Almost Statesmen, Part 1: An Interview with Asbury Adkins

The glory days of the Statesmen are now the stuff of legend. We play back the voices of Big Chief, Jake, Rosie, Denver, Doy, and Hovie on old LPs, and watch the few grainy black-and-white video clips that have survived on YouTube.

Yet to this day, there are men still alive who had to turn down a bunk on the Statesmen bus. In this series, we’ll visit with three of them and listen to their stories.

Asbury Adkins

Asbury Adkins grew up in Wayne, West Virginia. It was a highly musical region—he was a cousin of the original Toney Brothers, a distant cousin of Rebels tenor and Booth Brothers founder Ron Booth, and a distant cousin of Harold Lane—all of whom lived in that area.

In Huntington, West Virginia, he sang with the Dixie Melody Boys, the Gospel Harmony Boys, and the Reporters. (This Dixie Melody Boys was the group from which Ed O’Neal’s group got its name). He also sang briefly with the Suwanee River Boys.

After Denver Crumpler suddenly died, Cat Freeman came back briefly. Hovie Lister wanted a tenor along the same lines as Crumpler. “I sounded like Crumpler,” Adkins recalled in an interview with SouthernGospelBlog.com, “so Hovie offered me the job. Before he got Rosie [Rozell], a few of us tried out. But I wasn’t able to take it because of family issues.”

“I would have given my eyeteeth to sing with them,” he recalls, with a touch of wistfulness and nostalgia in his voice.

Here is a video of him singing decades later—long after the prime of most tenors:

After singing with his brothers for several years in the Adkins Brothers Quartet, he co-founded the Colonial City Quartet with baritone Tim Campbell and bass Ralph Linkous. He now sings with his sons in the re-formed Adkins Brothers Quartet. “I still sing the top tenor at 81,” he said, and he’s going strong—”I can still hit the high notes when I want to.”

Coming up: Part 2 (Ben Harris) and Part 3 (Bobby Clark)!


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25 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Okay…I am curious Mr Interviewer, is Asbury related to Dean and Will Adkins???

    • He certainly is – he’s Dean’s uncle.

  2. Love this! So interesting.

  3. I got to meet and talk with Mr. Adkins at the sing in Mt. Vernon, OH, four years back (http://www.southerngospeljournal.com/archives/305). He was very interesting to talk to and just exuded a great love of singing and gospel music.

    I love these kinds of stories and interviews. It really makes me appreciate those who came before us.

    • It’s been four years, now?

      I was there, too, and I believe I spoke to him briefly as well.

      • I can’t believe it’s been four years, either. It seems like a lifetime ago, especially having not sung so much as before.

        By the way, you mentioned that Mr. Adkins was born in Wayne, WV. If you ever meet anyone from Wayne, they are actually from “Out Wayne.” They even have those little oval car window stickers that say “OW” on them.

        I did not know he was related to Harold Lane, but I did know he had sung with the Gospel Harmony Boys. They had a reunion sing a couple of years ago and he sang there really, really well.

  4. My father was an old shape note singing school teacher and singer. For as long as I can remember, the name Asbury Adkins was mentioned in our home from time to time as one of the finest tenors to ever grace a stage. Asbury is not only a fine talent but also a warm and gracious man.

    As a current member of the Gospel Harmony Boys, we count it an honor that Asbury Adkins is still “one of us”.

    Scott Brooks

  5. Wow, this was interesting. It’s amazing how well he can sing considering his age. Good stuff, Daniel.

  6. NOW THAT IS SOUTHERN GOSPEL!!!
    JEB

  7. Hidee Daniel,
    Thank you for this story! I love it!

  8. Thanks Daniel for the insightful article, and as you stated, Asbury is my uncle. He is also a fine Christian man.

    • Thanks! One question – did I remember correctly that Harold Lane is a distant relation? I’m pretty sure that’s what he said, but it was the one point upon which I was least certain.

      • Daniel,
        Yes, Harold Lane is a distant cousin. In Wayne County, WV everybody is distantly related (just kidding).

      • Okay – thanks!

  9. Alright, so Mr. Adkins here is pretty amazing! I am 24 years old, and just want to say that there’s just nothing like hearing some of that “old” tenor; and I say “old” because let’s face it, no tenor these days sound like this at all! Tenors of the older days just had that sweet, smooth voice about them. I loved listening to this! I’m not knocking the current tenors of today because there are many great ones out there, but they could learn a lot from guys like Mr. Adkins, Rozie Rozell, and so on!

    • I’m sure there are male voices today that could do that – they’re just not in our genre.

      Imagine, if you will, a quartet with a voice like that on the one end, a voice like Pat Barker’s on the other, and a voice like Jimmy Blackwood’s at lead, and a voice like Gerald Wolfe’s at baritone.

      If they rehearsed extensively, to match vibrato, phrasing, and other key ingredients, that could potentially be the best quartet Southern Gospel has ever seen.

      • That sounds like a match-up that could happen at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion (from what I hear; I’ve only seen clips online).

      • Oh man that would definitely be the best!!! I can’t even imagine how awesome that would be! Now if there were only some way we could make this happen haha

      • I know! But to reach full potential, those four would have to spend a fair amount of time rehearsing together, to match vibrato, placement, and everything else – scrap iron wouldn’t show off half of their potential together!

      • oh yeah, definitely a lot of practice would be needed, but they could do it! It’s bad we are talking about this cause now I really want to hear that!

      • Me, too!

  10. Daniel:

    Great video. Have attended many Colonial City gospel concerts. Always looked forward to seeing Asbury singing with the group years ago. Alwasy a treat when he now on occasion happens along to sing one or two songs. Great tenor! Great man of God!

  11. I sang baritone with the Adkins Brothers for about three years and don’t think I heard Asbury make even one mistake! And let me add…they are good christain men that I couldn’t have spotted any fault in their lives even if I had wanted too.
    Good christain men that can sing with the very best! It was my dream come true to sing with these brothers. Health reasons forced me to have to leave the group…(they got sick of me,hehehe).

    • Jerry – that is so neat! It is always really cool when someone who’s traveled with a group can say that about their group members.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Almost Statesmen, Part 2: An Interview with Ben Harris | SouthernGospelBlog.com - [...] this series, we’re visiting with three of them. You met Asbury Adkins last time. This week, let’s [...]
  2. Almost Statesmen, Part 3: An Interview with Bobby Clark | SouthernGospelBlog.com - [...] met the first two, Asbury Adkins and Ben Harris. This week, let’s [...]