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!!!