Lee Roy Abernathy

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Lee Roy Abernathy (1913–1993) was a Southern gospel music musician, songwriter, and performer.

Biography

Abernathy was born on August 13, 1913, in the Atco community of Cartersville, Bartow County, Georgia.

He married Louise Ammons, and they had three children, Hugh, Linda, and Susan.

Music

Abernathy's first musical experience came with his father’s group, the Atco Quartet, at the age of five. His parents instilled a love for quartet music and the tradition of gospel singing conventions, where he learned to read shape notes. He was able to sing harmony with the quartet while standing on a Coca-Cola crate. He studied music under James D. Vaughan, J. M. Henson, and Adger M. Pace.

In the 1930s, he founded the Modern Mountaineers, performing live on Atlanta's WSB (AM). In 1936, he wrote "Good Times Are Coming Soon," a reelection campaign song for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He wrote many gospel songs, including "He’s A Personal Savior", "A Newborn Feeling", and "I Thank My Savior for It All", but his signature song was "A Wonderful Time Up There". Some pastors objected to its jazz beat, which influenced the early career of Elvis Presley. Abernathy disregarded the criticism, believing that he had written the song as a result of divine inspiration. The song was later called the "Gospel Boogie"[1] and was recorded by numerous quartets, as well as Johnny Cash, Johnny Mathis, and Pat Boone. Boone's recording of the song reached number five on the Billboard charts in 1958.[2]

Abernathy wrote "Burning of the Winecoff Hotel" following the tragic Winecoff Hotel fire in Atlanta in 1946. He was a frequent guest of the hotel and would have been at the hotel on the night of the fire, but had gone home when a friend gave him a gasoline ration stamp.

Abernathy became the pianist for the Homeland Harmony Quartet in 1947. He also performed with the Rangers Quartet, Jubilee Quartet, Miracle Men, Happy Two, and Abernathy All Star Quartet. Happy Two appeared on WAGA-TV television in Atlanta beginning in 1951 and continued for seven years.[3]

Political life

Abernathy launched a campaign for Georgia governor in 1958. He finished a distant third in the Democratic party primary behind William Bodenhamer and the eventual winner, Ernest Vandiver.

Death and legacy

Abernathy continued to teach piano and voice lessons until his death on May 25, 1993.[4] He was buried at Cherokee Memorial Park in Canton, Georgia.

He is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. In 1989 he received the Mary Tallent Pioneer Award from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

The "Annual Memorial Lee Roy Abernathy Singing" is held in Canton in his honor.

References

  1. ^ Wolfe, Charles (1981). "'Gospel Boogie': White Southern Gospel Music in Transition, 1945-55". Popular Music. 1: 73–82. JSTOR 853244.
  2. ^ Birnbaum, Larry (2013). Before Elvis : The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 226. ISBN 9780810886285.
  3. ^ McNeil, W. K. (2005). Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. New York: Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 9781135377144. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Lee Roy Abernathy, Gospel Musician, 79". The New York Times. 29 May 1993. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
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