central sign in point to enter their name or code for a given area. Hopefully no other hunters are in this area or wander into it later. People have lost their lives by being in the wrong area.
Game harvested is now carried to a game processor where it is packaged and labeled. There is no learning to clean, dress and process the meat by the hunter.
When I consider these points I realize that another good thing of the past has been lost in the name of progress. The young of our country have lost another valuable learning experience and we have lost a part of our lives that can never be replaced.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hurricane Creek

Hurricane Creek is a free flowing creek in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. It forms from two smaller streams in Section 15
Township 20 South and Range 3 East just North of Vance,Alabama. After twisting its way some twenty five miles it enters the Black Warrior River in Section 3, Township 20 South and Range 9 West.
In some parts of the country the creek would be called a river since the volume of water it carries equals that of many small rivers. The area drained by the creek is in the lower reaches of the Appalachian Mountain chain and is very scenic. There are many twists, curves, falls, bluffs and rock formations along the creek.
Many of the people who have grown up in this area have also experienced these same occurrences in their lives.
The creek has been a recreation site and inspiration to generations who have enjoyed its secluded swimming areas and beaches. Many friendships and alliances have been made and strengthened along the clear flowing stream.
Access to the creek has been removed in many areas that were very popular in former times. Sadly, this became necessary for the protection of the creek itself. The area now known as Watson Bend at Holt, Alabama along the Holt- Peterson Road has been closed for many years because of garbage dumping by local residents. The bluffs and rock formations along the Keenes Mill Road has very limited access.
The Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation , known as PARA was able, with the help of Tuscaloosa County, to purchase the popular area crossed by Highway 216, the Old, Old Birmingham Highway.
Sadly PARA has sold a part of the land purchased to the State of Alabama Highway Department for a proposed road project that will possibly adversely affect a very wonderful section of the creek, known as the "M BEND"
A number of years ago a group known as The Friends of Hurricane Creek was formed with the stated intent of protecting the creek. Much of their work has been admirable, as they have monitored the water quality and looked for pollution sources.
The downside to their work is that many of them tend to see the creek as personal property, for their access only.
This then is another natural resource of the people and adjoining landowners that has become a political issue.
Gone are the days when families, courting couples, good ole boys and the general public enjoyed the beauty, quietness, solitude and joy of one of the areas favorite places.
The days when swimming pools were a rarity and “swimmin’ holes” were the thing, sadly are gone.
Hurricane Creek holds many memories, good and bad, for local people.
Families gather no more, courting is quite a different affair,
good ole boys sip their adult beverages in dimly lit sports bars and the general public for the most part have no idea what they have lost.
I hope a beautiful free flowing creek is in your memory, for the glory days of Hurricane Creek are no more.