Dave Carter was only trying to earn money to buy medicine for a sick daughter in 1935 when he asked if he and two of his other children could sing on the radio in Lubbock, Texas.
Little did he know that the singing engagement would begin the formation of The Chuck Wagon Gang, a country gospel quartet that continues to flourish after 75 years in the business.
The little girl who was sick became known as Anna and sang alto for years in the group. Now, her granddaughter Shaye Smith sings the alto part and is owner/manager of The Chuck Wagon Gang, The quartet is known as the oldest recording mixed gospel group still performing with ties to the original founding.
(Courtesy photo)Members of The Chuck Wagon Gang are (from left) Stan Hill, Shaye Smith, Julie Hudson and Jeremy Stevens. They will perform at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Park at Morrisons Cove.
The group will sing at the four-day 37th annual Pennsylvania State Singing Convention that begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at The Park at Morrisons Cove in Martinsburg and ends with The Chuck Wagon Gang's performance at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 12.
In a telephone interview from her home in North Carolina, Smith said she did not know much about the group growing up because her grandmother left it when Smith's grandfather, Howard Gordon, died in 1967. Gordon was the group's guitar player. After his death, her grandmother married Jimmie Davis and sang in his trio.
"My parents weren't that involved," she said. "I just got little bits and pieces of information on The Chuck Wagon Gang."
If you go
What: Pennsylvania State Singing Convention
When: 6 p.m. to midnight Aug. 9; 1 p.m. to midnight Aug 10 and 11 with kids' shows at 10 a.m. Aug 11; 10 a.m. with last show at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 12.
Where: The Park at Morrisons Cove, Martinsburg
Admission: Free, take lawn chairs; concessions available
It was when she started singing with the group in 1993 that Smith learned about the influence of the group and her grandmother on America.
"I didn't realize how many people's lives Grandmother touched. Millions and millions of people." Smith said. "I wish she would of talked about it, but she laid it to rest and moved on to a different season of her life."
Smith's great-grandfather Dave Carter and his children sang for radio station KFYO in Lubbock for about year before switching to WBAP in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the most powerful stations in the state. They sang there five days a week for 15 years. The Chuck Wagon Gang branched out to touring and eventually recorded 408 songs over 40 years. Overall, the group has 800 songs in its repertoire, Smith said.
She did not come on board until 1993, when her Uncle Roy Carter asked her to help the group out. He needed a soprano.
"It was not my style of music," said Smith, who was in her early 20s at the time.
She was a vocal major in college and has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal performance and a Bachelor of Music degree in choral conducting.
She said her repertoire consisted of classical and choral music.
When she agreed to join The Chuck Wagon Gang, it was only to be part time and it soon turned into a full-time position.
The married mother of three now sings alto and takes her 11-month-old daughter, Chloe, on the road. The boys, Ben and Noah, usually stay home with their father, Andy.
Smith said The Chuck Wagon Gang is on the road about 48 weekends a month.
All the group's songs are of the country gospel genre, which is basically voices with a guitar accompaniment.
"It's old-fashioned traditional gospel, Smith said.
While The Chuck Wagon Gang will be the finale of four days of music featuring 150 gospel groups, soloists and duets, other well-known gospel performers are in the line-up.
Taking to the stage at 8 p.m. Aug. 9 will be Ivan Parker, a former lead for the Gold City Quartet.
Steve Aungst, organizer of the festival that is sponsored by the Vicksburg Quartet of Duncansville, said Parker sings in the Gaither Homecoming videos.
On Aug. 10, the Down East Boys from North Carolina will sing. The group's song, "I Won't Trade My Crown" came in No. 13 on the Singing News Gospel music chart.
The Blackwood Brothers of Memphis, Tenn., will be on stage Aug. 11. Aungst said Jimmy Blackwood is a former member of the Stamps Quartet, who sang backup for Elvis Presley.
Aungst is expecting a full house.
"The crowds are bigger than ever [for the sing]. Big names bring in the people," he said.
Aungst said a group called the Inner Circle provides support to bring in the popular singers. And while the Vicksburg Quartet no longer performs, some of its former members volunteer to make the festival possible. They include Jake Snyder, Dr. Keith Eicher, Dick Bower, Keith Little and Terry Hershberger.
Aungst said the men will continue to host the convention as long as possible.
"People enjoy it," he said.