Torch passed to Varnado, Shelnut Jr.

A poster on the Singing News forums asked if Stewart Varnado had bought the group. Yesterday, Varnado replied: [EDIT, 11/6/10: Regrettably, the link seems to be broken, so it has been removed.]

In August of 2007, Randy sold half of the Dixie Echoes to me, and the other half to his son Randy Jr. So, I’m NOT the sole owner. With so many of the older group names going away when the senior members retire, Randy thought it was best to pass the torch now, so that the Dixie Echoes can continue for many years to come. Our 50th anniversary is just around the corner, I’ve now been with the group 10 years, Randy Jr. has been here 19 years, and we plan on carrying it on as long as the Lord intends!

This sort of long-term plan is too often lacking in our genre, so it’s commendable to see succession plans being made (hopefully) years in advance here.

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11 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. The tide of good things being said about the depth of character among the members of the Dixie Echoes is ever rising. This latest move by Randy is yet another installment in the ongoing image of selfless perspective of the group.

    And not only are great things being said about their character, but the talk on the street is that the Dixie Echoes have an awesome singing group. May the God whom they sing about give us all a craving for the integrity that the Dixie Echoes are living out.

  2. I am so happy to see the Dixie Echoes getting positive notices. It’s great when you see a group succeeding with no gimmicks, no smoke and lights, just quality music sung professionally and with feeling. I’m glad to see Stewart and Randy Jr. heeding the call and taking this awesome responsiblity. I know they will continue the great tradition of the Dixie Echoes with class.

    We hear a lot about the lack of young people in Southern Gospel. Though there may be a lack of young fans, which will probably always be the case, there are a number of young people that perform this music, including myself, that desperately want to see the work continue. With the Lord’s help – we will make it!

  3. I am one who really fell in love with the Dixie Echoes at NQC. It was my first time to hear them in a long time and they blew me away. But, we need to be careful about the talk of “gimmicks” and pretending that what they do is this “pure” southern gospel. The whole two mics and piano/bass set up IS the Dixie Echoes’ gimmick. It’s not as though the DE have been singing in this set up for 50 years. But they have carved their niche by switching to this “gimmick” a few years ago. And it is a successful gimmick, and one that has made me a believer out of them. But just like lights and smoke, it’s still a gimmick.

    In my opinion, a southern gospel group cannot survive without a gimmick to separate it from the other fish in this giant SG pond. Whether it be the two mic setup or lights and smoke, gimmicks can be successful.

  4. This is the best news I’ve heard in SG in a long, long time. Stewart is such a vital member of the group. It is almost magic how groups will change their pianist and never seem to miss a lick – but it would be a “huge” adjustment for a group like the Dixie Echoes.

    I hope the SG community help to make #50 special. An evening with the Dixie Echoes is the very best evening you could hope for in SG… PERIOD…


  5. Yes—I’d love to see a 50th Anniversary celebration of some sort, perhaps a live concert (since the Dixie Echoes do live concerts so well!)

  6. How do they do their live concerts, by the way? I know someone in the formative stages of planning a concert and, like me, have never seen the Dixie Echoes in concert. They want to know about the Dixie Echoes’ on stage presence: mostly singing vs. mostly talking; mostly serious vs. mostly comedic; mostly entertainment vs. mostly ministry. Those kind of things.

  7. They may be using a gimmick, but two mics, four guys, and a piano was the way “nature intended.”

  8. Interesting that CML calls what they do a “gimmick”. This is how most of SG started and continues to be popular if done properly like the Dixie Echoes do it. And as evidenced by the lousy sound tracks used by the Kingsmen at NQC, live instruments can add a lot to your sound. Other Southern Gospel groups take note…

  9. My wife, Anita, and I were in Alabama last month because of a funeral, and we got a chance to catch the Dixie Echoes in a church concert while we were there on a Friday night.

    It was one of te best concerts I have ever attended in my entire life – and I have attended many. Randy talked very little, but he weaved their songs through the program so that their message was all connected – and the crowd heard it loud and clear. Though they sang on only 2 mikes, their sound was like a studio mix, and the piano and bass accompaniment was nothing less than superb and fully complete. Nothing else was added – or needed.

    They were stirring, inspiring – and yet downright funny without abandoning their dignity or diluting their message.

    Randy’s words were sincere and heartfelt – and his incredible love for the Lord was in evidence in every syllable.

    Anita had just lost her step-father a few days before, and I saw her Mom and sister sitting there smiling through the tears streaming down their faces as the group sang comforting and reassuring songs about the home God has prepared for us all on the other side. Anita and I were teary-eyed as well.

    It doesn’t get any better than this. They are as good as a group can be – with an attitude and spirit about them that can come only from those who love the Lord with all of their hearts.

    We missed hearing them at NQC because of our schedule, but got to visit some with them, even getting to sit down to dinner with Stewart (and Big Mo).

    Treat yourself to one of their cooncerts whenever you can. You won’t be disappointed.

  10. For those of you who want to see the Dixie’s live, they have a new DVD which is recorded in June and it is live, and it is just the way they look and sound. I bought it at NQC. The same goes –no tracks or other sounds, just them. You will like it.

  11. Two mics, four guys and a piano are far from gimmicks. It takes far more talent to pull off that kind of program then it does to sing with stacks, with full orchestration tracks. We work with DE each year at GOGR as well as NQC, and I have the upmost respect for what they do. This is not gimmicks, this talent shown in a way that few can do and do well this day and time. Kudos to DE, they are top notch.