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Calvary Baptist Church to host concert

Local Southern Gospel music lovers will have an opportunity to hear The McKameys one final time before the group retires next month.

The McKameys will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Calvary Baptist Church, 810 Ruskin Drive. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for Artist Circle and $20 for general admission. They are available at centralpatickets.com.

Peg McKamey Bean, a member of the original group, said the final concert will be held Nov. 23 at Knoxville Civic Auditorium, which is about 20 miles from the group’s hometown of Clinton, Tennessee.

According to the Singing News Magazine, the printed voice of Southern Gospel Music, the McKameys have had more No. 1 hits than any other Southern Gospel group.

“We’ve had 36 No. 1 songs,” said McKamey Bean. “That’s how the Lord has blessed us.”

She rattled off the titles for a few of them and the year they were on the Singing News list of top hit songs during a telephone interview.

Among them are “Who Put the Tears (in the Eyes of the Lamb)” (1984), “Getting Used to the Dark” (1987) and “God on the Mountain,” which was No. 1 for five months in 1988.

Other No. 1 hits through the years include: “God Will Make This Trial a Blessing,” “Do You Know How It Feels,” “A Borrowed Tomb,” “Arise,” “Right on Time,” “He Calms Me” and “I Will Trust You Lord.”

McKamey Bean said she is not sure what songs the group will sing from its lengthy repertoire in Altoona.

“We plan it closer to that day,” she said, adding that the McKameys get requests through emails and the mail and do their best to fulfill them. They also take requests during their break at concerts.

The group consists of McKamey Bean, her husband, Ruben Bean, their two daughters, Sheryl Farris and Connie Fortner, their son-in-law, Roger Fortner, and grandson, Eli Fortner.

“Eli, a lot of times, will do solos (during a concert)” said McKamey Bean. She said the Fortners will sing as a trio with Farris sometimes adding a fourth part. McKamey Bean, Ruben Bean and Connie Fortner also form a trio in addition to the entire group performing together.

Through the years, a number of the group’s songs have been written by Farris.

“She’s a dandy songwriter,” her mother said. Farris’ songs include “The Good News” and “I Will Trust your Lord,” which were No. 1 Southern Gospel hits. Among the other songs attributed to Farris are “When He Speaks,” “A Hill Worth Dying On,” “There is Jesus,” “That’s Why There’s a Cross” and “Be Brave.”

McKamey Bean said Farris, who does not live near the others, usually teaches the new songs on the bus. She said sharing ideas, praying with her family and visiting with her daughters has been one of the pleasures of touring.

The group originally started in the 1950s when McKamey Bean and her two sisters, Dora and Carol, began singing as a trio at churches and revivals. Ruben later accompanied them on guitar.

The singing family went full time in 1980 with Sheryl taking some years off to be with her family. Carol McKamey Woodard filled her niece’s spot for most of that time.

“We have traveled millions of miles,” said McKamey Bean, of the group that makes about 130 appearances a year.

They recently sang three times a day for three days at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and then performed two days at Dollywood. She said the response was great with audiences numbering 1,400 to 1,500 people.

But while she said it has “been a joy to travel and sing with family,” the McKameys have decided it is time to park the bus.

“One of the reasons we are retiring is so we can quit traveling,” said McKamey Bean, who was inducted into The Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame three years ago.

During the farewell tour, the McKameys are offering wrist bands and T-shirts for purchase that quote 2 Timothy 4:7. It reads: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course.”

CDs and DVDs of their music also will be available.

None of the members of the group know what the next step is, according to McKamey Bean. But she said she and Ruben are going to take a few months to tie up some loose ends and seek God’s guidance. She said her daughters don’t have specific plans at this point either.

Roger and Eli will probably continue to make music tracks for singers and record with other groups as well.

“Eli plays drums and Roger plays guitar, bass and piano,” she said.

“We will take it one day at a time,” McKamey Bean said. “Whatever the Lord has for us, we will do.”

If you go

What: The McKameys

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25

Where: Calvary Baptist Church, 810 Ruskin Drive

Tickets: centralpatickets.com

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