Towler, Charles 1988-12-09

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Charles Towler reviews the history and business of Gospel music singing in the U. S.

General Interview Information

Interviewee Name: Charles Towler

Additional Parties Recorded: None

Date: December 09, 1988

Location: Cleveland, Tennessee

Interviewer: Richard J Mason

Length: 1 hour 25 minutes


Tape 1, Side 1: [two minute "chit-chat" about cotton farming before interview], Towler, Charles, Senior Music Editor of Tennessee Music Publishing Company, James D. Vaughan Music Company, We began management of in 1965, became owner in 1969, Steps in acquisition, 1960’s Keefer Vaughan son of James Vaughan died, Sold to members of Statesmen Quartet, Blackwood Brothers, Quartet, Stamps Quartet of Dallas, Marketing director here wanted the recording label (Skylight label), Had to buy all of James D. Vaughan for label, Bernard Dixon and some partners made the acquisition, Tennessee Music Company started in 1931, Denominational origins in Church of God about 1886, First printing about 1920, Otis McCoy of Vaughan Company, Church of God Minister, Founded Tennessee Music Company for song books, Branched into hymnals, choral and instrumental, Use trade name "Tennessee Music Company" to be non-denominational, Degrees/qualities of music publishers, James D. Vaughan- exceptional, dedicated Christian, studious, Formed summer music normals, First radio in Tennessee in Lawrenceburg, moved to Nashville, Male quartet touring to promote, Every southern gospel publisher studied under Vaughan, His male quartet used alto and 1^st tenor style, others followed, Shaped-note method of Virginia, Showalters, Rubichsens, Keefers, Seven different tones of scales associated a shape with sounds, German settlers of mountain Virginia developed, Seasonal singing schools for 10 days, My music background, Accordion and piano as child before singing school at age 18, Geographic area of shaped-note singing, Lower Virginia to New Mexico, Rural in nature due to culture, economy, Northern United States involved more with European music, Shaped-note comes from folk culture, 1920’s to 1940’s, V. O. Stamps on radio, peak in late 1930’s, Died about 1941 same as James D. Vaughan, Vaughan Memorial Sing 4th Sunday in September at Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, Community-based gospel singing, Frank Stamps and Baxter Stamps competitive, Community-based entertainment, not doctrinal, Sing for recreation, use gospel-based songs, Sacred Harp Company and our Convention Singing Contrast, Differ in sound, Otis McCoy’s mother was a Denson, strong in Sacred Harp, In Anniston, Alabama and still performs at age 92+, Rules of harmony- more 4 melody not counterpoint/dissonance, We influenced more by European and harmony, Fourths and fifths, almost Oriental sound, Sit in circle or square, Boshers Publishing Company developed to sell books, No new material since 1800’s, Origins of convention singing of gospel music, Folk art, with limited training, Albert ?Brobley wrote "I’ll Fly Away", used by bluegrass to Boston Pops, Now is gospel quartets, community-based, rules of harmony, self-taught, Writers more skilled in music than 50 years ago, "Singing News" people, 95% unskilled in music, Weekend conventions, some young people sing Sacred Harp, Decline in convention gospel music last 40 years, V. O. Stamps died, Decline in rural economy, more urban, television, Fewer county-organized conventions, more regional/state.

Tape 1, Side 2: How quartet replaced convention, Decline of singing schools, fewer people, Transition from participant to spectator, Transition from rural to urban, more concert setting, Quartets feel closer to group than own family, Song writers who influenced, Albert ?Brobley, Luther Presley of Arkansas, J. M. Henson of Georgia, A. J. Showalter of Vaughan, John Vaughan (unrelated) of Athens, Georgia, died about 1915 almost "pre-Vaughan", Hartford Bartlett, Argel? Pace, editor of Vaughan for many years, Black writers, Cleta Darius?, Some cross-over of negro spiritual with gospel singing, White writers imitated- Presley in Arkansas, Coates in Mississippi, Blacks still sing in shaped-note tradition, Sell Vaughan books in southern states and Ohio, Kent State University in Ohio- symposium, Statistics in 1920-1940 period, Stamps Baxter sold about ¼ million of everything twice a year, Promoters were Presley in Arkansas and Wilson in Chattanooga, Some Vaughan copies sold 1 million, Music Schools just pay for self, main business in song book sales, Music journal "Vaughan Visitor" in 1920’s, Archives at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Microfilm almost complete files of Vaughan material, Stamps Baxter interviews, Singing school equipment, Gospel Music Hall of Fame a proposal in Nashville, Tennessee, Convention gospel music- denominations started to "look down on", Unethical/hypocritical people involved, No longer religious but for performance, churches lost members, Primary reason is performers abandoned church to preserve singing, I know both sides as church pastor and music advocate, Two years ago he resigned church position to get more involved with singing, Shaped-note singing (again), Mennonites spread it to Canada and Prairie View Press in Alberta, Dorsey Yarborough and Stamps Quartet in Ohio to southerners, Most active singing is in Alabama due to Spears and Baxter and leaders, Of our 5-6 sales reps, majority sold by Alabama rep, National and state level organized for convention singing, County structures in Alabama and Georgia, About 1936 Andrew Pace of Alabama suggested national, Just finished 3-year "fight" on by-laws and constitution, Loosely run individualistic group after 58 years, He proposed year-round, not just one weekend a year, Songbook publishers play major role and source of friction, Current and past president on board, Smaller publishers rotate material, Seven publishers cover meeting expenses, By-laws changes.

Tape 2, Side 1: Convention singing in decline?, Church of God committee also asked him, In general a decline but a few have more interest, Florida in decline, Blairsville, Georgia 5 sessions/year and young people, Unless a ground-swell will die out, Best schools, Cleveland, Georgia, Boaz, Alabama, Cumberland Valley, Lebanon, Tennessee, Stamps Baxter in Nashville trying to start one, Also in Texas, Mississippi, and Kentucky, Affect on music publishers, Not main business of Vaughan Music Company, only 10%, More harm to Stamps Baxter, Tennessee Book Company taking steps, Diversify book to be more universal, Song mix of older books, New songs, Currently popular of gospel singers, Stamps Baxter still uses old system, We also have a ministry with churches more than them, Our Vaughan book is for strictly convention use, "After Beat" supplement, In 1920’s from German town band influence, Style most emphasized by Stamps Baxter, Music style (again), Alto and male soprano on treble cleft, Recording studio difficult to mike the choir for full sound, Song writers (again), He has written a few songs, developing both words and music, Best ones he developed words and music together, Dorsey Yarborough says it comes both ways, He scribbled thoughts- elusive ones not "keepers", Best ones stay in your mind and work at refine it, Couple of times- 30 minute development, Vaughan Music Company current structure, One division and 2 music editors, Mike does choral, Delton Alford head of department but limited duties, Camera, printing, shipping, etc in other departments, Sales: 15,000 Vaughan books and 100,000 Tennessee books, Misses topics and review, Interviewer talked to about 20 people before you, mostly folk participants, At Stamps Baxter, Marian ?Roxy expert since in office with Arthur, Otis McCoy good source for Sacred Harp and Vaughan, Founded Tennessee Music, lives in Anniston, Alabama, Others in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee area, Old judge- Oddis Knipper, he sees once a year, Oliver Jennings in middle Tennessee, (ends after 25 minutes).

Tape 2, Side 2: Blank

Range Dates: 1900-1988

Bulk Dates: 1920-1988

Access Information

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