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MUSIC BEAT | Chuck Wagon Gang set for Ward church

The Chuck Wagon Gang will be performing at DaySpring Missionary Baptist Church in Ward on Thursday, Aug. 14. The concert is set for 7 p.m.

In the history of American music, the Chuck Wagon Gang name stands tall. Their origin dates back to 1935. The original group consisted of Dad Carter, Jim Carter, Rose Carter and Anna Carter. Initially known as the Carter Quartet, they became the Chuck Wagon Gang upon landing a job at WBAP in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

During this time, the Chuck Wagon Gang’s radio program was a mixture of Western songs, folk songs and other popular songs of the day. However, they always closed their show with a hymn. In November of 1936, they traveled to San Antonio and recorded 22 songs, a combination of both Western and gospel music. Their first recording was a gospel song, “The Son Hath Made Me Free.”

Through the Depression and World War II, their music served as a form of comfort and encouragement, providing some stability to America. By 1951, their gospel recordings on Columbia Records had become so popular that the Chuck Wagon Gang decided to go entirely into the gospel music direction. Soon, their airplay on radio skyrocketed and record sales increased enormously.

The group remained with Columbia Records until the late 1970s. Their work on the label led to countless awards and accolades. It is noteworthy that the Chuck Wagon Gang is responsible for the first commercial recording of the classic “I’ll Fly Away.”

The popularity of the Chuck Wagon Gang was incredible. They sold 39 million records within a 39 year span. Other favorites by the group include “Echoes from the Burning Bush,” “Church in the Wildwood” and “Looking for a City.”

As the years have passed, different faces and voices have entered the group. The current lineup of the Chuck Wagon Gang consists of Shaye Smith, Julie Hudson, Stan Hill and Jeremy Stephens.

Smith is the alto singer, and her roots are directly connected to the formation of the Chuck Wagon Gang. Her grandmother, Anna, was the group’s original alto singer. Smith has two music degrees and has performed in operas and musicals.

Hudson sings soprano. As a child, she grew up singing in church and with her musically-talented family. Hudson’s love for old-time gospel singing makes her a perfect fit for the group.

Hill is the tenor singer. The tenor part has always been a staple in the Chuck Wagon Gang sound. Hill does a fine job of carrying on that rich tradition.

Stephens, who sings bass, graduated of Liberty University with a degree in graphic design, but ultimately, he opted to pursue his life-long passion of music. Aside from his singing duties, he plays guitar and banjo.

Today, the Chuck Wagon Gang is performing their songs just like the original group did more than 75 years ago. The simplicity of their sound combined with a pleasant throwback to days of the past serves as one of gospel music’s most refreshing sounds.

For more information about this concert, call 501-850-2056 or 501-628-1838.

Beebe native Charles Haymes is a member of the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association.Email him at charleshaymes@gmail.com.

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