THE LEGENDARY LEE ROY ABERNATHY
                                       ...Gospel Music Patriarch

I was a young teenage farm boy from North Carolina, already enamored with
Gospel quartet music, when I first heard the amazingly talented pianist, Lee
Roy Abernathy.

During the early 1940s he brought his group, the Four Tones, to WPTF in
Raleigh, North Carolina. When he was hired, apparently the station already
had enough successful Gospel groups broadcasting, so Lee Roy's quartet
had to sing popular and country-western songs, along with one Gospel song during their 15-minute segments.

I had heard many other Gospel music pianists, but not endeared themselves to me like Lee Roy did. He played
accompaniment and sang with the group sang and played, and everyone in the group was extremely talented.

Unfortunately, the Four Tones didn't stay at WPTF very long, but the sound Lee Roy helped create was
absolutely unforgetable.

In January 1945, I enrolled as a student in the Stamps-Baxter School Normal in Chattanooga, Tennessee. If I
thought I loved Lee Roy Abernathy's piano and vocal stylings before, but I discovered that everyone, it seemed,
thought the world of him. He was an established Gospel songwriter, singer, and pianist by then, but he was
especially appreciated for his outstanding arrangements of songs.

THE LEGACY
Lee Roy was born August 13, 1913, to Dee and Clara Abernathy in Atco, Georgia. Dee was a well-known singer,
writer, teacher, and pianist. Literally "born into Gospel music," Lee Roy attended his first singing school in the
arms of his mother three weeks after his birth. He grew up learning the rudiments and harmony from his father.
By age five, he was singing first tenor in the Atco Quartet, standing on a Coca-Cola crate. Five years later the
quartet cut their first record with Columbia.

While still a pre-teen, his singing career came to an end for nearly two decades when impacted tonsils led to
extensive throat surgery. Undaunted, when his sister Velma left the group as pianist, Lee Roy stepped in to that
slot. He began writing, and at fifteen, he joined the his father's Abernathy Quartet which recorded his songs, "I'm
Redeemed" and "Don't Forget to Pray" on the RCA Victor label.

He and his father composed numerous songs, including "Won't We Have A Good Time" and "My Labor Will Be
O'er."

Seeking to expand his talent, he enrolled in the Atlanta Conservatory, taking 30-minute lessons each Saturday
for the next three years, often walking nearly 50 miles to and from his hometown of Canton each week, often
jogging the last 10-15 miles to get home in time for the play of the Men's Bible Class on Sunday mornings.

He paid $5 for each of his conservatory lessons by walking from house to house throughout Canton, giving music
lessons for 25-cents each. At the age of 19 he married Louise Ammons. The first piece of furniture they bought
for their cotton mill village house was a piano, purchased even before they owned a bed!

He listened to both quartet and popular pianists of his day, incorporating many of those ideas into his own
arrangements. He was a natural ragtime player (I have the same love in me). And because he was an incredible
singer, he instinctively became a better accompanist than most others of his day.

He is credited with being the first publisher of Gospel sheet music (his own "I'll Thank My Savior for It" in 1942)
and the inventor of a typesetting system for setting music. Many in Gospel music, already successful in selling
music books, were amazed when he proved he could sell more of his single sheet music copies for 50 cents than
they could of their books for similar prices.

In 1945, he and his wife Louise became the first mail-order piano course ("guaranteed-to-play" Modern Gospel
Piano Course by Mail") which taught thousands around the world. Many performers credit him for success in
Gospel, country, popular and even rock `n roll music.

Other firsts included recording the Speer Family's first record in 1936 and conducting first and only singing
school ever taught on radio over Station WBLJ in Dalton, Georgia.

Stints with the Modern Mountaineers (Bluebird Records), Four Tones, Swanee River Boys, Rangers Quartet,
Miracle Men, and the Happy Two (with Shorty Bradford) only solidified his place in history.

    One of my favorite memories was appearing in concert with the
    Happy Two and the Miracle Men Quartet while I was traveling with
    the Imperials during the mid-1960s. He captivated me then, just as
    he had when I was a lad listening to WPTF in North Carolina.

    Other songs he penned include "Moving Up to Gloryland," "He's a
    Personal Savior," "A Newborn Feeling" and the classic "Everybody's
    Going to Have a Wonderful Time Up There", also called "Gospel
    Boogie," which sold millions of records when recorded by numerous
    artists that included Pat Boone, Johnny Cash and Johnny Mathis.

    And if those classics weren't enough of a reflection of his talent, Lee
    Roy is also credited with writing the nation's first singing commercials
    for such products as Halo Shampoo and B-Brand Insect Spray. The
    most famous was "You'd Better Get Wild Root Cream Oil, Charlie."

    Honors include induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (1978),
    the Southern Music Hall of Fame (1983), and the Georgia Music Hall
    of Fame (1989). In 1984, he received the Pioneer Award, the high
    honor given by the American Society of Composers, Authors and
    Publishers.

Each year, his hometown of Canton, Georgia, continues to hold its
"Annual Memorial Lee Roy Abernathy Singing."

He died May 25, 1993. His wife Louise passed away in 2010.

Clearly, he was considered by many to be one of Gospel music's
greatest piano players, but he was bigger than life in almost
everything he did!

I believe "The Old Professor," as he was often called, did more than
anyone else to bridge the gap between the singing convention days
to the Gospel quartet era. And his influence continues to this day,
including every time I place my fingers on the keyboard.


COMING NEXT...
What was it like to be in a big-time group in what many consider to be the golden years of Gospel
music? Let me tell you what happened when I got a call to join the Stamps Ozark Quartet and how it
changed my life forever!
Read the informative
and revealing
Southern
Gospel News
feature
written by
John Scheideman:
Henry
Slaughter...Southern
Gospel 101.
MyBestYears.com I REMEMBER eColumnist Henry Slaughter has
captivated countless audiences around the globe with his award-winning
keyboard artistry.

During the past six decades he has been associated with some of the top
Christian groups:
  • Stamps-Ozark Quartet
  • Weatherfords
  • Rex Humbard
  • Imperials
  • Bill and Gloria Gaither

But his story is more than national awards and international recognition, and
his well-received autobiography,
In Search of the Pearl of Great Price, first
published in 1980, is the personal account of Henry’s down-home North
Carolina roots, his tragedies, returning to “zero” again and again. It is a story
of music born in a bittersweet mix of life’s valleys and mountaintops.

The book has not been widely available for several years, so we asked Henry
to see if he could find some copies of his autobiography to offer in response
to requests.

This is the book of which
the legendary songwriter Bill Gaither, in his
Foreword wrote, “The question I am asked more than any other is, ‘How can I
get into gospel music as a career?’ Henry’s life is a good example of how one
young lad from the Carolinas pursued that goal. He simply developed his
skills and then waited as the Lord opened doors. His life is a perfect example
of a person letting the Lord open and shut doors…I believe this book will help
show how one pilgrim pursuing a Christian music career has tried to follow
God’s leading through the door-opening-and-closing process.”



THANKS, I THINK I’LL PLAY ONE features 18 incredible songs by the eight-
time Dove Award-winning instrumentalist, including:
  • "The Longer I Serve Him"
  • "Greater Is He"
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WE’VE COME THIS FAR BY FAITH is a double-album on one CD by one of
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Henry and Hazel Slaughter's Tribute - To God Be the Glory CD
In 1973 Henry & Hazel Slaughter celebrated 25 years together with this
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Slaughter Writes - Imperials Sing CD
Jack Hess, Sherrill Nielsen, Armond Morales Gary McSpadden and Henry
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"I'm Gonna Move Up to Heaven"
"Then the Answer Came"
and 9 more timeless classics featuring the priceless harmonies of the original
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Exclusively yours from MyBestYears.com...timeless treasures from Henry Slaughter,
Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame member and five-time winner
of the Gospel Music Association's prestigious Dove Award as Best Gospel Instrumentalist!
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Henry Slaughter's autobiography,
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Henry & Hazel Slaughter,
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Slaughter Writes...Imperials Sing CD
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For a limited time, get 6 Henry and Hazel Slaughter classics:
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  • Henry and Hazel's double-album CD, We've Come This Far by Faith
  • Henry and Hazel's CD, Tribute - To God Be the Glory
  • The 1965 collection, Slaughter Writes - Imperials Sing CD
  • Henry's double-album CD, Great Hymns of Our Time
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