“Eighty years in any business is a long time, particularly in a musical group of any genre. The Chuck Wagon Gang holds the distinction of being the oldest recording mixed gospel group still performing with ties to the original founding members.
The singing group came from humble beginnings in 1935, as the Carters found themselves in Lubbock, Texas, without enough money to buy medicine for a sick child, Effie (who later used the stage name “Anna”). Dave (“Dad”) Carter and two of his children, Lola (stage name “Rose”) and Ernest (stage name “Jim”) journeyed to radio station KFYO in Lubbock seeking live singing employment on radio in order to buy medicine for Effie. They landed the job, with Effie re-joining them after recovering from her illness.
Their popularity in radio quickly propelled them onto the national stage, resulting in a four-decade-long recording relationship with Columbia Records (during which time the Gang became the label’s all-time leading artist with over 30 million albums sold), sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, and inclusion into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
When the original members retired, other family members would step in to carry on the Gang’s signature sound. During periods of time when family members weren’t available, close friends of the family would be recruited. This tradition carries on today, with Anna’s granddaughter Shaye Smith singing alto along with family friends Stan Hill (tenor), Melissa Kemper (alto), Wyatt Austin (bass) and Karl Smakula (guitar). Many long-time fans of the Gang have noted that this current lineup more authentically resembles that of the original than any other before it. Perhaps it is that “signature Chuck Wagon Gang sound” that, after 80 years, continues to draw eager audiences nationwide.”
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