The Encouragers

Southern Gospel is filled with people who have made an incredible impact through their music. But there are quite a few people involved in this genre whose on-stage product is only a small portion of their legacy. I like to call them “The Encouragers.”

Neil Enloe is an excellent example of this. The impact of his singing and his songwriting is vast; as long as there is a Southern Gospel, there will be singers singing “Statue of Liberty.” But I suspect that the secondary impact he has had is even more vast. I could not count the stories I have heard from singers—and perhaps a journalist or two—whom he has found a way to encourage.

There are others: Michael Booth, Kenna Turner West, Dianne Wilkinson, Pat Barker, and the list goes on. Concerts, recordings, and songs contribute to a legacy, but ultimately, the people you touch are your legacy. And the legacy these writers and singers are leaving is massive.

Who are some of the people in Southern Gospel who have encouraged you?


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22 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. Great post, and a heart amen from me!

    Dianne Wilkinson and Pat Barker have been the two biggest encouragers for me in the last few years. To me, their strongest trait is their enthusiasm and passion toward their craft and gospel music. That enthusiasm is contagious!

    • I knew I was forgetting someone! I should have mentioned Pat, too. He is one of this genre’s biggest cheerleaders.

      • I would agree. Pat Barker is at the top of my list. Neil Enloe is a very close second!

      • Tell you what, I’m so embarrassed that I forgot to mention Pat in my original post that I’m going to go over and edit him in after the fact! 🙂

  2. I’ve also appreciated the encouragement I’ve received in southern gospel music. Being involved as both student and teacher at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music has been a blessing, not only in what I’ve learned, but the friendships it’s built. Ben Speer and the rest of the Speer family, Stephen Hill, Mike Allen, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith, Jack Clark, Harold Lane, Judy Nelon and especially Brian & Allison Speer have been wonderful influences and some of my biggest cheerleaders in all my endeavors. They are all very special to me!

  3. There are several who have personally encouraged me. Rodney Griffin, Mike Speck, Jim Brady, Michael Booth, Dale Forbes, Scott Howard, Gus Gaches, Stan Whitmire, Jason Clark. Dean Hopper. And that’s a short list, or I might be here all day.

    • And how could I forget Pat Barker & Nick Trammell. Duh..

  4. Too many to count, but to name a few:

    Becky Peck, Karen Peck Gooch, Donna King, Kathy Crabb Hannah, Mike & Kelly Bowling, Kenna West, Melissa Brady, and many many more!

  5. Year after year my husband and I would sit in Freedom Hall and we would get just as big a kick out of watching Jason Crabb watching the artists perform as watching the artists themselves.

    We had our own list, and we too called them “Encouragers”. (And yes Pat Barker topped our list as well!!!) They were performers but they could be true balcony people too. Their enthusiasm and love of the music just flowed out of them. Dianne was one of them. I can say that watching her watch the KH perform her winning song that night at NQC was better than watching them sing it!!! It was genuine and could never be mistaken for being anything other than what it was…they just loved the music so much they got lost in it, just like any of the other fans. Yes, they truly have the God-given gift of Encouragement and they ***shared*** it…

  6. The person who has inspired and encouraged me is Libbi Stuffle. To me, she always knows how relate a song to the crowd that’s there. She has been through so much and yet she is still standing. I hope I can be half of the lady she is!

  7. People who have been consistently genuine and faithful over an extended time. There are many, but those who stand out to me and who bless me every time I have heard them sing are Squire Parsons, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, Rodney Griffin, Jeff and Susan Whisnant, the Mckameys, the Primitives, and the Inspirations. I could be here a while, but I do appreciate the sincerity of these people and their Godly testimony.

  8. Gerald Williams
    Buddy Burton
    Junior Shelton

  9. Oh, my…how y’all have encouraged ME this morning! I guess when you love something deeply enough, it’s going to show. I can’t even measure the joy our music had brought to my life. Thanks for a a great blessing today. It would be difficult for me to name the huge encouragers in my life, but they include my Mama (who was an SG pioneer in our area), Roger Bennett, Mark Trammell, Glen and George, Ernie Haase, Joe Roper, Steve French and Arthur Rice, Connie Hopper, Jonathan Wilburn, Niles Borop, Rick Shelton…ALL my songwriter friends, and far too many to count. THANK YOU!

  10. Gerald Wolfe, Danny Funderburk

  11. Jim Brady ….hands down. Our families have been close friends for about 35 years…….since he was jim brady…..and when he became JIM BRADY he stayed the same. That doesn’t always happen. I knew him when he slept in a 5×8 equipment trailer with his brother and all his sisters (5) stage clothes and to see how God has used him along the way is awesome.

    He is very quick with encouragement, a track, a song…..whatever someone needs. Not just to his friends but to those who can offer nothing in return. That’s the true sign of greatness.

    To be an encourager is a great thing. Sometimes people will abuse your generosity but it more often than not is much needed and appreciated. We all can play that role. I appreciate Jim being an encourager in my life.

    There have been many others as well.

    • You know all of these folks mentioned here are tremendous and they also are on my list but one that always encouraged me and kept up with me even when I stopped traveling for 18 years was Anthony Burger. He always made contact with me and tried his best to get me to travel again with a group. He was always a positive influence. Me and my family miss him.

  12. George & Glenn, Gene McDonald, Eric Bennett, Dianne Wilkinson, and you, Daniel Mount, with your team in this blog always encouraging me on many aspects of my Christianity.

  13. A little off-typical:

    Larry Riddle
    Every time this gentleman takes the stage with the Primitives, he always speaks in high respect of Christ. This carries on to the product table. I was quietly looking at their product this weekend, and I hear someone say softly, “Hey, buddy, how are you doing?” The kindness from him as well as the other men in the group just speaks volumes of their character.

    Sheryl Farris
    Much like Mr. Riddle, Sheryl is quick to share the high respect. However, she’s had it tough for the past 5 years. Since Carol Woodard retired, Sheryl’s had to work back into the group and pick up where Carol left. Those were some BIG shoes to fill, and, even when the McKameys’ sound automatically changed, she hasn’t show any other attitude than that of respect with authenticity. I’ve seen her bear a burden with someone at the product table – crying along with them. Someone she knew for less than 5 minutes. That, I believe, is the fulfillment ‘bear ye one another’s burdens’.

    Bryan Walker
    In spite of the fact that he’s sang on national television & traveled to places where hardly any other current SG singer has, he still maintains a humble, yet spirited persona with the Perrys. Sticking with Libbi & Tracy during the past few years has shown the true mark of his character. And, he’s always trying to brighten someone’s mood or overall outlook on life. To have that resolve so early in life is the defining point for which many middle-aged & older people long.

    These are just 3 of “my” encouragers. There are many more. Thank you, Daniel, for this post. I have to admit, when I first saw the title, I thought it was about the singing group from the 90s (the Kramers – Encouragers). 🙂

  14. Danny Funderburk quickly comes to mind. His encouragement after a concert in Anderson, IN, many years ago will never be forgotten. Others are Pat Barker, Gerald Wolfe, Roger Bennett, Brian Free, Jeff and Susan Whisnant and Scott Fowler.

  15. Matt Fouch of Legacy Five. His taking a minute to pray with and for me after a concert meant so much. He had no idea the struggles I had that weekend,but his prayer encouraged me and was a tremendous blessing.

    • Watching the Gaither videos it was always cool to watch Glen Payne whenever someone else was singing. Here is arguably one of the 2 or 3 best lead singers in gospel music history just absolutely loving the performance of another singer. Such an awesome example of the scriptural command to prefer someone else above yourself. Thats an encourager.