...Extraordinary Gospel Singer

    It was November 1957 after accepting the offer to join the
    Weatherford Quartet as their pianist, that Hazel and I, along
    with our young son, David arrived in Akron, Ohio.  I did not
    know at the time but I would experience the beginning of a
    dramatic and exciting era in my Gospel music career.

    Although I was basically just the pianist for the group I was also
    expected to contribute to the future songs and vocal
    arrangements for them.

    Here we were, in Cathedral of Tomorrow, a mega-church of that
    day and time, with a local daily television program and a
    Sunday program on a small but growing network.
The need was for a Gospel quartet to fill this unique ministry. It would require a versatile
catalog of songs and style of singing. The Weatherford Quartet already met these
requirements when I joined them.

Thankfully, I was able to be part in helping them expand
and deepen their already established ministry in music.

At the center of the sound and style of the Weatherford
Quartet was Lily Fern Weatherford.

Up until that time, most southern-style Gospel quartets
consisted of all male voices. Three groups among the
top-performing groups of those days were exceptions—
The LeFevres, the Speer Family and the Weatherford

The LeFevres used one female and 2-3 male voices.
The second used 2 females and 2 male voices. They
both had great sounds but the Weatherfords were
different. They had the sound of a male Quartet but
with one female voice.  

I came to recognize her exceptional quality from the start. Later, I began to hear it from
our critics and admirers. Lily Fern could sing the tenor part in a male quartet and
sounded like a male tenor should. Although the group included outstanding, legendary
male voices—Glen Payne (who would later found the amazing Cathedral Quartet),
Armond Morales (who would later be with me in the Imperials Quartet) and Earl
Weatherford completing the harmonious blend, it was Lily Fern who gave them their
unique and high-quality sound.

    The proof of this was made known to
    theGospel music world when we
    recorded the RCA Victor album, In
    The Garden. It not only caught the
    attention of the fans and followers of
    Gospel music, but also the other
    Gospel quartet artists. There were
    many "oohs and ahs and wows” from
    our peers.

    The album was a tremendous
    success and established the group in
    the eyes of both the others gospel
    music artists and gospel music
    audiences across the United States
    and Canada.

The recording has become a standard for excellence and as a Gospel singing classic. It
remains so today. Lily Fern was such an important part of this sound.

In her long career singing gospel music almost all of it has been with male voices. She
left the group briefly when she and her husband Earl (the group's leader) began their
family. As much as she didn’t like it, she knew the importance of being at home during
with their children.

During this time, the group employed two different male voices (at two different time
periods) to replace her. They were good, but the group became much like all the other
male quartets and lost their uniqueness. During that time, as she continued to be a part
of the music staff of the Cathedral of Tomorrow.  

I was the church's music director, so I was privileged to produce her solo first album, and
we worked together in solos, trios, and choirs for the church. I found her to be very
professional and always desirous of the highest quality.

To spend such intense time together in a singing group, it is incredibly important for
everyone involved to have the personality and integrity required to work so hard together
with others and enjoy one another's fellowship. Through it all, good times or bad times,
good days or bad, good circumstances and not so good circumstances, victories and
defeats, agreements and disagreements, it takes an extraordinary temperament to make
it all work. Lily Fern had that ability. She was very special at making good memories of
mostly enjoyable times.

For years now, I have expected Lily Fern to retire from all the traveling schedule and
spend her time with her son's and daughter's families, especially with those
grandchildren, but not yet. I asked her why she doesn’t. Her answer was, “I don’t know
what I would do with myself. I love to sing."

Hazel and I get together with her and the group at least once a year at a concert
appearance or a Gaither Homecoming Video taping. Just recently (February 2007) we
joined together in Florida for the Dave Edwards Breakfast Club tour of three cities. As
you may well know we again did a lot of visiting that includes "auld acquaintances" about
where they are and what they are doing.

I REMEMBER so many good times with the Weatherfords. Some we laugh about. Some
we could almost cry over, but in them all we are thankful the Lord brought us together to
share some wonderful moments and spiritual refreshing times. We know now what we
didn’t dare think when we met that we together might make an impact in the competitive
world of Southern Gospel music.

Lily Fern, thanks for the memories. I salute an extraordinary singer, a real "trooper" and
wonderful Christian lady—Lily Fern Weatherford!
"Without a doubt, the
In the
is the best
Gospel album that has
ever been recorded.
Period. It's a classic!"
    Larry Gatlin
    Grammy Award-
    winning Singer
    and Songwriter
Lily Fern, at the center of
the sound and style of the
Weatherford Quartet

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