Maybe I can share something...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

23 Years Ago...Remembering Dale Shelnut

Written by Danny Jones, Taken from Danny's Diary

May 11, 1983.

It was one of Southern Gospel music's most heartbreaking days.

A Florida farmer noticed "Ole Matt" walking across a field, unattended and dragging a plow. Knowing that the horse's owner would never allow such a thing, the farmer set off through the dirt and before long found a giant of a man lying in the freshly plowed field.

Within a few minutes, the world of Southern Gospel music began to mourn the loss of Dale Shelnut. Though he was taken away during what many people feel what his prime, Dale Shelnut is fondly remembered as one of the great lead vocalists of our time.

Dale formed a group called the Rhythm Masters around 1951. Nine years later, Noel Fox asked Dale to sing with the Tennessans and that's where Dale sang until J.G. Whitfield invited him to join the Dixie Echoes. About two million miles later, Dale completed his final journey on this earth.

Awards were no stranger to Dale. He was once named Favorite Lead Singer during the Singing News Fan Awards, twice honored by an early version of the SGMA as Favorite Male Singer and was showered with dozens of other accolades during his performing years. As those artists still traveling today will attest, "the boy knew what he was doing."

Even though I was 17 days away from my 17th birthday on May 11, 1983, I knew well who Dale was. I had seen the Dixie Echoes many times in concert and still to this day, I can hear Dale's powerhouse voice ringing out on songs like "Hallelujah Square," "How Great Thou Art" and all of those spirituals that he cornered the market with.

And when I said "powerhouse," that's exactly what I meant. There have not been other lead singers who sang with such sheer power. Not only could he sing lead, he could sing the other three parts of a quartet without any problem.

More than one person has told me how Dale like to aggrevate the group's tenors - just in sheer fun - by hitting the last high note of a song and then taking that note a full octive higher over the tenor. Dale apparently loved to pick on tenors and would stop at nothing to top them on a note. More than one tenor looked at Dale with utter frustration when he was bested by a country mile by the tall lead singer. In fact, more than one tenor threatened to quit if Dale did not stop doing that.

Naturally, that only made Dale sing higher the next weekend.

I remember Jerry Kirksey telling me one time that "when Dale was in the mood to sing, there was no one out there who could touch him." That's been echoed by several other artists who were around during that time.

Wow. Twenty three years. We may have not been able to enjoy Dale's talents for those 23 years, but, somewhere in Heaven...

Dale's been torturing tenors for 23 years - and loving every minute of it.


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