News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Still singing
for the Lord

Spiritual Harmoneers celebrate
47 years of making music

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2468

Samuel Jones of Hillsboro was still a teen when he started a gospel group nearly five decades ago with classmates.

Now 66, Jones never stopped making music with The Spiritual Harmoneers. Jones said the group is one of the area's oldest.

"By God's grace and mercy, we're still singing," he said.

He is the only original member still with the group.

The Spiritual Harmoneers' 47th anniversary will be at Mallard Creek Primitive Baptist Church, 16754 Alabama 20, Hillsboro, on Saturday at 5 p.m. The group invites others to sing for this free event.

Also, the group will be in concert at North Alabama Baptist Academy in North Courtland on Sunday at 5 p.m. Special guests will be The Gray Sisters; The Orr Sisters, who are daughters of Harmoneers' member Nelson Orr; and Marcus Davidson.

Jones said his motto is "stay humble," and that philosophy helped him survive ups and downs. He said he always believed singing was his way to serve God, no matter if some expenses came out of his pocket when offerings were small.

Difficult to keep musicians

Jones said it was especially difficult to keep musicians. They would play a while and drop out. He said he prayed and kept praying.

He said God answered his prayers in part through his own family. His sons, Norris Jones, who has played with several professional singers and performed for a U.S. president, and Freddie Jones, also an accomplished musician, are now members. Jones' 11-year-old grandson B.J. Cohn is the group's drummer.

Other members of The Spiritual Harmoneers are Terrell Owens, Joe Young, Joseph Stallworth and Lonnie Shepherd.

Jones said it was not easy keeping the schedule of traveling and singing on weekends while working other jobs. He was a farmer until he began working for Fruehauf Corp. Jones said he also worked for the company's later owners, but after being injured when an elevator fell, he had to go on disability.

Jones said the group was packing up after singing in Chattanooga when a man who had followed them from concert to concert told him, "You know you could be making a lot more money."

Jones said he told the man he could make money, but money would not save his soul.

He said The Spiritual Harmoneers once had a contract offer but backed out when the company wouldn't let the group control the schedule. He said they did not want to travel full time.

"The Lord has been good to us. We've been blessed," Jones said.

He said that original members still living but no longer singing are Wallace Swopes, Leo Smith and Elmo Watkins.

The Spiritual Harmoneers has two CDs and is planning a third. Performances have taken the group all across the Southeast and to Detroit, Jones said.

Admission at the church program will be $6 for adults.

For more information, call 345-0969.

If you go

What: The Spiritual Harmoneersí 47th anniversary

Performances: Mallard Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Saturday, 5 p.m.

North Alabama Baptist Academy, Sunday, 5 p.m.

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