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Memphis represented at Gospel Hall of Fame inductions

January 20, 2011

Memphis will be well represented at the Gospel Hall of Fame inductions on Monday as Johnny Cash and DeGarmo & Key join the ranks.

The Gospel Music Association will induct four artists in total into its Hall of Fame on Monday. In addition to Cash and DeGarmo & Key, the Golden Gate Quartet and Bill “Hoss” Allen also will be recognized at the induction ceremony in Hendersonville, Tenn. Tom Long, Chairman of the Hall of Fame, commented that “all come from different cultures and backgrounds but have helped elevate gospel music to a much higher plateau throughout our universe which is in need of good news more than ever.”

Johnny Cash’s recent induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame is a return to the legendary country singer’s roots.  Although known primarily as a country artist, Johnny Cash grew up listening to gospel and counted it among his biggest influences. When he first auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun Records in 1954, Cash billed himself as a gospel artist.  The label quickly decided that he would be country singer instead, but he never forgot his early love of gospel. In the late 60s, Cash returned to the gospel scene to help himself overcome his drug addictions. Throughout the course of his career, he released more than a dozen gospel albums.  By the time of his death in 2003, Johnny Cash had also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Fellow inductees DeGarmo & Key helped define the Christian Rock genre at the height of their popularity in the 80s. Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key grew up together in Memphis and founded their group in 1978. The Grammy winners worked to make the gospel rock genre more popular and accessible to those who were originally skeptical of Christian bands. They were successful, as DeGarmo & Key was the first Christian Rock group to have a music video aired on MTV. The group reunited in 2007 to perform at TLC Church in Cordova.  Dana Key passed away in June of last year.

The Gospel Music Hall of Fame was created in 1971 to recognize artists who have made meaningful contributions to the gospel music genre. To date, more than 150 solo artists and groups have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Recent inductees include Dolly Parton and Dr. Bobby Jones.

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