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Computer Automation Introduced To Gospel Singing

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week.  Last Saturday I attended the Arkansas State Gospel Singing Convention at the Oaklawn Methodist Church in Hot Springs.  Accordingly, I’m going to do something I never do. I’m dedicating this column to my friend, Joe Windham from Longview, Tex.  You might ask, who is Joe Windham and why is the column dedicated to him?  

Several years ago Joe introduced computer automation to the lineup in our singing convention.  It has been very successful and is welcomed by the singers as our gospel singing convention enters the twenty-first century.  That isn’t the only reason I decided to dedicate the column to him.      When I went into the fellowship hall Joe came up to me as I was talking to my friend, Shelby Sawrie.  He said, “I want to shake hands with a well-known writer I said, “Joe, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  

He said, “I’m fixing to enlighten you.  An in-law in Mobile, Ala., gets the North Mississippi Herald and they saw the August column where you mentioned my participation in the convention and they sent me a copy of the column. The lady is from Water Valley originally and her name is Joy Windham but I don’t know her name before she was married.”  

How about a column going from Water Valley to Mobile to Longview, Texas?  

Of course some of his remarks were tongue in cheek and we’ve known each other long enough that it’s all done in a spirit of fun.

There were singers from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisi-ana, Texas, Georgia, as well as our Arkansas singers.  I don’t know why Mississippi wasn’t represented this year as usually some of their singers attend.  The Presidents of the Oklahoma, Tennessee, conventions as well as the president of the national convention were in attendance.   I think it was one of the best conventions we’ve had in years.  

What was great was the number of young people, three who are outstanding piano players.  That would seem to indicate that Southern Gospel will continue into another generation. I know you younger people will find it hard to believe that at one time Yalobusha County had one of the top conventions in the state.  

Ludie’s dad, Eric McGonagill, was a first class promoter and he would always have visiting singers at his conventions.  Of course in those days people didn’t have TV and good roads and dependable transportation so the singings were an important part of their life.  I remember when I was a kid seeing families drive up in a farm wagon to the singings.  The church would be full and since there was no fans or air conditioning the windows were open and people would be standing outside listening.  

Several years ago I submitted a  picture of one of Ludie’s singing schools at Jumper’s Chapel that I attended and that’s where the love of Gospel really begins.  I’m happy to say that my friend, Marty Phillips, of Jeffress-Phillips Music Com-pany in Crosset, Ark., teaches schools over the South  each summer.  Jamie attended two of them in the nineties.  The Cumberland Valley Music Company in Tennessee is doing the same thing and that’s where those young people at today’s convention came from.  The Cherokees in Oklahoma were into gospel music in a big way and they produced many singers and song writers, one of which my friend David Leach sang today.  He didn’t sing in Cherokee although I have heard him do that and it is awesome.  

Now if you want some more Water Valley stories, send me some.  I know that my friend, Chester Joiner, has compiled a history of the stave mill that was part of Water Valley for so many years and I haven’ been able to get down to pick it up but hopefully soon.  So. my faithful readers, let me hear from you because I know there are many interesting histories just waiting to be told.  My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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