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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prayers Needed for a Good Friend

I just found out today that a good friend of mine, a famed Gospel singer whom I have known since I was eight years old, had open heart surgery in Pensacola, Florida. I ask that you join me in praying for him.

Glen Allred was the famed baritone singer/guitarist for the legendary Florida Boys Quartet from 1952 to 2007, when the group retired and left the road. Glen is a true-blue icon in Gospel Music, having started his career on the Grand Ole Opry with the Oak Ridge Boys back in 1950. He played the guitar for the quartet, and then one night when the group's baritone was sick, Glen was tapped by the group's manager to fill in. It was then discovered that not only could the Oaks' guitarist sing, but he could sing exceptionally!

But in time the group's regular baritone returned, and Glen wanted to do more than just play the guitar. So, in 1952, he accepted the offer from Pensacola business magnate and Gospel promoter J.G. Whitfield to join The Florida Boys, a group that Whitfield started in 1948 under the name "Gospel Melody Quartet."

Allred's voice became THE anchor for the Florida Boys' sound, and there he stayed for 55 years. Quartet aficionados will tell you readily that it is the baritone that is most essential to the harmony of a four-part ensemble. Without a good baritone, the quartet's harmony falls apart, although not many listeners are aware of the part when they hear a quartet. It is not meant to be a major noticeable sound in a quartet but a carefully nuanced quieter part that is known for its flats, sharps, and naturals that set quartet music apart from other musical genres.

Very, VERY few people who have followed the gospel quartets for the past 50 years would disagree that Glen Allred is perhaps the best and greatest baritone to ever perform on a stage. Or at least they will say he ranks in the top three, along with Doy Ott of the Statesmen, and Mark Trammell of the Cathedrals and the Mark Trammell Quartet.

I happen to think Glen takes the top honors, although the other two were/are wonderful.

Glen befriended me when I was but a little boy attending a gospel concert in my hometown. Somehow I was able to get backstage to meet my favorite group at the time, the Florida Boys. I met Les Beasley, Billy Todd, Derrell Stewart, and my hero I had idolized by watching him on TV, Glen Allred. Glen was even nicer in person than he seemed on TV.

In those days the Florida Boys hosted a TV show on Sunday mornings that from 1963 to 1980 or so was shown in every major TV market in America, The Gospel Singing Jubilee. I got up early every Sunday morning just so I could see The Florida Boys and Glen Allred.

I never forgot how kind Glen was to a little boy with stars in his eyes that night back stage. And in time I was able to become friends with Glen and the rest of the Florida Boys through tracking them down at concerts, later starting and singing in my own group, and then doing some concert promoting along the way.

Glen is a Christian gentleman that I am proud to have gotten to know. I miss him and "the boys" out on the concert trail, but they deserved perhaps more than any other to park that bus and spend time resting at home in a comfortable bed.

Join me in praying for Glen Allred as he recovers from surgery. I'm sure his wife Shirley, and son Randy, and the other family members, will deeply appreciate it.

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