Ramblin' Rhodes: Dixie Echoes to deliver Southern gospel message twice

One of Southern gospel music’s most popular groups, The Dixie Echoes, has been performing in the Augusta area since the mid-1960s including hosting major gospel music shows at Bell Auditorium.


They will be back on Friday, Sept. 23, for a performance that starts at 7 p.m. at Bethesda Baptist Church off U.S. Highway 278 at Old Louisville Road between Grovetown and Harlem.

There is no charge but a love offering will be taken.

And they will be back in the area again a couple weeks later at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Community Worship Center, 417 Virginia Ave., in Millen, Ga.

Between those two shows, they will be performing at the National Quartet Convention being held Sept. 26-Oct. 1 in the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Two particularly amazing people are at the heart and soul of the Dixie Echoes eventually releasing almost 70 albums and sharing stages with the top acts in Southern gospel music history.

For their contributions, Jesse Gillis “J.G.” Whitfield in 1997 and Dale Shelnut in 2001 were inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Whitfield had been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1990.

Whitfield in 1947 organized and began managing a group called The Gospel Melody Quartet, which would be renamed The Florida Boys with Whitfield being based in Pensacola.

He quit touring for a brief while but changed his mind about staying home and created a group called The Messengers, which in 1962 would be renamed The Dixie Echoes Quartet.

Besides his love for singing and performing, he started the Singing News magazine in 1969 which now is known as the “Printed Voice of Southern Gospel Music.”

He also created the syndicated TV show Gospel Singing Jubilee and became a top booker of gospel music shows including concerts in prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Shelnut, born near Guin, Ala., had started his singing career in 1951 with the creation of the Rhythm Masters and joined The Tennesseans Quartet in 1960.

It was a perfect combination when Shelnut joined The Dixie Echoes in 1963 and sort of created a musidfcal dynasty.

His son, Randy Shelnut, has been a lead vocalist with the group for more than 45 years and also has played keyboard and guitar.

And his grandson, Randy Shelnut Jr. (known as “Scoot”) also has been touring with the group for several years singing baritone.

Other members are pianist Ben Hart, twins Alex and Andrew Utech with Alex singing bass and Andrew playing percussion and adding vocals; and Junior Shelton singing tenor.

TERRI GIBBS PLAYING PIANO: Speaking of Bethesda Baptist, the piano player for the church is non other than Terri Gibbs, the Country Music Association’s first Horizon Award winner and the Academy of Country Music’s New Female Vocalist of the Year.

Just a few weeks ago, I got to be with Gibbs at the King family reunion held in the North Augusta Masonic Hall. That family, which also includes radio talk show host Austin Rhodes, loves to sing hymns and patriotic songs at their annual gatherings so much that they even have “King Family Reunion” stamped on the hymnals’ covers.

Gibbs herself treated the family by playing an electric keyboard and singing a medley of great gospel standards including (Jesus) There’s Something About That Name, In The Garden, How Great Thou Art, Just A Closer Walk With Thee and Amazing Grace.

I’ve known Gibbs and her mother, Betty, and late father, Donald, and brothers, Dale and Donald, since the 1950s when my family attended Marvin United Methodist Church on Belair Road in Evans.

Her uncles, Harold and Iniard, sang often in our church, and weekly on WJBF-TV as The Masterworkers Quartet, gospel music group. They were the first “celebrities” I ever knew. Her cousin, Ron Gibbs, performs with the Grovetown-based Masters City Two gospel music duo with Judy Lyon.



Rockers Reunion at Arts Fest: Former Hipnotics band members Steve Bouye and Roger Davis are back together after 26 years in a new rockabilly/blues band called King Cat and the Elders. They are joining Dwight Bradham, Dean Klopotic and Jeff Johnston for the band’s debut performance at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, on the Global Stage at Arts in The Heart of Augusta Festival.

American Tribute to Country Legends: This show will benefit the agriculture program at Jefferson County High School in Louisville, Ga., with Jeff Barnes singing the hits of country greats; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, Jesse C. Lynch Memorial American Legion Post 71 in North Augusta, 333 East Spring Grove Ave., $10. Call (706) 394-3916 to reserve tickets or buy at the door; concession profits benefits post’s Ladies Auxiliary unit.

Guitar Duo Loren & Mark: Augusta Amusements Inc., headed by Mike Deas, kicks off its 2016-2017 with the amazing guitar playing of world travelers Loren Barrigar and Mark Gazengarb at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans; $35 reserved seats; $25 for pre-show salmon or steak dinner (must be ordered 48 hours in advance); call (706) 726-0366 or visit augustaamusements.com.

Pow Wow at the River: National Native American Pow Wow festival, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam Park north of Augusta Regional Airport; $10 advance or $12 at the gate; roadrunnerenterprisesllc.com.

Yonder Mountain String Band: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at Sky City; doors open at 6 p.m.; the Colorado-based band is headlining the Riverwalk Revival Series with Oregon-based quintet Fruition opening. Show benefits The Savannah Riverkeeper. Tickets are $30 advance, $35 at the door. Visit fwbpro.com.