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PAYNE, GLEN WELDON

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PAYNE, GLEN WELDON (1926-1999). Glen Weldon Payne, lead singer in Southern Gospel music, was born on October 20, 1926, near Rockwall, Texas, to cotton farmers Elmer and Vela Payne. The Paynes farmed in Munson and later Nevada, Texas.

As a boy during the Great Depression, Payne’s passion was Southern Gospel music. While hoeing cotton he learned to tell time from the sun so that he could get home in time to hear the noon broadcast of the Stamps-Baxter Quartet on KRLD. The Paynes, who were Methodists, attended an interdenominational church in Munson, the only church in town. Friday and Saturday night “singin’s” were Payne’s favorite events. Southern Gospel music grew out of shape-note music created to teach musical harmony to rural churchgoers. Shape-note music publishers promoted their music books with radio broadcasts, itinerating quartets, singing conventions, and annual summer “singing schools.” Male quartets—consisting of a lead singing melody, a baritone singing harmony, and a low bass part balanced by a high tenor—dominated early Southern Gospel music. The music is positive and lively, stressing Christian themes, especially deliverance from trials of life and the joy of going home to heaven.

The Stamps-Baxter Music Company of Dallas was the largest publisher of shape-note music in the South. When Payne was twelve, his grandmother wrote a letter to the company on Payne’s behalf. V. O. Stamps gave him a scholarship to attend the three-week-long Stamps Singing School in Oak Cliff, Texas. Payne, along with his father and two family friends, formed the Munson Quartet and sang “at singing conventions in small towns like Terrell, Wills Point and Royse City.” Payne attended the summer singing schools for four summers beginning in 1939 throughout high school. In 1944 the Stamps-Baxter Music Company hired Payne to sing weekday mornings with the Stamps-Baxter Quartet on KRLD, and he moved to Dallas.

World War II imposed a break in Payne’s singing career. In 1945 and 1946 he was in the United States Army and served with the Eighty-sixth Blackhawk Division in the Philippines after which he went to work for the Stamps Quartet Music Company and sang baritone for the Harley Lester Stamps Quartet and Stamps All-Star Quartet. He also taught at Stamps in addition to singing. By the early 1950s he assumed the lead part in the Stamps-Ozark Quartet in Wichita Falls, Texas, and sang “every night” at schools, churches, lodges, on the courthouse lawn, or even in a cotton field. Empowered by technological advances in recording, radio, and television, Southern Gospel music achieved the height of its popularity in the post-war years. Payne recalled that “the newly invented tape format” allowed the group to pre-record their morning KWFT broadcasts and perform farther from home. They enjoyed success and even opened for acts such as Eddy Arnold and Elvis Presley. But when drought hit the Panhandle in 1956, opportunities for performances dried up, KWFT dropped the daily show, and the Stamps-Ozark Quartet disbanded.

While Payne pondered what to do next, in 1957 Earl Weatherford invited him to join the Weatherfords who were singing in Rex Humbard’s mega-church in Akron, Ohio. Thousands attended Humbard’s church, the Cathedral of Tomorrow, and tens of thousands more watched on television. While living in Ohio, Payne met and married Van Lua Harris on November 30, 1957. They had two daughters and a son. In 1959 the Weatherfords recorded the album In the Garden, highly renowned as one of the outstanding albums in all of gospel music. In 1963 Weatherford left Humbard’s church to go on tour, and Payne formed the Cathedral Trio with former Weatherford members Danny Koker and Bobby Clark. The trio became the Cathedral Quartet with the addition of bass George Younce. For the next thirty-five years Payne and Younce were the core of the Cathedrals, while younger tenor and baritone members came and went.

The Cathedrals left the Humbard organization in 1969 and struck out on their own. The 1970s were difficult, because younger audiences were turning to contemporary Christian music. But the group’s popularity took off again when Bill Gaither included them in his annual Praise Gatherings. Even the young people at the Praise Gatherings enjoyed the Cathedrals. George Younce speculated that they had awakened in young people “long-forgotten memories of dinners on the ground and church with Grandma.” At the Nashville Music Week in 1977, the Cathedrals won four Dove Awards for best song, album, single, and group. Over the next two decades they won Dove Awards on seven occasions. Throughout their career, the Cathedrals produced seventy-one albums. Payne personally received eleven Singing News Fan Awards. The Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame inducted Payne into its membership in 1993. In 1995 he was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, and the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame so inducted him in 1997. Payne performed with the Cathedrals to the end of his life, participating in their 1999 farewell tour. He died of liver cancer at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, on October 15, 1999. He was buried in Williamson Memorial Gardens in Franklin. His solo albums Forever I Will Sing and Out Front were released posthumously in 2000. In a survey conducted after Payne’s death, which asked Southern Gospel fans to list their favorite Southern Gospel music groups, the Cathedrals received the highest number of responses.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

“Glen Payne, Inducted 1993,” Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame (http://www.tgmhf.org/hall/hall.php?page=payneg), accessed October 28, 2010. James R. Goff, Jr., Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002). Jim Goff and Danny Jones, “Southern Gospel Music Mourns the Loss of Another Pioneer: GLEN PAYNE 1926–1999,” Singing News (December, 1999) (http://www.singingnews.com/ Southern-Gospel-News/11609840/), accessed October 25, 2010. Michael P. Graves and David Fillingim, eds., More Than “Precious Memories”: The Rhetoric of Southern Gospel Music (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2004). Glen Payne and George Younce, with Ace Collins, The Cathedrals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998).

Roy Ledgerwood

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Roy Ledgerwood, "Payne, Glen Weldon ," accessed October 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpaad.

Uploaded on June 3, 2015. Modified on October 25, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.