The Inspirations Press Info
A household name in any musical genre, the Inspirations are
models of consistency in the Southern Gospel Music field. The Inspirations
originated in 1964 when Martin Cook, a chemistry teacher at Swain County
High in Bryson City,
and a few of his students and friends held nightly singing
the basement of his home,
purely for fun. Two year later (1966),
singer of Gospel songs and an accomplished pianist,
two of his high school
students (Archie Watkins and Ronnie Hutchins), one of his former
students (Jack Laws) and an eighth grader (Troy Burns) went on the road to
sing in the big leagues of professional Gospel Music.
immediately took Southern Gospel Music by storm and have remained at its
forefront since while achieving tremendous popularity and success.
They make up a four-part harmony quartet with an unmistakable sound,
striking the medium Of traditional Southern Gospel and country.
The Inspirations have traveled nearly five million miles to sing
in seemingly every place from the smallest hamlet in the middle of
nowhere to the major cities. They have sung in almost every state in the
including Alaska and Hawaii,
as well as in Canada. They have also hosted tours to Europe,
the Bahamas and the Holy Land.
The Inspirations have also sung to the Florida
at the North Carolina State Fair and are regulars at the National
the premier Southern Gospel Music event,
Realizing that a sound link should exist between the singing at
concerts and a business structure for a professional singing group of their
the Inspirations set up a regular business corporation in 1971.
And always seeking to adhere to the highest standards of Christian
the Inspirations even went as far as drawing up a notarized list of "by-laws"
in 1973 to rule their conduct as singers and musicians.
They still abide by those guidelines.
It is no
secret that the Inspirations live what they sing.
"Delivering the Goods" to the people through an endless string of
quality songs, has become the Inspirations trademark. Many of their songs
have been automatic hit makers. They have had more songs than any group on
Singing News Magazine (the printed voice of Southern Gospel Music) Radio
Charts. Three were voted Song of The Year: Jesus Is Coming Soon
(called the Song of the Twentieth Century by many Southern Gospel historians
and other knowledgeable analysts), Touring That City and Jesus Is
Touring That City
remained atop the radio charts for five consecutive months and
was immediately followed by yet another Inspirations song,
When I Wake Up (To Sleep No More),
which occupied the top of the charts for eight more months. Jesus Is Mine
dominated the charts for four months. The Inspirations have also
had three Singing News Favorite Gospel
Songs in the past eleven years with I'll
Not Turn My Back On Him Now,
Need To Thank God
I Have Not Forgotten,
in 2002, '03 and '07, respectively.
The Inspirations have
received more than two dozen Singing News Fan Awards, including Favorite
Gospel Group or Favorite Male Quartet eight times. They have also received
and been nominated for many other awards, honors and distinctions, as a
group, a band and individual singers and musicians.
Three happenings significantly boosted the Inspirations rise in
Southern Gospel music: appearing twelve consecutive years (1969-'81) on the
nationally- televised Gospel Singing Jubilee; being featured on the CBS-TV
Evening News in 1970; and becoming the first group to sell more than a
million records on the Canaan label. The Inspirations were also featured
with the Happy Goodman Family in noted gospel music promoter J.G.
Whitfield's "Battle of Songs" that packed arenas across America every
weekend in 1974.
But their greatest accomplishment may be developing their
homecoming "Singing In The Smokies," which they have promoted since 1966 and
grew to become the largest Gospel singing festival in America. The
such homecoming singing was held on the old Sylva-Webster football field in
Sylva, NC. The homecoming eventually became multi-day concerts, and in 1970,
was moved to the Sossamon Airport in Bryson City.
Four years later (1974), the singing relocated to the old, defunct
Bryson City Airport between Bryson City and Cherokee, which overlooks the
Great Smoky Mountains and was renamed "Inspiration Park." The singing then
moved indoors to the plush Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center in nearby
Franklin, NC in 2009. It moved back to Inspiration Park in 2012 where
homecoming concerts continue to be held twice yearly with Independence Week
Week) and Fall Color (third Thursday, Friday and Saturday in October)
Festivals. Most of Gospel music's headliner groups and several of its
leading regional groups traditionally join the Inspirations in appearing at
the Singing In The Smokies.
Cook has been a constant member of the Inspirations. Besides being
its pianist in a full, live band, he is the group's manager and emcee.
The other Inspirations include: Harold Reid, tenor; Matt Dibler, lead;
Roland Kesterson, baritone; Joe Brown, bass; Luke Vaught, baritone, steel
and rhythm guitarist and part-time pianist; and Myron Cook, son of Martin
Cook, upright bass guitarist.
Originating in the heart of God, developed in His word and will,
the Inspirations continue to spread the gospel through their music with
enthusiasm, vigor and an unyielding dedication as they have since their
Inspirations-PO Box 2355-Bryson City, NC 28713--Telephone: (828) 497-
The Inspirations ~ By Alan Kendall
Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Music History
Gospel music saw much change during the decade of the 1960s. Television
brought gospel music before new audiences, with programs such as the Gospel
Singing Caravan, Bob Poole's Gospel Favorites, Singing Time In Dixie, and
the Gospel Singing Jubilee. Longtime names such as the Harmoneers, Sunshine
Boys, and Homeland Harmony entered into either full-fledged or
semi-retirement, and new groups such as the Cathedrals, Imperials, Downings,
and Dixie Echoes were formed. The Happy Goodmans and Kingsmen emerged from
recent obscurity and joined the elite among full-time gospel groups. But
when Jake Hess was once asked what probably changed gospel music the most
during this period, he responded with, "It changed when those boys from
Bryson City came along." The Inspirations not only launched a phenomenon in
gospel music that is still making history over 50 years later, but they
set a unique standard of presentation and character that remains today.
Cook was a high school chemistry and physics teacher at Swain County High
School in Bryson City, North Carolina, who loved to sing and play gospel songs. He was
the original pianist for the Kingsmen Quartet, and had also played for a
regional group called The Silvertones. Around 1964, he began bringing some
of his students to the basement of his house, and they would gather around
the piano and sing gospel songs into the wee hours of the morning.
Among the regular
attendees at his home singings were 15-year old tenor Archie Watkins;
15 year old lead singer Ronnie Hutchins; 19 year old baritone Jack Laws; and
local bass singer Dean Robinson. With this lineup, the Inspirations Quartet
was born. The group began accepting concert dates at churches and functions
in the western North Carolina and North Georgia areas, and soon created a
loyal local following. When Dean Robinson bowed out in 1966, the quartet
hired young 14 year-old bass singer Troy Burns. A few months later, the
group recorded their very first album for the
Mark V label, entitled
Many of their early albums have become collector’s
Just As Long As Eternity Rolls, as only a few
hundred copies of the album were pressed, after which a warehouse fire
destroyed the master tapes for the album.
Combining the gospel harmonies of the Jordanaires and Original Oak Ridge
Quartet with the old timey styles of famous Grand Ole Opry© quartet, the Old
Hickory Singers, the Inspirations formed a sound that was all their own, and
immediately caused gospel music fans to sit up and take notice. Evangelists
Ralph Sexton and Maze Jackson gave them early exposure through their
television and radio programs. They soon caught the attention of J G
Whitfield and Les Beasley. An appearance at one of Whitfield's sings in
Atlanta, GA, proved that the Inspirations were set to take the gospel music
world by storm. Les Beasley began featuring the Inspirations on the Gospel
Singing Jubilee, and eventually the group became regulars on the show. The
members of the quartet dedicated themselves to singing gospel music
together, whenever and wherever they possibly could, and the quartet hit the
road full-time. In 1970, CBS Evening News devoted a seven-minute segment to
the Inspirations. Such an appearance on primetime national television was
the type of exposure gospel groups had only dreamed of at this point.
Inspirations had several songs during this period that became standards. "What
A Wonderful Time" and "When They Ring Those Golden Bells" were
early favorites, but it was the R E Winsett song, "Jesus Is Coming Soon",
that became their signature song. Written during World War II, Winsett died
before ever realizing the song’s enormous success. The Inspirations took the
song to No. 1 on the Singing News Radio Chart. Groups such as the Florida
Boys, Oak Ridge Boys, Thrasher Brothers, and Eleventh Hour Singers soon
followed suit, and a southern gospel mega-hit was born. (NOTE: The song has
been honored by the SGM Industry as the SGM Song of the Century). The quartet
soon signed a contract with Canaan Records, where they remained for the next
groundbreaking achievement of the Inspirations occurred in 1967 when they
hosted their first annual
Singing In the Smokies. What began as a small
local concert that brought more prominent gospel groups to the western
Carolina area blossomed into one of the largest concert series in gospel
music, and became an event that brings millions of dollars to the Inspirations’
hometown of Bryson City and surrounding areas. Bryson City, a town once under a depressed economy,
became a center for tourism, and continues to benefit from the Inspirations’
foresight. After 48 years,
Singing In the
still going strong.
Inspirations also set a standard in gospel music that wasn’t limited to
simply singing. Prior to forming the group, many of the group’s members,
excluding Martin, had never even attended a gospel quartet concert.
Witnessing what went on at many concerts at nearby Asheville City
Auditorium, the group began taking notes on not only the positives, but also
the negatives of the gospel music industry. This resulted in the
establishment of bylaws that set the quartet apart from many of the other
gospel music groups. The quartet strictly lived what they sang, and
conducted business in an untraditional, ethical manner.
personnel changes for the group occurred in 1969, when Ronnie Hutchins left
the quartet and moved to California. Troy Burns left the quartet the
following year. Eddie Dietz was hired as lead singer, and Marlin Shubert was
hired to replace Troy Burns. Neither Hutchins or Burns stayed gone from the
quartet long, and by 1971, the quartet consisted of Martin Cook at the
piano, Archie Watkins, Tenor; Ronnie Hutchins, Lead; Eddie Dietz, Baritone;
Marlin Shubert, Bass; Troy Burns, Bass Guitar; and Jack Laws, Guitar and
1972, Marlin Shubert left the quartet and was replaced by 18-year-old bass
singer Mike Holcomb. With his youth, energy, and ultra-low vocals, Holcomb
immediately became a crowd favorite, soon adopting the moniker, "Ol’ 6’4,
94". He has since become a mainstay of the quartet, with the third longest
tenure of any member in the quartet’s history.
Hutchins left again a year later, and Troy Burns moved to the lead spot.
Hutchins has most likely had the most varied career among Inspirations
members, as he traveled with the LeFevres & Willie Wynn and the Tennesseans.
He then created a group, The Southern Knights which served for almost 10
years as featured and backup
vocalists to country & rockabilly star, Billy "Crash" Craddock.
Television exposure and constant hits kept the Inspirations on top of the gospel
music world during the 1970s. The Inspirations have placed more songs on the
Singing News Radio Top 40 Airplay Charts than any other gospel group. Hits like
"Touring the City", "When I Wake Up to Sleep No More", "A Rose Among the
Thorns", "Swing Wide the Gates", "More to Go to Heaven For" and "Jesus Is
Mine" all climbed to the top rungs of the Singing News charts. The
Inspirations took home 23 Singing News Fan Awards during the 1970s - six for
Favorite Group, twelve representing each member’s vocal position, and two
for song of the year. Archie Watkins was awarded Singing News’ Favorite Male
Vocalist three times.
group’s sound and consistency was not only established by their distinctive
vocal capabilities during this period, but by the unique background
accompaniment given by their musicians as well. Joining Martin Cook during
the 1970s were musicians Jack Laws, Roger Fortner, and Dale Jones. With Laws
on upright bass, Fortner on guitar, and Jones on steel guitar, the
Inspirations created a sound on stage and in studio that has remained
consistent for over 40 years. The gospel music listener knows exactly what
to expect when purchasing an Inspirations recording.
Inspirations vocal lineup of Holcomb, Dietz, Burns, and Watkins remained
unchanged for six years, until 1979 when Eddie Dietz resigned from the
quartet to pursue evangelism. Jack Laws resumed the baritone position, and
Roger Fortner moved to upright bass. Fortner left the quartet in 1981, and
was replaced by Martin’s oldest son, Myron Cook. Fortner’s career has been
varied as well, having since spent his career playing for The Hoppers, The
Talleys, The Greenes, and most notably The McKameys…also continuing to play
guitar on all of the Inspirations studio recordings.
most of the Inspirations’ personnel remained consistent for several years,
the baritone parts switched frequently through the early 1990s. Jack Laws
stepped down from the baritone position in 1986, and Ronnie Hutchins returned
to the group once again. In 1988, the quartet hired young baritone singer
Chris Smith. Smith left the quartet due to health reasons in 1991, and Eddie
Dietz returned to the quartet.
Inspirations continued to place more hits on the Singing News Charts during
the 1980s and early 1990s, with songs such as "The Wonder of Wonders", "Is
That Footsteps That I Hear?", "They’re Holding Up the Ladder", "One Day",
and "It’s Still the Blood". The group released one of their more unusual
albums in 1987, entitled
Going Home for Christmas. The album was a departure
for the Inspirations, featuring full orchestrations and original Christmas songs,
yet the classic "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" remained the album’s most
popular song…perhaps a testament to the style and consistency that the
Inspirations have provided for their fans.
1992, Ronnie Hutchins returned to the quartet for a fourth time, serving
once again as the group’s lead vocalist until 1997, when he left the road
after an extended hospital stay. Replacing Hutchins was Matt Dibler, who
would remain with the group for the next 11 years. Thankfully, Hutchins soon
made a miraculous recovery, and today works as the quartet’s office manager.
The following year, Eddie
Dietz left the quartet to join his family in forming Eddie Dietz and
Mountain Gospel. For the next year, Jack Laws and Ronnie Hutchins rotated
between the baritone parts until the quartet hired Melton Campbell in the
fall of 1999. Both Dibler and Campbell injected youth into the quartet,
as once had been done by the group’s original members some three decades
earlier. Laws continued with the group for a few more years as guitarist and featured
group entered into the 21st century, they continued to be rewarded by their
loyal fans. They were awarded Song of the Year honors in 2002, 2003, and
2007 for their hits, "I’ll Not Turn My Back On Him Now", "We Need to Thank
God", and "I Have Not Forgotten" at the Singing News Fan Awards. They were
voted Favorite Traditional Male Quartet in 2005 and 2006, and Mike Holcomb
once again received Favorite Bass awards in 2002, 2005, and 2008. Martin
Cook and Archie Watkins both were recipients of the Marvin Norcross Award,
and each was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2003
and 2007 respectively. Cook was also inducted into the Southern Gospel Music
Piano Roll of Honor at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in 2005.
lineup of the Inspirations holds firm to their roots, while setting the
stage for another generation. The group as of January, 2014 consists of
Martin Cook – Piano, Jon Epley – Bass, Melton Campbell – Baritone, Matt
– Lead, Dallas Rogers – Tenor, Myron Cook – Upright Bass, along with Luke
Vaught who can play almost any instrument put in his hands.
Inspirations have continued to remain a top-selling recording artist, now
recording for Horizon Records. They still pack churches and concert halls to
capacity. Their presence still commands respect and admiration. The boys
from Bryson City have proven consistency and integrity are still important,
in times where neither have seemed to be viewed as relevant.
Singing News Feature Story:
The Inspirations: An American Treasure
Special thanks to the Singing News © July, 2004 for permission to include this
~ Photography courtesy
of Horizon Music Group
Once again, it's that time of the year when we pause and reflect on this
great country in which we live and all things great about America. As our
nation celebrates its birthday this month, it only seems fitting to pay
tribute to a group that is considered by many to be a national institution
in Southern Gospel Music, and that group is none other than the
This group is all about tradition. From the songs they sing to the way they
live, the Inspirations have carried on a grand tradition of hard work, high
personal standards of living, and taking a stand for the Christian values
and principles about which they sing and live. And here at Singing News, we
think that's something to be celebrated.
what you are reading is actually a surprise story. The Inspirations knew
nothing about this cover feature. It was pieced together by another great
American tradition ~ being nosy! You'd be surprised at all the interesting
facts you can find by snooping around, talking to folks who love this group,
researching old Singing News magazines, and surfing the Internet.
In all honesty, though, their record speaks for itself. Forty-two years (in
2005) on the road, numerous awards and accolades, more than 70 recordings
with more than 700 songs, millions of recordings sold, millions of road
miles, the successful
Singing In The Smokies
annual concerts, television appearances, consistently packed concert halls,
and a reputation without blemish... there's no other like them. The
Inspirations truly are an American treasure.
Trying to come up with one sentence to describe the Inspirations can be a
daunting task. How can you sum up their career in one phrase? Borrowing from
their web site, the following is about as close as one will get: "The
Inspirations are an enthusiastic, sincere, clean-cut group of fundamental
conservative Christian gentlemen with a desire and an objective to witness
to a needful and sinful world through the medium of Gospel Music." That
pretty much sums it up. That sentence describes the Inspirations today as
well as when they began 40 years ago.
This quartet began in quite an unassuming way. Martin Cook, group pianist
and founder, was teaching chemistry at Swain County High School. He had been
the Kingsmen's first pianist, and had also played for a local group as well.
He decided to gather together with four of his students and do some singing,
The singing sessions became a nightly event in the basement of Martin's
home, but it wasn't long until the group hit the road, and the Inspirations
Quartet was born. The original members included Martin on piano, tenor
Archie Watkins, lead Ronnie Hutchins, baritone Jack Laws, and bass Troy
Bums. Troy eventually became the group's lead vocalist in later years.
In 45+ years of traveling, there have only been fifteen full-time members of
this group. That is a rather remarkable statistic in this age of constant
change. The Inspirations just seem to, well for lack of a better term,
recycle. Martin and Archie, of course, traveled with the group for all of
those first 45 years, with Archie resigning on February 28, 2009, to pursue
a solo ministry. Jack Laws is back on the road with the group, and he always
was considered one of the group even during the years he wasn't traveling
with them. Mike Holcomb is the group's seasoned veteran bass singer with
over 36 years tenure with the group. Martin's son, Myron, has played the
upright bass guitar for the group for over 25 years. Melton Campbell has
ably filled the baritone spot for a decade+. The Inspirations newest
members; lead singer, David Ragan; and tenor, Dallas Rogers; will now become
a part of the rich history of the Inspirations.
Ron Hutchins, the original lead singer left the road in 1998, but he now
takes care of the day to day business for the group, and he also created and
maintains the group's comprehensive website,
That kind of longevity is hard to find in today's world of constant change.
However, it goes to show that the staying power of this group can be traced
to the personal dedication, commitment, and work ethic of each individual
Along with Ron, former members, Marlin Shubert and Chris Smith join the
current group for Reunion Concerts several times each year, especially
Singing In The Smokies
promotions. When the Inspirations take to the stage, they are a cohesive
unit working together to achieve that traditional Gospel quartet sound for
their many fans and friends who come out in droves to hear this popular
Individual successes can also be found within this organization. There are
two Marvin Norcross Award winners in the ranks of the Inspirations. This
award is the highest honor given at the
Singing News Fan Awards
each year, and
Archie took home the award in
1999. Three years
later, the award was bestowed upon
Martin in 2002;
and the following year he became an inductee to the
Southern Gospel Music Hall of
Fame, with Archie
following in 2005.
Martin, Ron and Myron are college and/or University graduates, Martin and
Ron's alma mater being Western Carolina University and Myron's being
Southwest Community College.
is also an ordained preacher of the Gospel. Mike pastored for several years,
and he currently has his own program on television called
My Heart's Desire.
Since retiring from the Inspirations, Mike is a full time evangelist.
The Inspirations are living out a career for which many Gospel artists' only
hope and dream. The group has sold well over a million records, been awarded
numerous Singing News Fan Awards, honored by many different cities and
states, had many special days set aside in their honor, have charted more
than 60 hit songs, and have a book written by Bob Terrell in their honor,
What A Wonderful Time,
which was titled as such in honor of the group's first hit song. They were
regular members on the popular TV program,
Gospel Jubilee, and have a video
of these most memorable television performances
that was released on the Gaither Homecoming series. Their songs have been
played around the world in areas such as Kenya, Canada, Europe, New Zealand,
The Philippines, Romania, Australia, and Africa. They were once even the
subject of a CBS documentary hosted by Roger Mudd.
listing of this group's accomplishments would not be complete without
mention of the
Singing In The Smokies,
which will celebrate its 40th year in 2006. Not only is this concert an
annual favorite of the thousands of fans who come to enjoy the great Gospel
Music on the mountain, but the event itself has been credited as a great
economic factor for this region of western North Carolina. There are three
singing sessions each year held at Inspiration Park on a beautiful
mountaintop in Bryson City, NC.
While the group invites many of their singing peers to join them on these
concerts, there are plenty of others who would jump at the chance to perform
on the mountain with the "boys from Bryson City". It's one of those signs
that you have arrived in Southern Gospel Music when you get the prestigious
invitation to sing at the
Singing In The Smokies.
Behind these successful men, there are successful women. The Inspirations
have the full support of their wives and families. They couldn't have lasted
this long without it. Ora Blanche Cook, Cindy Watkins, Brenda Laws, and
Bavaria Holcomb are behind their husbands all the way. Myron married his
sweetheart right on the mountain on July 3, during the singing weekend, and
so his new bride, Jennifer, can be added to this list of supportive wives.
They are always on hand to help at all the singings in Bryson City, and many
fans will recall that the Inspirations' concession stand at the park was
In a Singing News Valentine story from February 2003, Cindy Watkins said she
loved Gospel Music and treasured the fact that so many people enjoyed
Archie's music. She said it was an honor to be able to share Archie's talent
with so many great Gospel Music fans and she was so blessed that he was so
loved by many folks across the country. Her feeling was that all of the fans
were more like friends and family to them. This sums up the feeling of this
group and their families toward the folks who love and appreciate the
Inspirations and their music. That attitude of support and selflessness has
been one that has only strengthened these men and what they are doing for
The Inspirations are truly in a class by themselves, one-of-a-kind. Their
forty-two years in this industry represents lives and careers dedicated to
the cause of Christ and Gospel Music. They stand for good moral character,
strong work ethic, and Christian values and principles. They stand for God
and His Word.
They sing from their hearts, and they are true to their Southern Gospel Quartet
roots. They have been and continue to be highly successful at their calling
and career, and they remain unchanged by the ever changing currents and
trends that so easily sway the less dedicated. They are the Inspirations . .
. and yes, they are truly an American Treasure.
Click to see larger image of Cover from original Singing News
U S Gospel News
The Legendary Inspirations & Their Singing In The Smokies
Inspirations -Legend One: The Quartet
Originally published in May, 2003
The odds against a high school teacher and four of his students
storming the heights of Gospel Music to its top position seemingly
as fast as any such singing group ever, then remaining at its
forefront for 39 years, and as a result, ranking among its all-time
elite groups would be astronomical at best.
But it did happen in the form of the legendary Inspirations,
whose march to success has been marked by astounding consistency,
fueling their descent and ultimate standing as a household name in
any musical genre. The Inspirations are famous for their tight
harmony, song arrangements and unique sound. In fact, anyone who
follows gospel music can easily distinguish the Inspirations' sound
from that of any other singing group. With the possible exception of
the Chuck Wagon Gang, Blackwood Brothers Quartet, Stamps Quartet and
Speer Family, the Inspirations have been the most consistently
successful group in Southern Gospel Music history in terms of record
sales, popularity, solvency and number of top hit songs produced.
The Inspirations originated in 1964 in Bryson City, NC, a tiny
town in the southern shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains and on the
eastern shore of Fontana Lake, where Martin Cook, a chemistry
teacher at Swain County High School rounded up four of his students
and held nightly singing sessions in the basement of his home,
purely for fun. Shortly after, Cook, a lifetime singer of Gospel
songs and an accomplished pianist, and four high school kids,
(Archie Watkins, Ron Hutchins, Jack Laws and Troy Burns) became the
Inspirations Quartet. They soon went on the road to sing
In the years since, the Inspirations have been awarded every
honor and award Southern Gospel Music has to offer, and they have
traveled over four million miles from the smallest hamlet in the
middle of nowhere to major cities across America delivering their
special brand of music. And along the way, they have sold millions
of recordings of their songs.
Instrumental in the Inspirations success has been a seemingly
endless string of quality songs, including four Songs of The Year.
The Inspirations' song repertoire includes such hits as "What A
Wonderful Time," "Jesus Is Coming Soon," "Touring That City," "When
I Wake Up To Sleep No More," "Jesus Is Mine," "A Wedding
Invitation," "Is That Footsteps That I Hear," "The Wonder Of
Wonders," "Thank You Lord" and most recently, "I'll Not Turn My
Back On Him Now."
Through the first 39 years, Cook and Watkins have been constant
members of the quartet. Cook is the group's manager and pianist,
and Watkins sings tenor. Currently, Cook's son, Myron, plays upright
bass; Mike Holcomb sings bass; Matt Dibler lead; and Melton Campbell
baritone. Laws also sings baritone on specialty songs and plays
Martin Cook's skills as a visionary and businessman are
unsurpassed, helping make him one of Southern Gospel's best quartet
managers. His piano-playing style is so distinctive that few doubt
who is playing when he tickles the ivories. Cook received the Marvin
Norcross Award at the 2002 National Quartet Convention and will be
inducted into the 2003 Class of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of
Fame on May 13--the industry's two most prestigious honors.
"The secret to being successful in Southern Gospel Music is to
foremost stay close to the Lord and never forget the primary purpose
you're in this field is to serve Him and fulfill His will," Martin
Perhaps Southern Gospel Music's most recognizable voice belongs
to Watkins, who is the all-time dean of Southern Gospel tenors for
tenure with one group.
"I've come to love singing more than ever before," Watkins
stated. "There are more groups on the road than ever, and there also
are more people attending concerts than there's ever been.
Therefore, there is more witnessing about the love of Jesus and what
happiness He can bring to one's life."
Mike Holcomb is next on the Inspirations' seniority ladder and
is quite possibly the lowest bass singer in the world. He has been
a smash hit with Gospel Music fans ever since he joined the
Inspirations in 1972, and is one of two preachers in the group
(Dibler is the other).
"A Bible verse reads, 'Many are called, but few are chosen,' and
I know the Inspirations have been chosen to uplift and magnify God's
name, and then to bless and help people realize the great need for
God in their lives," Holcomb commented.
One of Southern Gospel's finest singers is Laws, who is noted
for his silky-smooth vocals. He is always in demand to sing such
songs as "Thanks For Loving Me", "Only One Door" and "Where We'll
Never Grow Old." Also an excellent musician, Laws has been a
member of the Inspirations for 23 years and is in the fifth year of
his second tenure with the group.
"God has a reason for everything, and I'm very thankful He
allowed me to be a part of Gospel Music through the Inspirations. My
cup has truly overflowed through the Lord's glory," Laws remarked.
It may not seem possible to longtime Inspirations followers, but
Myron Cook is in his 21st year playing upright bass for the group.
A favorite with people everywhere he goes, the younger Cook, as a
classic Inspirations song reads, just wants to "Thank You, Lord."
"One of the best things that's ever happened in my life is my
association with Gospel Music, and the Lord richly blessed me by
leading me into it," Myron Cook said. "I've developed a lot of
lasting friendships and I've become closer to God because of it. For
these and many other great happenings in my life, I'm grateful to
"The spiritual experience I get from singing to people and praising
God is a most exhilarating feeling," Dibler stated. "Every time I
sing, I get the same emotional high. All Inspirations are
continually looking for ways to serve Jesus in even greater
capacities. Praise His name!"
Rounding out the group is Campbell, who joined the Inspirations
as full-time baritone vocalist in 2000 following a stint with the
Common Garments Quartet of Georgia. Campbell is a good fit for the
Inspirations--both as a singer and as a Christian gentleman. He is
highly regarded by his peers for his crafted baritone voice.
"I love singing songs about our great Savior," Campbell
declared. "People from all walks of life can relate to Gospel Music
because its songs contain a special encouragement that God will
accept you just as you are. This is the greatest peace and hope
anyone can have."
Legacy 2: Their Singing In The Smokies
Originally published in May, 2003
The Inspirations continue to add chapters to their legacy and
another legacy that originated through them is growing just as
fast--their annual homecoming festival, the Singing In The Smokies.
55:12 reads: The mountains and hills will burst into
singing, and the trees will shout for joy. No where is
that verse more fulfilled than at Inspiration Park, located on a
mountainside overlooking a majestic panorama of the Great Smoky
Mountains on Hyatt Creek Road between Bryson City and Cherokee,
NC. That's where the largest Gospel singing festival in the
United States will be hosted by the Inspirations again this summer
and fall. There are few places on Earth that can compare to
Inspiration Park for beautiful scenery and natural beauty.
Before the 2003 Singing In The Smokies runs its course, upward of
25,000 people, perhaps more, will have occupied the hillside singing
grounds, hearing more than twenty Gospel Music groups/artists make
joyful noises unto the Lord, including the Inspirations, who will
sing each day.
The summer Singing In The Smokies session runs June 30 through July
5, starting at 7 p.m. each day, except for July 4 when a "All Day
Singing" will get underway at 10 a.m. and last until ? A two-day
Singing In The Smokies will be held on August 30 and 31, beginning
at 7 p.m. each evening as a Labor Day Festival. Then, another
two-day session will be held on October 17 and 18 as the Fall Color
Festival. The first day of the last session will begin at 6 p.m. and
the final day will be a repeat "All-Day Singing" beginning at 11
a.m. and lasting until 6 p.m. On
July 4 and October 18, The Inspirations will hold reunion concerts
Inspirations, Ron Hutchins, Eddie Deitz, Marlin Shubert and Chris
Two years after the Inspirations were formed, they started the
Singing In The Smokies as a one-day concert on the Sylva-Webster
High football field in nearby Sylva in an effort to bring more
Gospel groups in for the public's enjoyment, and three years later
they moved the event to downtown Bryson City. That fourth year
they finally broke even financially on the festival, and it has
grown by leaps and bounds every year since. In 1974, the Singing In
The Smokies relocated to its present location at the old Bryson City
airport. The 1976 Fourth of July Singing In The Smokies was recorded
in North Carolina history books as one of the state's great
celebrations of our nation's bicentennial.
"The Singing In The Smokies was started for two primary reasons,"
said Martin Cook. "First, the Inspirations realized that since
many of our friends and other supporters came to the Smoky Mountains
to vacation each year, we needed to be there to sing to them, so we
hatched up the idea of hosting a homecoming sing.
He continued, "The other reason was this, while I was teaching
at Sylva High School, there was a vote scheduled in its home county
about legalizing liquor sales. A county commissioner spoke to
the school faculty telling us how much of the money the county would
make from liquor sales would benefit the schools. However, that
county commissioner failed to mention that when lives were lost and
homes destroyed because of alcohol, it would be our fault for
legalizing it. The liquor was evil, and each member of the
Inspirations knew that the Singing In The Smokies could be a strong
force with which to fight it. It was and has been. That's how
to overcome evil--fight it with something good. We can't
fight it on its own terms because the same rules never apply."
Martin Cook added that naming the Inspirations homecoming sing was
easy. "Since we were a singing group based in the heart of the Great
Smoky Mountains, the name 'Singing In The Smokies' was a given.
I doubt we could have found another name that would have fit more
perfectly," he said.
Nothing is more pleasing to the soul than hearing the tuneful sounds
of Gospel Music echoing from mountaintop to mountaintop at
Inspiration Park, making you wonder, "Do the mountains there really
It surely seems they do.
Singing News Feature Story
A Brief History Of The Inspirations,
+ Info About The Inspirations' Singing In The Smokies
Click to read story
Current Group Pics plus Pics From Over The
Inspirations' 45+ Years
Singing News Fan Awards, etc, covering many years
Mike Holcomb Named Favorite Bass Singer
Inspirations Tour Schedule
Inspirations Press Info
Singing In The Smokies
Family & Friends Tour
Southern Gospel Links