FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–The Christian music industry claimed the king of rock ‘n’ roll as one of its own Nov. 27, inducting Elvis Presley into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Presley, who died in 1977, was inducted by members of three gospel quartets who were part of his show over the years: Joe Moscheo from The Imperials, Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires and Ed Enoch of J.D. Sumner & The Stamps. Video was shown of Presley singing gospel standards like “How Great Thou Art” and “Peace in the Valley.”
“I know how much his being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame would mean to him, and I wish he could be there to enjoy receiving this wonderful honor,” daughter Lisa Marie Presley wrote in a letter that was read during the ceremony.
The remaining inductees were Albertina Walker, Kurt Kaiser, Keith Green, Larry Norman, Doris Akers, Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters and The Rambos.
More than 1,000 Christian entertainers and industry representatives attended the gala night held at The People’s Church in Franklin, Tenn., in suburban Nashville. Among the notable artists in attendance were George Beverly Shea, Vestal Goodman, Bill Gaither, Randy Stonehill, Shirley Ceasar, Phil Keaggy, Rebecca St. James, dc Talk and Gary Chapman.
Nashville talk show host Ralph Emery inducted Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters into the Hall of Fame. Bagwell died in 1996. Sunliters Jerri Morrison and Jan Buckner accepted the honor at the ceremony.
“It is such an honor to sing and proclaim the good news of Jesus,” Buckner said. “We entertained but we also ministered.”
Norman is recovering from heart surgery and was unable to attend the induction ceremony.
He and Green — who died in 1982 — were influential singer-songwriters at the beginning of contemporary Christian music in the 1960s and ’70s.
Norman’s relationship with the gospel music industry has sometimes been strained over the years but, his son said, was improving.
“He’s been excited about it for months,” Michael Norman said of his father’s induction. “He wanted me to tell people he’s thankful for the doors the GMA helped open for his career.”
Elvis Presley idolized Sumner as a boy, and his first musical ambition was to be a member of a “hand-clapping, fast-moving” gospel quartet like The Stamps, Stoker said.
Instead, Presley went to Sun Records in Memphis and became an icon of rock ‘n’ roll. But he continued to be a gospel music fan and usually included it in his shows.
“If he was alive and here getting this honor, I would anticipate doing some gospel singing after the show that would last until Thursday or Friday,” Enoch said.
The Oak Ridge Boys, country stars who got their start as a gospel quartet, were the hosts of the night’s ceremony, which featured performances by Chapman, Keaggy, St. James and dc Talk.
“We have an obligation to let the young people know from whence they came,” said Frank Breeden, president of the Gospel Music Association. “It’s a story that we need to tell.”
Kaiser is a songwriter (including “Pass It On”), pianist and record company executive. The Rambos are a family trio (husband and wife Buck and Dottie with daughter Reba) who have recorded more than 60 albums.
Walker founded the Caravans, and has been a successful solo artist since 1975. Akers founded the Sky Pilot Choir and wrote such songs as “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” and “Sweet Jesus.”
“You gave me my flowers while I can still smell them,” Walker said after her induction.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TWO LEGENDS; RAMBOS INDUCTED IN HALL OF FAME; SUPER CHOIR, SUPER PERFORMANCE; WORKING THE KEYS; OAK RIDGE BOYS; WENDY BAGWELL AND THE SUNLITERS; WALKER PRAISES GMA.