RICH GODLY HERITAGE
From my rich faith heritage, I draw many memories dating back to early childhood. My maternal grandmother, Mayebelle Wigley Wolfe (pictured at left) was a pianist and singer. In fact, she was much more to me. She was my spiritual mother. As far back as I can remember she quoted and read scripture to me, and told me bible stories that have
remained permanently etched in my mind. Prayer was a major ingredient in Grandmother’s everyday life. She began each day with prayer; prayer for the veggies to grow in the garden; for the Jersey cow to give milk; the hens to lay, and for The Lord to send much needed rain to the crops. That foundation of faith in God through saturation of my mind with God's Word has sustained me through many storms throughout my seventy plus years.
My grandfather also was a singer, and choir director. My grandparents, who were farmers, had a piano in their home. As a child, I remember large groups of relatives and friends singing around that piano in the evening for hours.
I soon took an interest in learning to read music, including shaped notes which became a passion of mine. On Sundays, we faithfully attended Sunday School and Church. Almost every Sunday afternoon I would go with my grandparents to singing conventions, which were popular in the late 1940s and
1950s, and on into the 60s. The monthly conventions were usually countywide, and named after the county in which they were held. Each quarter a new “song book” was published by Stamps Music, and another by Stamps- Baxter. It was only a short drive to several counties from where we lived. Sometimes, these conventions would be an “All Day Singing with Dinner on the Ground” which was a DOUBLE BLESSING. They would start early (usually around 11 am) and break for lunch (called DINNER in the south). Usually there were very large crowds at the conventions, especially when a meal was available. I have a vivid picture indelibly stamped on my mind AND TASTE BUDS, of one convention we attended in Leon County, Texas at Concord Baptist church. On the grounds under the post oak trees were board tables, each ten to fifteen feet long. What a spread it was! Someone had slaughtered and barbequed a goat. I LOVED IT… was about 12 years of age and have been a lover of goat meat to this day.
The singing conventions gave opportunity for singers to gain experience not only singing in front of a crowd, but also leading the congregation in singing. For me, it also offered opportunity to gain experience playing for someone else to sing and/or lead the group in a song.
Being that young, this would scare me so bad I could not muster up enough saliva to even SPIT. For you see, playing for other people to sing often meant reading the music and playing songs that I never had heard before. Not only were these conventions a chance to learn and get experience, but also they were just plain fun. The songbooks that I mentioned earlier had been distributed to everyone at the prior convention giving folks a chance to learn the new songs ahead of time. Many of the composers of these songs, some of whom I knew personally, became famous names in gospel music, such as James Singleton and L.D. Huffstutler (wrote “Hand in Hand With Jesus”). I attended several “Singing Schools” taught by L.D. Huffstutler. He was very inspiring and made each student feel like he or she was going to be the biggest name in gospel music.
In the meantime, I began private piano lessons at the age of ten under a classical teacher named Mrs. Pitcock. She really inspired me. Although she was not into Gospel Music, she encouraged me to pursue that field of music, as she could clearly see my passion for it. At age 12, I began lessons with another teacher, Melba Bigham, who was a gospel / evangelistic style pianist. Along with private piano lessons, I attended every quartet and gospel music concert possible. Many times during the concerts in Houston, I would go to the stage behind the curtains in full view of the Piano. From that vantage point, I would spend the whole concert glued to the piano keyboard where I could watch pianists like Jack Marshal, Hovie Lister, Wally Varner and Joe Roper. I had a BURNING DESIRE, which is still aflame today, to be able to play even half as good as those men; they were, and still are my heroes.
Although I love music, I am not just an entertainer. My real passion is presenting Jesus through preaching as well as music to reach a dying world; and I have a heart for people. I have been in the ministry for over fifty nine years serving as pastor of five churches; two in Colorado and three in Texas. In 1991, I began traveling as a full time crusade evangelist ministering in forty-four states as well as the West Indies, and Latin America. My goal is to minister to people and to preach Jesus. The Gospel is still ‘The power of God unto salvation” and it truly changes and transforms lives, regardless of the culture. “Gospel Music” – that really says it. Gospel, the GOOD NEWS that Jesus died for all, and His blood can wash away every stain of sin, PRAISE THE LORD!