Wally Fowler

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Wally Fowler
Wally Fowler.jpg
Fowler in the 1980s
Background information
Birth name John Wallace Fowler
Also known as The Man with a Million Friends
Born (1917-02-15)February 15, 1917
Origin Adairsville, Georgia, USA
Died June 3, 1994(1994-06-03) (aged 77)
Genres Gospel, country
Occupations singer, songwriter
Years active 1935 – 1985
Labels Decca, Starday, Pickwick, Dove, King, Nashwood
Associated acts The Georgia Clodhoppers
The Oak Ridge Quartet
Tennessee Valley Boys

John Wallace Fowler (February 15, 1917 – June 3, 1994), better known as Wally Fowler, was an American Southern gospel music singer, manager, and music promoter and businessman. He founded the Oak Ridge Quartet, a gospel act that eventually became the Oak Ridge Boys; and popularized all-night gospel sings. An accomplished songwriter in both the country music and gospel fields, Fowler's composition "Wasted Years" became a gospel music standard.[1] He was known as The Man with a Million Friends and Mr. Gospel Music.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Born near Adairsville, Georgia, Fowler's father was the cotton king of Bartow County, Georgia until the Great Depression left him broken both in health and financially.[3] Fowler then worked in a florist shop to support the family. He began his professional career at age 18, singing baritone with the John Daniel Quartet from Alabama. The group moved to Lubbock, Texas, where he began to write songs and first sang his popular "I'm Sending You Red Roses" (a No. 2 hit for Jimmy Wakely in 1944) in Dallas. In 1940, the quartet relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where they appeared on the Grand Ole Opry on WSM-AM.

He then struck out on his own, forming a country music group, Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers,[4] which included Chet Atkins on lead guitar. They performed on WNOX-AM in Knoxville, Tennessee and became regulars on Mid-day Merry Go Round. Fowler later formed his Harmony Quartet, which sang in weekly concerts for children at nearby Oak Ridge, which led to Fowler renaming the group the Oak Ridge Quartet.[5] The group consisted of himself, Lon "Deacon" Freeman, Curly Kinsey and Johnny New.[6]

Fowler moved to Nashville, and from 1946-50 became a regular part of The Prince Albert Show segment of the Grand Ole Opry on NBC Radio. In 1948, he launched his first all-night gospel sing, popularizing a format that would blanket the South over the next two decades. Originating from Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium and later taken to other major cities across the region, each show featured many of the day's premier Southern gospel quartets.[7] Fowler's innate promotional genius took gospel music to a much larger audience than ever before.

In 1949, the other three men split from Fowler to form a new group; and he hired an existing group, the Calvary Quartet, to re-form the Oak Ridge Quartet. In 1957, Fowler sold the rights to the "Oak Ridge Quartet" name to group member Smitty Gatlin in exchange for forgiveness of a debt. In 1961, Gatlin formed The Oak Ridge Boys.

In the 1950s, he hosted a syndicated television program, The Wally Fowler Show, featuring Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters, The Speers, The Statesmen and others. He recorded for several labels, but in later years, went into semi-retirement and tended to avoid publicity, although he continued to promote some gospel and variety shows in North Carolina.[8] Among the songs he wrote were Eddy Arnold's first million-selling record, "That's How Much I Love You", and "I Couldn't Believe it was True", recorded by Willie Nelson in 1974.

Fowler was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame in 1997.

On June 3, 1994, Fowler apparently suffered a heart attack while fishing from a dock on Dale Hollow Lake, northeast of Nashville, and his body was found floating in the water.[9]

He was survived by his widow, Judy Moss Fowler, and daughters Faith McCoy and Hope Kimmer.[10]

Album discography[edit]

  • Call Of The Cross 1960 (Decca)
  • Gospel Song Festival 1960 (King)
  • Wally Fowler's All Nite Singing Gospel Concert 1960 (Starday)
  • Victory Thru Jesus 1960 (Pickwick/Hilltop) (by Wally Fowler & The Oak Ridge Quartet)
  • More Wally Fowler All Nite Singing Gospel Concert 1964 (Starday)
  • May the God Bless You Real Good (by Wally Fowler & The Oak Ridge Quartet)
  • Gospel Sing 1967 (Vocalion)
  • Pure Country Gospel 1976
  • A Tribute To Elvis Presley 1977 (Dove)
  • You Will Reap 1978 (Pickwick)
  • A Tribute To Mother 1984 (Nashwood)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "John Wallace Fowler". Southern Gospel Music Association. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  2. ^ "Wally Fowler, Gospel Songwriter, 77" (June 7, 1994), Obituaries, The New York Times, p. B-7
  3. ^ "Wally Fowler". Muse UK Ltd. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  4. ^ "Wally Fowler, Gospel Songwriter, 77" (June 7, 1994), Obituaries, The New York Times, p. B-7
  5. ^ "Wally Fowler". Muse UK Ltd. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  6. ^ "John Wallace Fowler". Southern Gospel Music Association. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  7. ^ "John Wallace Fowler". Southern Gospel Music Association. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  8. ^ "Wally Fowler". Muse UK Ltd. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  9. ^ "Wally Fowler, Gospel Songwriter, 77" (June 7, 1994), Obituaries, The New York Times, p. B-7
  10. ^ "Wally Fowler, Gospel Songwriter, 77" (June 7, 1994), Obituaries, The New York Times, p. B-7

References[edit]

External links[edit]