Dixie Echoes

Gospel Group Dale Shellnut and Billy Todd

Lived in Flomaton, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


 

For over 50 years, The Dixie Echoes have been delivering the gospel message in song across America through their spiritually uplifting music ministry. Considered to be one of the pioneer gospel groups, the Dixie Echoes have returned to their roots singing around two microphones with just a piano. Respected among their peers and industry leaders alike, the Dixie Echoes are recognized as one of the premiere groups in gospel music.

Since the Dixie Echoes formed in 1960, they have released nearly 70 albums and have had numerous top ten singles. They have been honored with multiple Dove award nominations from the Gospel Music Association as well as numerous awards from the Southern Gospel Music Association and the Singing News Fan Awards. The Dixie Echoes have also been honored with three former members being inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame; J.G. Whitfield (1997), Dale Shelnut (2001), and Billy Todd (2009).

The Dixie Echoes have performed throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada at such well-known venues such as the National Quartet Convention, Gospel Jubilee Cruise, the Brumley Sing, Suwannee River Jubilee, Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, and Carnegie Hall as well as churches, fairs, and on television. The Dixie Echoes have appeared on such programs as TBN, INSP and are most notably remembered for their regular appearances on the nationally syndicated television show, The Gospel Singing Jubilee which aired in the late 1960’s and 70’s.

Although each individual presents his own musical styling, the members collectively share the common goal of doing everything they can to expose the audience to the power of a meaningful song. With arguably the best line-up of talent ever, the Dixie Echoes present the gospel message in song with a touch of class and excellence.

Randy Shelnut – has been a member of the group for 40 years. His father, Dale, is credited with bringing the group to national prominence and Randy has continued to keep the Dixie Echoes at the forefront of gospel music. With a lifetime of experience Randy is considered to be one of the finest lead singers and has been honored with multiple Singing News Fan Awards.

Stewart Varnado – has been the Dixie Echoes pianist since 1998. Stewart’s intense dedication to the perfection of his craft has made him one of the best and most popular pianists in gospel music today proving why fans have voted him as one of the top 5 musicians in America for nearly a decade. In addition to his performances on stage, Stewart has become a promoter for several of gospel music’s biggest events including the Gospel Jubilee Cruise, J.G. Whitfield Memorial Sing, Suwannee River Jubilee, and the National Quartet Convention.

Randy Shelnut, Jr. – known to gospel music fans as “Scoot”, began his gospel music career at the young age of eleven. With 20 years of experience to build upon, Scoot is named among the best baritones in gospel music and has been voted by the fans as one of the top 5 baritones in the country on several occasions. As a third generation member of the group, Scoot is proudly carrying on a tradition of class and integrity that has long been synonymous with the Dixie Echoes.

Trent Adams – provides the bass vocals for the group. As the newest member of the Dixie Echoes, he is quickly becoming a fan favorite across the country with his ability to deliver moving performances as well as blend right in with the rest of the group. Although Trent is the youngest member, he has quickly recognized the importance of carrying on traditional gospel music. With an ever humble spirit, Trent sings for the glory of God each and every night.

Wesley Smith - sings tenor and has been with the group since 2008. In his short time with the Dixie Echoes, Wesley has become a fan favorite and is quickly leaving his mark as one of the greatest tenors to join the ranks of the Dixie Echoes. Wesley’s full-voice is reminiscent of former Dixie Echoes tenors Larry Ford and Bobby Clark. In this tradition, Wesley delivers a commanding performance each time the group takes the stage.

Over the last 50 years God has trusted the Dixie Echoes with the huge purpose of telling everyone they can about Him. To do this He has provided talented men with a dedication to this grand style of music. In the timeless tradition of the Statesmen Quartet and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, the Dixie Echoes will continue to sing songs in such a manner that no one can miss a single word, not one distraction from hearing what the songwriter wanted to share. And they do it with just four guys and a piano player.

Source: http://www.dixieechoes.com/biography.php

 


 

The Dixie Echoes are a professional Southern Gospel quartet based in Pensacola, FL.

They got their start in 1960 by JG Whitfield. Whitfield, only just a couple of years earlier, had yielded his bass singing role of the Florida Boys to spend more time at home. But as the country entered the first year of the '60s, the desire to sing lured Whitfield to form another quartet that he named The Messengers. In 1962, J.G. renamed the group to The Dixie Echoes Quartet. It was in 1963 that the Dixie Echoes truly began to journey down the path that would carve their place in Southern Gospel history.

An exciting young lead singer put his clothes in the Dixie Echoes' bus closets for the first time and at that point, the name "Shelnut" and the term "Dixie Echoes" became synonymous. "I guess most everyone would agree that Dale Shelnut, my dad, gave the Dixie Echoes a little excitement," son Randy fondly recalls. "He definitely was the audience's focal point when the group was on stage. He was always into something. But it was more than just his antics. He could sing - and I mean, really sing. He hit notes that I'd be happy just to get close to. If he was in the mood to do it, he could sing just as strong and as high as most tenors and then turn around and drag the bottom with bass notes. Plus, it wasn't just what he could do vocally," Randy continues, "It was what he could do with a song. He could have a whole audience in tears when he'd sing a tender ballad like 'My Real Home Is Up There On High' and then tear the place apart with a spiritual like 'Trouble In My Way.' In Dad, I guess, the Dixie Echoes had a group within a group. And because of that, when people thought of the Dixie Echoes, they thought of Dale Shelnut - and vice versa." So natural was this name-association that hardly anyone was surprised when the announcement came in 1972 that Dale Shelnut was the new owner of the Dixie Echoes. "JG had retired - again - in 1966 to concentrate on his concert promotions and his new venture (something called Singing News)," Randy goes on. "So, he turned everything over to his brother Joe and Joe's wife, Sue, who had been with the group since day one. "In late 1970, the Whitfields decided to come off the road and instead of being absentee-owners, they sold the group to Dad.

Then, because half of the group was retiring, Dad set to work replacing singers and pickers. "One of the first persons to be directly affected by the new owner's management decisions was the owner's oldest son. "I was already playing bass guitar for the group before Dad took over and every now and then, they'd let me sing a 'special' during our concerts," says Randy. "Well, now that we had a need for a baritone singer - that's the part Joe Whitfield sang - I think Dad decided that he might as well get 'two for the price of one,'" Randy laughs as he continues. "I've always wondered if I got the job because he liked my singing or because he didn't have to pay another salary!" Whatever the case may have been, Dale and Randy together carried the Dixie Echoes' tradition for tremendous quartet singing for the next eleven years. "There was a time, too, in the late '70s and very early '80s, that we had another Shelnut on the bus," says Randy. "My brother Andrew sang tenor for us for a few years, so everywhere you turned, you saw a Shelnut. Randy Allred (son of the Florida Boys' Glen Allred) sang bass for us during that time and I can remember many people coming up to the record table before a concert wanting to know if he was a Shelnut, too."

On May 11, 1983, the Dixie Echoes and the entire Southern Gospel Music world felt a gigantic loss when Dale died after suffering a massive heart attack. "Frankly," admits Randy, "I believe a lot of people wrote the Dixie Echoes off when they found out Dad had died. And in a way, I understand why. He was such a key part of what we were - no, he was the key part - and there was no way anyone could take his place. "But time had a surprise for those who had thought the Dixie Echoes' days were over. "In my heart, I just knew that Dad would want me to keep the Dixie Echoes on the road singing Gospel Music. In fact, I believe he would have fully expected me to do that." And that's exactly what Randy Shelnut has done. With the exception of the first two years following Dale's passing spent as a trio, the Dixie Echoes have continued a quartet tradition that JG Whitfield started out of restlessness. And now, as the quartet is getting ever closer to its 50th anniversary, Randy feels that the Dixie Echoes are just now really beginning to hit their stride after the heartbreaking setback of 1983. "We've had some tremendously talented people in the group since then," Randy reflects, "but I think that if you'll consider the complete overall package, the current line-up of Dixie Echoes is one of the best ever. It's the mesh of talent, personalities and things like the quality songs that makes us a strong team."

The Dixie Echoes of 2010 are Randy Shelnut (who now sings lead), bass singer Trent Adams, tenor Wesley Smith, pianist Stewart Varnado and baritone Randy "Scoot" Shelnut, Jr - the third generation of Shelnuts to stand on the Gospel stage.

Sing Songs of Faith - 1963

Close To The Master - 1964

My Selected Favorites - 1965

The Golden Hits of The Dixie Echoes - 1965

Echoing - 1966

Living By Faith - 1966

Coming On Strong - 1967

For God So Loved - 1967

Exciting and Inspiring - 1968

He Touched Me - 1968

In Times Like These - 1969

I Feel Like Traveling On - 1969

Shades of Thought - 1970

Turn Your Radio On - 1971

Sorta Southern, Somethin Spiritual, Fully Gospel - 1972

New Sounds - 1972

Live - 1973

Harvest Of New Hits - My Real Home - 1974

One Day At A Time - 1974

Today - 1975

Get On Board - 1976

Sing Back The Memories - 1976

Come On In - 1977

Best of The Dixie Echoes - 1978

Heavenly Echoes - 1978

Coast To Coast - 1979

Jesus Made Me A Promise - 1980

Sing Your Favorites - 1980

Sing Spirituals - 1980

Assurance - 1982

Memories - A Tribute To Dale Shelnut - 1983

Feeling Good - 1984

99½ Won't Do - 1985

Sing Gospel Greats - 1985

It's So Good - 1986

Walkin' On - 1988

He's The Reason - 1989

30th Anniversary - 1990

In One Mind And Many Chords - 1991

Favorites - 3 on 1 - 1991

The Desert Rose - 1992

Gettin' Ready - 1993

One More Celebration - 1994

He Did It All - 1995

Touching Hearts - 1996

Live In Concert - 1996

Rock Solid - 1996

Heaven Is What Dreams Are Made Of - 1997

Live At Home - 1998

There Stands A Cross - 1998

River of Life - 1999

40th Anniversary - The Dixie Echoes Collection - 2000

Reunion - 2000

Press On - 2002

Dixie Echoes Collection - Volume Two - 2002

The Old Fashioned Way - 2003

A New Chapter - 2005

Sounds of Sunday - 2006

So Many Reasons - 2008

Pensacola Live - 2008

I'd Rather Have Jesus - 2009

Golden Celebration - 2010


The Dixie Echoes
By Alan Kendall The Dixie Echoes continued to remain among the top quartets in the gospel music world during the 1970s, now under the leadership of Dale Shelnut. Many outstanding musicians passed through the Dixie Echoes’ bus doors during this period, but Dale, his sons Randy and Andrew, and Randy Allred, remained the core of the group.
The group by 1972 consisted of Tim Riley – Bass, Randy Shelnut – Baritone (along with various musical instruments), Dale Shelnut – Lead, Billy Dale Sexton – Tenor, Vaughan Thacker – Pianist, Jerry Washington – Drums, and Randy Allred – Bass Guitar. Tim Riley left the group after a two year stint, eventually joining the Southmen Quartet, and becoming the patron and leader of Gold City Quartet by the 1980s. Replacing Tim was bass singer Wayne Diamond. Jerry Washington departed and Dale’s younger son, Andrew Shelnut, joined as the group’s drummer. This lineup recorded one of its best albums, The Dixie Echoes Live. This album, recorded in Gadsden, Alabama, was recorded on the same concert at which the Mighty Kingsmen recorded their landmark album, Big and Live.
Billy Dale Sexton, who penned a couple of the Dixie Echoes’ most popular songs at the time, "I Want to See Jesus" and "Salvation’s Plan", left the group in 1973, and Wayne Diamond soon followed. Tim Shelby and Eugene Hathcoat were hired to fill the tenor and bass roles, respectively. Shelby soon left the group and was replaced by Gerry Stroup. Randy Shelnut had been carrying the dual role of playing piano and singing baritone for a couple years, following the departure of Vaughn Thacker, but in 1974, the group added Keith Palmer. Palmer not only brought a great piano style to the group, but also a wonderful singing voice, and he was featured on popular songs such as "I Gave Up Misery" and "A Good Ole Gospel Song".
When Gerry Stroup and Eugene Hathcoat both individually parted ways with the group, Dale Shelnut didn’t have to look far to find his bass and tenor. Randy Allred, who had been playing bass guitar, and Andrew Shelnut, who had been playing drums, simply stepped into the bass and tenor positions. Jimmy Holmes became the group’s drummer.
At this point in the group’s career, the Dixie Echoes more or less became more of a band featuring Dale Shelnut on lead vocals, and less of a traditional quartet. This shift in style did no harm to their performances however, as all of the younger members of the group were so talented, they could easily entertain the audience with their musicianship alone. Dale Shelnut, ever the consummate entertainer, tied the program together with his wonderful spiritual singing and lively stage antics. Along with recording such great heartfelt hits as "Hallelujah Square", "I’ll Take Jesus", and "My Real Home Is Up There On High", the group released several novelty songs such as "Singing News Blues", a song in which Dale humorously vented his aggravations at not having a featured article in the magazine, and "I’m No Kin to the Monkey", a song that lightly and directly addressed the theory of evolution.
Following the departure of Keith Palmer, Randy Harper stepped in as the group’s pianist. Harper’s stay was brief and he was replaced by Garry Jones. Andrew Shelnut eventually left the road, opening the door for young tenor singer Eddie Broome. In early 1983, the lineup of Allred, Shelnut, Shelnut, and Broome released another fine recording, Assurance, which featured Dale’s hauntingly beautiful song, "I’ll Meet You On the Other Side of Jordan".
Charlie Waller recently shared a story with me of when he and Dale were out plowing the field at Dale’s farm in Alabama, just months before he died. Charlie and Dale took turns making rounds over the field with Dale’s horse. When Dale paused for a break, he sat down, and taking a handful of dirt and rubbing it through his hair he sighed and said, "Charlie I love this place! When I die, I wouldn’t mind if it happened right here."
Sure enough, on May 11, 1983, Dale Shelnut went home to be with the Lord on that very field. Only 48 years old, the loss of Dale Shelnut was a tremendous loss to the Dixie Echoes, as well as the entire gospel music world. While at Dale’s funeral, group founder JG Whitfield said, "This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to take, but God makes no mistakes." This tragic blow cast a large shadow of question over the Dixie Echoes and their future. Many people, including fans, had their doubts. Would the group continue? CAN the group continue? And if the group can continue, how can it possibly be done without its fearless leader?

 

 

 

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