Singing on the Mountain
The day before the annual Grandfather Mountain Sing, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains chain--the oldest and highest east of the Mississippi..one North Carolina newspaper headlined,'Many thousands Expected Sunday at annual 'Singing on the Mountain.' Accompanying the 1955 story were two pictures: the Johnson Family Singers, on the left, and to the right, 94 year old Reverend Shelby Gragg, who had sung and delivered a mountainside sermon at nearly every annual meeting. 'Singing on the Mountain'features groups such as the Johnson Family Singers and listeners like Shelby Gragg,' the article read. Kenneth, eldest of the Johnson children, was able to attend the Grandfather Mountain Sing;however, he could not attend the RCA Victor sessions in Nashville, because of student-pastor duties during his senior year in the Divinity school at Duke University. Several years later, he would write the definitive history of the family, 'The Johnson Familly Singers: We Sang for Our Supper.' (Jackson, MS University Press of Mississippi, 1997) Steve Sholes, producer of this series for RCA Victor, arranged for an illustrious group of musicians to accompany the family in these Nashville recordings: Charles Grean, leader-bass;Chet Atkins, electric guitar; John Gordy, piano and organ;Jack Shook, rhythm guitar; and Jerry Byrd, steel guitar. Our father 'Pa' Jesse Johnson, played his old familiar guitar and sang wonderful bass, and the brothers, Bob and Jim, took dueting to a new high. Mother,with Betty took their turns as well, but it was Daddy's mellow bass singing and his readings that took the day. 'Pa', Jesse was a popular radio announcer at WDIX in Orangebur, South Carolina for more than 30 years following the Grandfather mountain Sing, always ending his morning programs with Betty's sweet rendition of 'May God Be With You.'