This week’s article is certainly about one of the more popular groups in Southern Gospel Music, The McKameys, and if there is one word which could describe them it would be sincere. Each member of this Southern Gospel singing group is sincere in their love for the Lord, sincere in their love for the music they sing, and sincere in their need to spread the Word to others through their music.
Organized as a trio of sisters -- Dora, Peg and Carol McKamey -- in 1954, the group is nearing its fifth decade of spreading love and blessings through the music they sing. Even though there have been several changes in the group's makeup, the wonderful harmonies, great songs and sheer joy of singing has never gone away. Whether they are performing "Roll The Burden On Me," "Even The Valley," "Right On Time," "Arise," or earlier hits like "Who Put The Tears" or "God On The Mountain," there is a light that shines through onstage and an energy that carries them through the night when they perform.
Dora actually started the group, which is based in Clinton, Tennessee. Since their father was a minister, all the girls had grown up singing in church. One day Dora announced to her astonished sisters that they were going to sing with her in church the next Sunday as a trio. "She gathered us up in her kitchen, started singing and we each found our parts," Peg explained. "We just thought we were goanna sing that one time, in her home church, but different people heard us and invited us to sing at their church or at revivals. Then out-of-town evangelists heard us at the revivals and invited us to come to their church, and we started traveling to Florida and Indiana and Ohio, and that's how it all started."
In 1957 Ruben Bean started playing guitar for the trio, and he and Peg married two years later. As their girls, Connie and Sheryl, were growing up they traveled with their mom, dad and aunts. Dora and Carol retired from the trio in 1971 so it was a natural move for Connie and Sheryl to fill their aunts' shoes. "The girls had been singing special duets at our concerts so one day after Dora and Carol told me they were retiring, I heard the girls singing and I went in and added my part and I thought 'Wow.' So when Ruben came home we sang for him, started working on the music, and by the end of the year we were taking bookings. The group never stopped. We sold records from the old group at first and we made our first record, with the new members, in 1972." In the mid 1980s there was another change, when Sheryl retired to fulfill her obligations as a minister’s wife. Peg’s sister, Carol, returned to the group but she has once again left the group and Sheryl has once again returned. So currently the group is made up of Peg, Connie, Ruben and Sheryl. There are two musicians, Roger Fortner and his son. The group also uses digital tracks to enhance the value of their performance.
The McKameys play about 150 dates a year, traveling all over North America from Southern California on up to British Columbia and over to the East Coast, north to New Brunswick and south to Florida. They have had 11 number one singles and in 1999 were honored by their record label, Horizon, for having the most number one hits in the history of Southern Gospel Music. Peg has been named Favorite Female Vocalist by the Singing News at its annual fan awards. From 1981 through 1999 they released an album a year filled with music with a message that their fans are eager to hear. Some of the music is written by daughter Sheryl and the remainder comes from songs sent to them in the mail or handed to them on tapes at concerts. "I try to listen to everything and see if the song has good sound doctrine and a good tune, and if it has those elements, then I let the rest of the group listen to it," Peg says. "We always try to find new songs for our albums if it's a good song and we like it and it works in our ministry, and then we will sing it. I think one of the reasons our fans have stayed with us is that we do find good songs."
Another reason the fans tell her they have stayed with them over the years, Peg says, is that they believe the singers really are sincere about the message they present. "It's the joy of the Lord and the strong message in the songs they hear," she says. "We try to have fresh songs and new encounters with the Lord so we can pass them along to those in need of it." Peg says each of them sees their music as a ministry. "Each of us tries to minister to the people in our office when we are home and at the concerts when we are on the road. We started a prayer wall and it filled up real quickly because there was only room for 13,000 names on it. So now we have a basket that we put the requests in and we pray for people every day. We relate to helping others. And we are all active in our home church."
Peg is one of the first to admit that Southern Gospel Music has grown. "It's bigger now than it ever has been. There are more people attending the concerts and the concerts are in auditoriums where they were at first only in churches. There are also stronger songs, and the music that enhances those songs has gotten better. There has been a lot of quality added to Gospel Music."
The McKameys along with the Inspirations, Primitive Quartet and Diplomats will be in Spartanburg January 9th.
I can be contacted at (864) 895-1287 or (864) 979-9626. Happy New Year!