The Chuck Wagon Gang, one of America’s oldest continuous gospel music groups, will perform Wednesday at Bethel Baptist Church in Aiken.
The quartet first went on the air in Lubbock, Texas, on KFYO-AM in 1935, and became enormously popular on WBAP-AM in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But, according to Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs, the group did not perform outside its Texas home area until Nov. 26, 1950, when the quartet performed in Augusta’s Municipal Auditorium, later renamed Bell Auditorium.
Grand Ole Opry member Wally Fowler, well known for his gospel music shows, hired the Chuck Wagon Gang for the Thanksgiving Week show that also featured Fowler’s Oak Ridge Quartet (later to become The Oak Ridge Boys), Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens and his Country Boys and the Augusta-area quartet The Log Cabin Boys.
Original members of the Chuck Wagon Gang were Texan Dave Carter and his children.
The Chuck Wagon Gang was associated with Columbia Records from 1936 until 1975, during which time they recorded 408 known masters.
At one time, the Chuck Wagon Gang reportedly was the second-highest-selling artist on the label, second to big band leader Xavier Cugat. They were followed in sales by newly rising star Johnny Cash.
The Albert E. Brumley classic I’ll Fly Away was recorded by The Chuck Wagon Gang on Dec. 16, 1948, about two years before the group’s first Augusta appearance. It sold more than a million copies and became the first successful recording of the now classic song.
The quartet won the TNN-Music City News’ Gospel Group of the Year award in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993.
Today, members include Shaye Smith, the group’s current owner/manager whose grandmother, Anna Carter Gordon Davis, was the group’s original alto and whose grandfather, Howard Gordon, was the group’s guitarist for many years.
Anna Davis later was married to former Louisiana governor, Jimmie Davis, composer of many gospel classics including You Are My Sunshine.
Other current members are Julie Hudson, Stan Hill and Jeremy Stephens.