What is the history of your ministry? Where did you begin? Why did you choose this path of ministry?
The group idea was conceived by our first bass singer, Muriel (Merle) Mitchell, with whom I graduated high school. We had been friends since 3rd grade and had sung together in junior high and high school choir. After he suffered an on job injury at about the same time Johnny Garrett, first baritone gave his heart to the Lord, he contacted me via CB radio to come to his house to talk about something. When I arrived, Joe Chance, with whom I had also grown up, was there. They presented their dream of a southern gospel quartet and asked me to sing tenor. The next day we gathered at Lakeside Baptist Church on Toledo Bend Lake, gathered around the piano, accompanied for only that one practice by Joe's sister, Colleen.
We set about recruiting a pianist, the first being Lovitt Sigler, who was instrumental in getting us off on the right foot and made the first few appearances with us. Our first appearance was at my home church, Plainview Baptist Church on June 11, 1978.
Pianist, Lovitt Siglar, was soon replaced by Leatrice James and due to other commitments, Joe Chance soon dropped out and was replaced by Tim Leonard on lead.
The group began May 25, 1978, by July 21, the line-up that people remember as the first version of the group was Muriel, Johnny, Tim, myself and pianist, Leatrice. In November, we added Danny Laurence on bass guitar.
As for goals, The Lord was in charge of that. We were just green country boys with a dream to sing and share the Good News of Jesus Christ through song. We had no concept of bookings, recordings, travel, etc. We just kind of fell into it and God prepared the way for every single decision that had to be made as it came up. After that first date on June 11, 1978, we have been busy to varying degrees since that day. Early on our schedule was 75 - 80 dates per year, now, it's 175 - 180. We have been blessed!
One more thing, of the original membership, both Lovitt and Leatrice are deceased, the other three are ministers...Joe pastors Harmony Cove Baptist on Toledo Bend, Muriel pastors Middle Creek Baptist Church deep in the woods of Kisatchie National Forest and Johnny pastors Thompson Chapel Baptist Church near Pulaski, Tennessee.
Who are some of your major musical influences? Why do they affect you the way they do?
The “Gospel Singing Jubilee” and the LeFevres’ “Caravan” were both my introduction to “quartet singing” and Southern Gospel and I suppose the groups I most remember were The Florida Boys, The Dixie Echoes, The LeFevres, The Statesmen and The Blackwood Brothers. The first Southern Gospel LP, well, LP period, that I ever owned was a Christmas gift from “Santa” when I was eight years old, it was The Statesmen’s “All Day Singing and Dinner on the Ground”!
The excitement and close harmony of those groups I recall from childhood, then came to know as I became involved in the music, just touches you in a way that is beyond explanation. It’s just “good stuff”!
Who has been your biggest spiritual influence?
Without a doubt, my Mother! She lived a life before me that I could never duplicate. She loved everyone and when she passed away on December 16, 2004 at 80 years of age, there was not a person in this world against whom she had any hard feelings. She never had an enemy. She lived “The Golden Rule” and did her best to bring me up in church, knowing that I had a loving God that was to be feared but who would provide for me and love me if only I trusted Him!
Don’t misunderstand, my Dad was a Christian too and exerted his influence as well, and I have been blessed with countless loving mentors within and without gospel music, but Mom was the strongest influence.
How many dates to you do per year? What kind of venues do you sing at?
We currently minister 180+ dates per year and are on the road about 200 days per year. We mostly appear in churches with an occasional promoter-driven date thrown in, but our mainstay is the church.
We are members of The South Texas Gospel Music Association and The Bay Area Gospel Music Association (Houston, TX) and enjoy their annual events! Both are wonderful organizations and Convention is like REVIVAL!
We love to visit with our friends at NQC each year too…booths 535/537. Come see us!
Are you involved in other areas of ministry besides music?
Yes. We promote in West-Central Louisiana and East Texas a few times per year, our biggest event being our Annual Homecoming in Leesville, LA each first weekend in June.
I have been co-host of “Southern Gospel Showcase”, a VJ-format show that airs on the local ABC affiliate here in Central Louisiana for about eight years now. Beginning in May, 2010, I will begin hosting a radio version of “Southern Gospel Showcase” on KTXJ, 102.7 FM, in Jasper, TX.
Also, I have been honored to serve as 2nd vice-president of the Southern Gospel Promoter’s Association for the last several years. One of our goals is to foster a positive relationship between the artist/agent and promoter and in so doing, hopefully, get the music we all love so much, in front of more people!
Where do you see your ministry in the next 10 years?
We have been around for 32 years in continuous ministry.
From day one, we have been willing and always tried to walk through any door God opens! I suppose we try to set some goals, but those who know me, know I mostly roll with the flow.
We are so thankful to be included in Southern Spin’s roster. We look forward to good things as we work with them! Mike Heimple and Capitol Artists has been a positive relationship for us. We are privileged to get into some venues we would probably not if it were not for their efforts.
God has used our ministry far beyond my wildest imagination. We aren’t about glitz and glitter, not about talent contests and charts, we care about people and love what we have been allowed to do. We will stay available and take things as they come, go where He leads and just see what happens!
Talk a little bit about your current project and/or single.
We are presently planning a new project, the working title, “Sing it Again”. As of now, we want to ‘re-do’ some good songs from past projects and add in a few new, but old, songs. The new project may even be on a ‘label’, we have always been Independent, but some dear friends have invited us to try their label. We may just do that.
How can people reach you for a concert or ministry service?
Southern Plainsmen Ministries, Inc.
7841 Plainview Rd
Hornbeck, LA 71439
318-586-4812 – Office, 318-663-4812 – cell