How Southern Gospel won over me

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

The 'S' Factor

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A CHRISTMAS special I watched in TV at Charlotte reminded me of a Southern Gospel concert that I attended nearly two years ago.

I was invited by Charlie and June Gayle to a Southern Gospel concert in Concord.

Charlie was a co-employee of Ronnie at the postal office here at Charlotte for more than three decades.


I initially had reservations because I don't know anything about Southern Gospel but when I did attend the concert, it was unforgettable.

I thought the concert would be more about praying but it was not.

The concert was held in one of the centers of Concord located a few miles from where we live.

When we arrived there were a lot of people in the gym.

We passed through an alley where almost everyone was in photo-taking mode with the gospel singers.

When it started, I was at a standstill listening to the first group performance.

It was beautiful. I saw many families singing with guitars big and small.


The performances were either a capella or accompanied by piano and guitar or piano and banjo.

All through the evening, there were large bands and some groups performed with pre-recorded accompaniments.

It was fun night with nearly all sorts of musical instruments used for gospel music.

We don’t have this kind of music in the Philippines, I guess.

According to Wikipedia, Southern Gospel music was established as a genre in 1910, the year the first professional quartet was formed to sell songbooks for the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Co.

Wikipedia also posted that the Southern Gospel music genre existed prior to 1910 as shown in the works of Charles Davis Tillman (1861–1943), who popularized "Old Time Religion," wrote "Life's Railway to Heaven" and published 22 songbooks.

My husband Ronnie told me that he travelled as a bodyguard of singer Victoria Huggins for nearly four years.

Welcomed by all

He told me how people would be excited when their group would visit a city or town.

“Southern gospel music is welcomed by all,” Ronnie said.

One of my favorite performances in that Southern Gospel concert there was something in their music and performance that really caught my heart that at the end of the concert I had my pictures with them.

“We are a family that shares the gospel of Jesus Christ through the words of our songs and the testimony of our lives,” thus said John Cockman Sr., the family patriarch before their performance.

The family performance on TV led me to looking The Cockman family was featured on TV and I remembered to write about them. My watching the TV led me to look for them on the web and yielded the following information.

Sweet music

Since launching their performing career 16 years ago, the popularity of these four brothers, sister and father keeps growing.

Aside from Cockman Sr. on guitar, the other band members are Caroline Cockman Fisher on lead vocals, John Cockman Jr. on fiddle and vocals, Billy Cockman on banjo and vocals, David Cockman on bass and vocals and Ben Cockman on mandolin and vocals.

Last year they performed more than 130 dates and their sweet music continued to win more fans.

Repeated featured appearances on UNC-TV, North Carolina's 11-station public television network, bolstered the family's growing reputation throughout its North Carolina home base along with parts of Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina.

UNC-TV featured the Cockman Family on seven one-hour "The Arthur Smith Show: Now and Then" public television specials, "Carolina Christmas and George Beverly Shea and Friends."

Then there are the Wishons.

From their website I learned that since February of 1997, evangelist John Wishon had been traveling the country preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the air

He began in a local church and his ministry travels take him up and down the East Coast.

His enthusiasm, humor, unique delivery, and ability made John much in demand for camp meetings, revivals, conferences, and special services.

John is also the owner of WWWC Radio in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

The Christian radio station broadcasts the best in Christian Music 24 hours a day over the air and on the Web

During his radio career he was awarded the Small Market DJ of the Year and got nominated for that award again this year.

WWWC was awarded the AM Radio Station of the year.

He also keeps busy by serving as the emcee for many major Christian Music events around the country.

John also coordinates Singing in the Foothills, a Christian music event in Wilkesboro, North Carolina that draws thousands each year.

This year around March we would again be watching a Southern Gospel concert by invitation from Charlie and June Gayle.

I don't know if the groups I mentioned would perform, but I'm sure Ronnie and the Gayles won't be missing it.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 25, 2014.


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