There have been many wonderful days in the life of gospel musician Naomi Sego Reader of The Sego Brothers and Naomi. One of her lowest, though, came May 12 when she learned her close friend Dottie Rambo had been killed in a bus accident near Mount Vernon, Mo., just hours before Ms. Rambo was to perform with Mrs. Reader and Hee Haw TV star Lulu Roman at a church near Dallas.
Ms. Rambo, 74, was traveling to the Fountain of Life church in North Richland Hills, Texas, for a concert with the trio, known as the Golden Girls of Gospel.
"I was on Lulu's motor home parked at the church that morning," Mrs. Reader said in a recent call. "The pastor's wife came onto the motor home and said, 'I've got some bad news,' and told us about Dottie being killed in the accident.
"We had a difficult time but we went ahead and did the concert in her honor."
Mrs. Reader, 77, who is celebrating her 50th anniversary this year as a gospel music performer, will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday at Bethesda Baptist Church, Grovetown, off Gordon Highway at Old Louisville Road.
Mrs. Reader grew up the daughter of a preacher in the small south Georgia town of Enigma, singing at Mount Zion Holiness Baptist Church.
"I don't think we had a choir," she said. "As a youngster, I realized it was different when I sang sometimes for my dad when he preached on the streets. My talent is God-given. I've never had a voice lesson."
Her life changed when a gospel group from Macon, Ga., came to perform in Ms. Reader's church. The Harmony Kings included James Sego and his brothers, W.R. and Lamar.
James took an instant liking to Naomi.
"I knew his first cousin, who was my classmate, and James asked her to ask me for a date. We went to Ty Ty, Ga., to a ballgame and his first cousin went along as a chaperone.
''I don't remember who won the ballgame, but I did win James that night."
James later caught a bus from Macon to Tifton, Ga., and hitched a ride to Enigma, where he asked Naomi to marry him. She said yes, they got married by a friend of the family who was a preacher and caught a bus back to Macon.
That was 1949. James Sego died in 1979 while undergoing open-heart surgery.
Mrs. Reader did not sing with the gospel early in her marriage, but when one of Mr. Sego's brothers got sick in 1958 and could not make the Sego Brothers' appearance on a Macon television station, she filled in. Viewers loved her, and from then on she was a regular part of the group, which became The Sego Brothers and Naomi.
The group's 1958 album, Satisfied With Me, sold 300,000 copies and included their first hit, Is My Lord Satisfied With Me?
In 1962, they became the first gospel group to sell more than 1 million copies with their song Sorry, I Never Knew You .
The Segos moved to Nashville, Tenn., where one of their neighbors was Johnny Cash. They began appearing at the Ryman Auditorium on the Friday night Grand Ole Opry shows and on the Sunday morning Grand Ole Gospel shows hosted by the Rev. Jimmy Snow.
In 1983, Naomi married Texas evangelist Vernon Reader, who died in 1998 after 15 years of marriage. She also lost her son, Ronnie Sego, a diabetic, in 1996.
Mrs. Reader recently released Happy Ending, an album of new and old songs on Vine Records.
"We've come a long ways," she said, "and even though the gas prices are terrible, the Lord is going to get us through it. I'm not going to retire until I have to."
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 37 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.