Harold Gilley passes away

Former Palmetto State Quartet bass singer Harold Gilley passed away yesterday. He had been in declining health for some time. A visitation and funeral service will take place on Saturday in East Stone Gap, Virginia; a graveside service will take place on Sunday. An obituary posted on the Kingsport Times website offers details.

Many of his fellow performers posted tributes on Facebook, including these:

  • “What an incredible voice and was a very kind gentleman. My prayers go out to his family.” – Pat Barker
  • “I loved Harold as a friend and bass singer . . . we laughed a lot.” – Duane Allen
  • “We have lost one of the greatest talents Gospel music has ever known. Like the many individuals he imitated, Harold was a unique character! Some of my favorite quartet stories are either about or were told by Harold. For whatever reason, his time in the spotlight came later in life and was far too brief. I had the pleasure of traveling and singing with him on two different occasions, once when he filled in with the Florida Boys and later for a brief time with the Blackwood Quartet. … Praying for the Gilley family tonight. You will be missed, my friend!” – John Rulapaugh

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6 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. Harold Gilley really was one of gospel music’s greatest talents. Definitely a colorful individual. I have a lot of fond memories going to see Palmetto State Quartet growing up, as they came around north Georgia area very frequently during the 90s. There have been very few singers that can make a big splash in gospel music in just a few short years, but in 3 years with Palmetto, Harold established himself one of the best bass singers of any era. Harold could do a lot of impressions, but he was at his best when he was himself. No one could touch him in those days. He was a great songwriter too. He was a very nice man, and he took the time to make this 11-12 year old boy who was amazed by all the fancy-dressed quartet singers feel good, as did all the Palmetto State men. They were and still are my heroes. Harold will be missed.

  2. The greatest bass singer that never was…

  3. I remember when I was in my teens hearing Harold sing with some of the local quartets around east tn and him being from Big Stone Gap VA seemed like miles away back then. He would walk up to me and point blank tell me that he was the best bass singer thats ever been. I would laugh at him and go on my way. As time went on I was able to be fortumate enough to be hired by groups like the Singing Americans Dixie Melody Boys Anchormen ect. I saw Harold at the Fort Henry Mall during a Christmas break and we were talking about singing and ect. He then told me that he was one of the best bass singers thats ever been and I finally told him to put his money where his mouth is and get out of Big Stone Gap. I said put your name in the hat Harold and get out here and share your God given talents with America. I said show people how the Lord has gifted you. I had nothing to do with him getting the Palmetto State job but I am so thankful he did branch out and also show people one of the finest bass voices to come along in years. My only wish is if he could have done anything any different it would have been to have got into singing full time a whole lot earlier. Harold was a funny man and there were times that I could just look at him and burst out with laughter. All of the other statements in this post Daniel are exactly correct. Yes Harold will be missed. I wonder if he’ll try to do impressions of bass singers in heaven. Lol.

  4. I had the pleasure of working with Harold at GOGR for two years running, when John Rulpaugh, Andrew Ishee, Jonathan Sawrie, Harold and myself, did a tribute to the Master’s Five Quartet. Harold was an impressive bass singer. He could sing low and he could sing high. He is well known for his impressions of JD, George and the Chief, but Harold was a his best when he was just Harold. He was fun to be with, and had one of the richest voice’s I have ever heard. He will be missed!

  5. Without question one of the best bass singers we have had…he could do it all…I have wondered what would have happened for Harold had he stayed around a little longer in the bigger name circut…I have no probelm putting him in my my top 5 of all time (bass singers)…the impressions were spot on, Ben Harris is 100% correct though…Harold being Harold was tremendous…listen to Palmetto State do “Jubilee’s comin”…

  6. I had the pleasure of meeting Harold at smith Island camp meeting were he led me to The Lord
    And he signed his bible over to me
    He was a great guy