The genius of Jim Hamill

Any discussion of the Kingsmen in their heyday inevitably must involve Jim Hamill at some point, and I think that time has come. A reader writes:

Every reviewer of music worth his or her salt always looks for and notes those moments in a performance, whether recorded or live, whether created by a musician or a vocalist, that particularly impacts the listener with that “something extra” that moves them. The conscious intention of the Kingsmen was to make this happen as often as possible mainly in a “live” setting. Eldridge Fox chose the songs and got them recorded, gave Hamill complete authority over the stage, and Hamill rearranged the songs nightly to fit the mood of the audience as he determined it. As I said this was conscious. Hamill wanted to be able to practically re-write on the fly. At any given time they would have about 400 “active” songs in their repertoire. Hamill would “call” the next song to the piano player near the end of the one currently being performed. It was the piano player’s responsibility to remember the song, remember the correct key, and remember the correct kickoff line. It was the responsibility of every other musician and singer to pick up from there. Not only this but Hamill wanted people who could change mood, change inversions, etc., on his command. And, at times, he had people who could do this. This approach to performing I would call “a conversation with the audience.” Hamill absorbed the audience, sometimes beginning an hour or two before the concert, just hanging around in the auditorium. He would watch, listen, try something, then try to augment or change, depending on how he read the response. He was gifted at this. His singular goal was always to move the audience to a higher emotional level, and at times, when he had good personnel, he did it well. Yes it was an appeal to the charismatic, but the charismatic in all people. He would do this as well at a state fair following a country star or in a church or “gospel” concert.

The most interesting thing to me about this approach is that it recognizes that no two audiences are ever alike and the attempt is to meet them where they are. Of course others attempted this (and still do to a degree), but improvisation today is minimal in comparison. The attempt today is figure out the best “one size fits all” performance of a song and give that to the recording and to every audience every night.

What I like about this, among many other things, is that it usefully complicates my unintentionally oversimple distinction between charismatic piety and its more reserved varieties most commonly represented by mainline Southern Baptists. The Kingsmen appealed to people in part, as I tried to suggest earlier, at a particular moment because they advanced a style of music that served as a corrective to the manicured approach of much of mainstream gospel (not to mention the comparative bloodlessness of CCM). But it’s also important to note, as the reader above does, that the KM sustained their initial appeal and capitalized on it by tapping and affirming a certain psychospiritual exuberance that lurks within all of us.

Viewed this way, the Kingsmen’s success of yore suggests that the “one-size-fits-all” approach of today relies so heavily on tracks and stacks not least of all as a way to distract from this music’s inability to respond organically to the emotional and artistic reality of a given venue. “Let’s do that song again [and the sound guy hits REPLAY on the music server]” is about as spontaneous as most groups can be these days. Of course the relative corollary to this statement is that when many of us complain about digitally preprogrammed music, at some level we’re lamenting that contemporary audiences don’t value the strategic shrewdness and emotional sophistication of Hamill’s approach more, that audiences don’t seem to care about all that’s lost in the PLEASE PRESS ONE FOR MORE MUSIC style that’s regnant in our time.

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Trackbacks & Pings

  1. Jim Hamill - Honoring a true legend « Burke’s Brainwork on 29 Oct 2007 at 3:26 pm

    […] 29, 2007 Jim Hamill - Honoring a true legend Posted by burkesbrainwork under Southern Gospel   There has been a nice post going on over atAVFL honoring the great Jim Hamill, along with news that Jim’s health is not good.  If you read down the comments to #56, Mickey Gamble at Crossroads has offered to look into producing a compilation project of some of Jim’s best work and donate the proceeds to Jim and his family.  What an example of how Christian business should be run.  Everything is done properly, and the intended beneficiary is indeed the recipient. […]

Comments

  1. thom wrote:

    Extremely well put. I would like to add to what you said - but you about said it all.
    Hamill was the best stage manager ever.

    The lack of spontaneity in most of todays SG groups often leaves you wanting for more. Most of the groups touring today do exactly the same set every time you see them. The only time the set is changed is when they have a new “project” to promote.

    For many of them the rut they get in often includes the same jokes, the same stories, the same song set ups, and sadly sometimes even the same emotions displayed at the same point each and every evening.

    I recently heard some one say this about one of the major groups..”if you’ve seen them once this year then you’ve seen them this year.” Meaning the next time you see them it will be exactly the same thing, so don’t bother going to see them again until next year. Sad but true.

    Thank you for recognizing the Genius of Mr. Jim Hamill. His contribution to SG music can not be overstated.

  2. DamonFromKY wrote:

    I really appreciate this separate post to recognize Jim Hamill’s unique and incomparable ability to lead a live concert. The Hamill-led Kingsmen are the only group that I have ever traveled to see despite having seen them recently in a different venue. I always knew that the concert would be different, even if many of the songs were the same.

    I remember one time when Hamill was introducing a new song from the stage and a woman got up from the middle of the not-small crowd to go to the bathroom. Hamill stopped his introduction to ask her where she was going. When she said the restroom, he told her that he wanted her to hear their new song and motioned for her to sit down on a step in the middle of the auditorium. At the end of the typical KM big finish, Hamill immediately remembered her and asked her if she liked it. When she said she did, he told her she was free to go.

    Few SG MCs would have the gumption to try this with a live audience and even fewer would be able to pull it off in an entertaining way without making the “hostage” uncomfortable. Hamill made it look easy.

    After he stopped traveling, it was at times uncomfortable seeing Parker Jonathan try to carry on the same style. Concerts more than a year apart would have the same song order and same “spontaneous” laugh lines. It was unfair to PJ to expect him to match Hamill’s stage presence because no one could.

  3. RK wrote:

    My Dad tells a story of attending a Kingsmen concert in the early 80’s in western Kentucky. The venue was a fairgrounds, under a large outdoor tent.

    A couple of local groups were performing before the K’s were to be main attraction. The groups were clearly underwhelming the crowd, which stayed in its seats and only clapped politely at the proper times.

    Hamill was standing just outside the tent in the back, alone, surveying the crowd and listening.

    My Dad exchanged pleasantries with him, and then–very quietly as if he was letting him in on a little secret–Jim said, “Look at that crowd…deadder than a doornail. Just wait. The minute we hit the stage, I’ll have up, stomping the floor, and raising the roof off this place.”

    Sure enough, when the K’s hit the stage, the banjo and piano storming their way into the intro for “I’d Rather Be An Old Time Christian”, and the crowd was up and its on feet, totally transformed before the even the first line of the song was sung.

    Hamill had them in the palm of his hands, ready to go wherever he wanted to take them. It’s called stagecraft, and we don’t see enough of it today.

    Those songs like “Saints Will Rise”, “Beautiful Home”, and “I’d Rather Be An Old Time Christian” are not lyrical masterpieces in of themselves. But they offered a vehicle to deliver the beat, the feel-good energy, and the blasting vocals that put the “mighty” in the Mighty Kingsmen.

  4. LeO T. wrote:

    Whomever that reader was, he/she was sure genius. I can’t get caught in the bubble, but the term “bloodlessness,” should have most of our blood boiling. We need to get out of our comfort zones and stand for what is right and support each other as “true” Christians before we become extinct. I read somewhere today in an artist blog that reaad something close to this, (Just think about it without Christ you can’t even say Christmas, let alone celebrate it.) Christ met people where they were at, and hopefully more performers will do the same, and display that type of spontaneity that the Kingsmen did, and when we see that desire to love someone we will know that it’s not just a show, it is a Christ-like compassion!

  5. Mickey Gamble wrote:

    Thanks so much for this articulate and timely post. Jim Hamill is today bedridden in a “rest home” in Hendersonville, NC. May his legacy recycle and may your prayers be with this giant.

  6. Oldtimer wrote:

    Had I known we were going to have a Hamil-fest here I would have saved my comments on a previous thread. I won’t bore you with them again here - suffice it to say I agree with all that has been said regarding Big Jim Hamil. I have a live recording of the Oaks with Smitty Gatlin on lead and Hamil on baritone ( with Willie Wynn and Herman harper rounding out the vocals - what a line up.) Smitty was the emcee and it is hilarious to hear remnants of the ‘Hamil to be’ sneaking in behind Smitty’s reserved and altogether unremarkable emcee work. All that kept him from being revered like a Hovie, jake, Vestal or George was that abrasiveness that he was smart enough to put forward every night. And it was not entirely an act - he could be tough and ornery when he wanted to be. But I was discussing that with a former Kmen tenor on whom Hamil was notoriously hard. He said the he finally realized that at the root of his perfectionism was Hamil’s perception that most of the people at a Kmen concert were not wealthy. They had worked long hard hours to buy tickets, travel and buy cassettes and albums - at an investment that for some represetned significant sacrifice. He just could not tolerate anyone who he perceievd as not giving these fans 150% to thank them for their support. I did not know Hamil was bedridden. I am saddened to hear that. He was my original gospel music hero - the reaon I bought my first LP - and remains the best performer I ever saw in the genre.

  7. Dean Adkins wrote:

    Re: “one size fits all” and “spontaneity”

    Although they use tracks, the Booth Brothers seem to have the ability to read an audience and modify their program to fit a particular crowd. The program does change depending on the venue and is not the same every night.
    Perhaps part of that can be attributed to Ron Booth Sr. who sang with Jim Hamill for many years and learned some of Big Jim’s techniques and Ronnie and Michael continued the trend.
    Also Ron Sr. sang with John Matthews who was also able to work an audience.

  8. Paul Jackson wrote:

    The Prophets “family” will be praying for Jim.

    Yes, thanks Doug for this post. It provides a good lesson for all of us who stand before an audience of believers or non-believers. We need to be prepared, real, and fresh. No one can do what the Kmen did in Jim’s prime. Seems to me, too many try (style wise)…but we need to follow his example of giving an audiences your very best in energy, heart and effort! amen.

  9. chuck stevens wrote:

    Hamill was one of a kind. i love the way the Kingsmen always changed up the program a little each night. Having a live band allows you to do things you just can’t do with tracks. I miss those days back in the 80’s and early 90’s, gospel music was full of great programs all over the country each weekend, and most groups traveled with some kind of band,even if two piece. I like shows in auditoriums, seems like alot of church singing’s these days. Parker did a great job with song selection, calling each song as they went, he learned well, but Hamill’s gift of running the show was missed. I heard Parker was driving a tour bus for someone, anybody know where he is these days. Nobody talks about him much.

  10. Jim2 wrote:

    OK, “Regnant” I didn’t even know that was a word. You have sent me to the Merriam Webster website yet again! The great thing about your blog is I get an education even if I wasn’t a Southern Gospel fan back in the day. Thanks for all the intruiging posts.

  11. Joe wrote:

    I echo all the plaudits that have been said about Jim Hamill. I have always felt that maybe he has not received the level of recognition he should have.

    For any fortunate enough to have been present at a Kingsmen concert in the 70’s; when the “Tons of Fun” with Big Jim as emcee and stage manager put on a concert it was one to remember.

    A live band, with bass, lead, drums, piano, pedal steel, and (gasp!) even a harmonica at times; 4 voices that sang with electricity, and a tight sound on almost every song-it was a well-choreographed evening. There is no question that he WAS a master of relating to an audience.

    Hamill also had a brilliant voice- a powerful lead singer, who could really sing a song. His voice was crystal-clear, and cut through at just the right time. He would work up a sweat, mop his brow, loosen his tie, then take off his jacket, whirl it around on his index finger a few times, and then dispatch it off to some forlorn corner of the stage.

    To hear him announce “The Kingsmen Quartet, from Asheville, Nawth Cah-lina”!, and then, at the end, as is recorded on many of their live cuts…”Have you enjoyed the Kingsmen Quartet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama”!?? (or elsewhere), knowing full well that the audience had enjoyed them immensely.

    The Goodmans, as a family, were untouchable. The Rambos were progressively and refreshingly unique. The Oaks disappointed many, many people when they left for country music. But in the 70’s, as a male quartet with a full band, the Kingsmen were simply the best show going. Just listening to some of their compilation discs, and the number of live songs they have preserved, almost brings back the electricity.

    They had a more than their share of great voices over the years. But Big Jim was in a class by himself- as a lead singer, as an emcee, as a stage manager- I have never seen another like him.

    He really deserves all the good things that can be said about him. He was definitely a most remarkable talent in many ways.

  12. Trent wrote:

    If anybody knows Jim’s address, I’d love to write him a letter.

  13. David wrote:

    Great post about the master of MC’s. What is most remarkable to me is that during the last 8-10 years prior to his 1995 retirement, the bulk of the KM’s lead singing was handled by either Arthur Rice or Tim Surrett, leaving Hamill to pick his spots whenever he chose to leave his post on the side of the stage(within arm’s reach of the tenor so he could poke him when he needed a high note). That being said, there was never a doubt who was in charge on stage. Hamill was smart enough to know he couldn’t hit those big finishes(notable exception: “Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet” from 1987’s Mississippi Live project; Hamill rares back for the last “for I’ve been watching and I’ve been waiting…” and nails it like the Hamill of the 70’s & even then Rice has to come bail him out at the end) and always had someone who could to the point where when you left the concert, you didn’t really notice Hamill hadn’t sang that much & in some cases didn’t even leave the bus after intermission!
    Secondly, Hamill & the KM were the kings of the live album in their heyday & were shrewd enough to put out mostly live material from 1983-1995(can anyone off the top of their head name any five studio recordings not of the table project variety they did in that era? It took me several minutes & I’m a fan!) because that’s what really drove record & ticket sales. Does anyone realize the KM haven’t released a live project since the 1999 remake of Big and Live(with the man himself on Love Lifted Me)? I’m not counting the obligatory “video to go with our new CD,” but an honest-to-goodness live project. It’s also affected the rest of the industry as the only live stuff being released now has the Gaither name on it. There were some great non-KM live albums during the same time frame; Gold City had a couple, The Perrys had a couple, The Wilburns had one with Tony Gore and I’m sure I’m missing several others, but I’d wager most of them were done in an attempt to keep up with what Hamill and the KM were doing. I miss those days.

  14. ST wrote:

    Hamill was THE emcee as everyone has established. It was his job to be the emcee. Hamill told me once that Fox (Owner of the Kingsmen at the time) took over the stage, and it did not go well. Hamill had words with Fox. Hamill made it clear to Fox that Fox was the owner, but Big Jim had to be in charge of the stage - period. Fox agreed, and he did not get in Hamill’s way again.

    One insider told me that everybody thought that the KM made so many live albums because they were so amazing live. Which they were. However, the real reason they cut so many live albums was because of budget. They could cut their whole album in one night except for a few overdubs. They did not pay studio musicians or studio fees. Basically, all they paid for was remote facilities and product. When you have a live band you can cut a live album cheaper. They did not spend a whole lot on pictures either.

    Jim said that it used to drive his record company nuts because they wanted to know his song selection line-up. He would simply look at them and say, “I don’t know; we’ll have to see what kind of mood the audience is in when we sing.”

    Jim has helped a lot of groups with their emcee work. He never tried to make them just like him. Instead, he would say, “You’ve got to find your part and own personality on stage.” You would be surprised the professional groups who have worked with Jim. He would meet with them and have them to do a concert in front of just him. He gave tips on how to line up songs and how to “set-up” songs. I personally learned a lot from him myself. Jim always said, “It doesn’t matter what I think about your group, it’s what the audience thinks about your group that matters.” By the way, if Jim felt like you were doing something stupid on stage, he didn’t mind hurting your feelings!

    Jim always would say that a program should always be like reading a book. Give the audience a little at a time, but never give away the ending until the end!

    Once the KM were following the McKameys who were just up and coming and had just started doing “God On the Mountain.” Jim told me that he hated following them. It surprised me because I would not have thought that it was intimadating to him. I said, “Why?” He said, “Because Peg will kick her shoes off and having them throwing babies, and I have to bring the audience back down and take them back up.”

    I saw what he meant one time in Chattanooga. The Perrys came off stage singing accapella and people shouting and throwing babies. The KM followed. Jim called for a spiritual accapella song to go right along where the Perrys left off. The audience took right to it. He then kicked off a fast spiritual song, and eventually brought the mood down to introduce the group. He then worked it back up to a climax at the end and the group was jumping off the stage and he had the audience in his palm.

    This brings back another one of my past comments. We need an award for Favorite Emcee. Perhaps it would cause groups to be more creative and spontaneus with their programs.

    I too am sorry to hear of Jim’s health, and will remember him in prayer.

  15. Larry Bedford wrote:

    I had the privilage of seeing the Kingsmen quite a few times With Hamil ath the helm. It is something I’ll never forget and still wish I could re-live those days. I saw them at Carowinds amusement park once. After they did their turn singing they all got together and rode some of the rides which I was on. I’ll never forget Hamil scream on one of the rollercoasters. Not only were they good singers they were good down to earth people.

  16. Trent wrote:

    Can anybody list availabe live videos/DVDs of the Kingsmen, especially older ones with Hamil at the helm?

  17. Montana Man wrote:

    I never had the opportunity to see/hear the Kingsmen and Big Jim live. From what I’ve been reading here, it sounds as if in the late years he no longer was singing lead, although he still was the emcee. Is that what the stage manager thing means, or he did he do something else in additiion to the emcee work? How many years was he not singing the full load before his retirement in ‘95?

  18. Steven wrote:

    I wasn’t around for the kingsmen’s hey day….but i’m a huge fan of their 70’s - 80’s live albums. From what I remember, I have only seen Big Jim live once…and i think it was when Jeremy Peace just started with the kingsmen. He was sitting near the back of the auditorium with his cane watching the concert. After the K-men, had sang a song or 2 Hamill slowly made his way to the front side. You could sense people were watching him cause it seemed the excitement of the audience grew. All of a sudden the kingsmen broke out with saints will rise…and Jim slowly made it up to the stage..and the crowd went wild! I remember jeremy just tore the house with a high ending (I think they sang “Jesus i love you” afterwards) and Big Jim gave him an approving smile. It was a memorable night. I did go to the 50th reunion …and was saddened that he didn’t make it (and they didn’t tape it), but he did get to introduce the first song VIA phone. I want to say it was Just as the sun went down by Jim’s “favorite tenor” Johnny Parrack. Just my thoughts on Jim

  19. bbqtenor wrote:

    It is so ironic these posts have been posted and this is now being discussed. I was listening to the Kingsmen “Live across America” CD several weeks ago and thinking alot of these same comments. I believe 100% that the Kingsmen “style” would be fully accepted today. The connection they made with each audience is sorely missed in today’s SG music. I think to some degree we could all agree that the Kingsmen were not the most polished singers…but THAT WAS NOT THEIR DRAW!!! They connected with the audience…with each audience. They recognized that each audience was different and called for different song line ups each night. The Cathedrals (George) was a master at this as well. EHSSQ have the band, but I’m not sure they connect with each audience’s mood from night to night. To some degree their program is predetermined and lacks some sense of spontaneity that The Cathedrals and especially Hamill with the K’s could produce. I remember and can recall many times when seeing the K’s in concert the mastery that Hamil had in bringing the K’s on stage much like ST in post #14 talks about. They were the best at following anyone, no matter what was just in front of them. Hamill was unequaled in being able to bring you back down and take you back up no matter how high the group in front of them left the audience.

    The use of tracks and no live band with 99% of today’s groups does not give them this ability. What’s left to connect with an audience? Not much! I for one could easily connect with a Kingsmen style approach…considering it’s done as well as the Kingsmen did it. Canned programs cannot and never will be able to make this connection!

  20. Keith wrote:

    Big Jim is the golden standard by which all emcees should be measured. My first Southern Gospel concert (as a 4-year-old) featured the Kingsmen in Kokomo, IN. I can still vividly remember how Hamill interacted with the crowd and made fun of Little Ernie. It captivated me, even as a hyper kid. I was privileged to see Jim and the mighty Kingsmen many times after that and he never failed to bring the house down with his superb emceeing. There was an element of anticipation, of wondering, “where’s he going next?” at every Kingsmen concert.

    My favorite group has and will always be the Cathedrals, but I have yet to see a SG group who could come close to entertaining a crowd like the Hamill-era Kingsmen.

  21. Videoguy wrote:

    To #10:

    As a college student, I catch myself frequenting this blog for the composition lessons as well as the discourse on SG.

  22. Angie M wrote:

    I’ve been going through a nostalgia phase, trying to find recordings of cassettes I had 15-20 years ago. I was so excited when I found a CD containing “Stand Up” and “Mississippi Live.” But when they put this double album together, they cut out almost all the dialogue between the tracks. I’m glad I found it, because I really have enjoyed listening to the vocals and the musicians–there are parts where you can hear the occasional mistake that wasn’t scrubbed from the finished product. But I was really disappointed when I realized that most of Hamill’s dialogue had been cut.

  23. J-MO wrote:

    Avery,
    I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of CCM artist Shaun Groves, but I think you’d find his blog very interesting. Here’s a link to an entry about the movie ‘Across the Universe’. His analysis of the film’s music fits very well with what you’ve been writing about lately.

    http://www.shaungroves.com/shlog/comments/across_the_universe/

  24. DRIP wrote:

    Jim has always been my hero–I first met him in 1959 when he was singing with my dad–I could almost write a book on him with things he has said to me and others about SG and life in general–To me, SG dropped down a notch when he had to retire-He really needs our prayers now. I just talked with his wife and she said he is not doing well at all–lost over 100 pounds–Everyone please remember him in your prayers—Lane Rainwater–Calvarys Way

  25. Derek wrote:

    Maybe someone can print these posts ansd take them to Jim so he can read what we all have to say and know that he is not forgotten. Jim was the master indeed…and I’m reminded of the George Jones song, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”

  26. 2miles wrote:

    I hope someone close to Hamil takes the time to read some of these comments to him if he’s able to comprehend. It’s unusual (especially on this blog) that only positive things have been commented about someone–anyone. I too have seen him in action although it only goes back to the Tim and Parker days…I remember the first time Hamil “tried out” this “new song someone sent us”…”haven’t decided on a title yet…maybe Postcard from Heaven” or maybe “Wish you were here”…They sang another one that night and when it was over Hamil let everyone know that he didn’t like it and they wouldn’t be singing it anymore…Thanks for the memories Hamil..

  27. 2miles wrote:

    #25 looks like we had the same idea….

  28. David wrote:

    #16: You can find them occasionally on eBay, but here’s a list from memory:

    1972 or 73 Big And Live(Gadsden, AL)
    1976 Chattanooga Live(Chattanooga, TN)
    1981 Live Naturally(Mount Vernon, IL)
    1983 Live at the University of Alabama(Tuscaloosa, AL)
    1984 Better in Person(Springfield, MO)
    1985 Stand Up at Opryland(Nashville, TN)
    1987 Mississippi Live(Jackson, MS)
    1989 Live in Dayton(Dayton, OH)
    1992 Singin in the Sun(Orlando, FL)
    1994 Live from the Alabama Theatre(Myrtle Beach, SC) KingsGold III was also recorded here
    1995 Georgia Live(Augusta, GA) KingsGold IV was also recorded here
    1996 40th Anniversary, Perfecting the Crown(1995 NQC, Louisville, KY )
    1999 Not Quite as Big, but Just as Live(Gadsden, AL)

  29. Leslie wrote:

    I have had the privilege of knowing this great man personally for more than 35 years. I always thought he hung the moon, but my husband who was in the industry in the late 80’s early 90’s didn’t share those sentiments. Then he was in the studio with Mr. Hamill at Horizon when Jim was cutting a solo album. My husband told of how Jim wept listening to the album. It was not his work, but the ministry of the lyrics that moved Mr. Hamill. This was a new side that my husband had not seen–previously only the sarcastic and business motivated side. He said it totally changed his opinion of the man. He is usually only remembered for his humorous antics and mc work, not his walk as a Christian. But he IS one of the greatest ever in our industry.

  30. Sheldon wrote:

    What is this lovefest doing on Averyfineline?? More seriously, I think it’s great. I never got a chance to see the Kingsmen while Hamill was still traveling but listening to live albums is enough to know that these comments are correct. I have a question for the “old-timers”. Was Hamill truly unique or just the last of a dying breed? Back in the day, Hovie, James Blackwood, J.D., and others could work a crowd and were known for it. The best I saw was George Younce, in a more understated way than Hamill, he could read a crowd and wring laughter, tears, or clapping out of people seemingly at will.

  31. Gale wrote:

    We started going to concerts about 30 years ago and Jim and the Kingsmen were the absolute best. Jim always seemed like a close friend, he always recognized us or made us think he did. He was great!!!!!! A good christian man that will never be forgotten.

  32. DRIP wrote:

    For all you folks that remember and appreciate Big Jim, let me tell you something you would enjoy—He came out with a cassette after he left The K and there is no singing on it–its just him talking about his 50 plus years in SG Every Hamill fan would love it—He gave everyone in our group one and said he had a boat load–He was talking about his timimg–said about the time they came in everyone went to using cds–someone like avery ought to switch it over to cd and let his fans have one for a donation to his family–his wife had a serious stroke a couple of years ago and I am sure everyone knows what sickness can do to a family financially, much less a retired gospel singer—what cha think avery or any of you other computer guys out there—Lane Rainwater—Calvarys Way

  33. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    #32 - Lane- I’m all for it. I would purchase it. My heart has been greatly touched and burdened for Jim since I have learned of his sickness. I would also love for Jim to be able to see what has been written here about him.

  34. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    Oldtimer,
    What was the name of live recording with Smitty, Jim, Willie, and Herman. I would to have that one.

  35. cdguy wrote:

    It looks like all video products of the Kingsmen have gone out-of-print, unless they have some for sale directly from their office. David may be right, eBay occaisionally will have some pop up.

  36. Ben Harris wrote:

    The first time we sang at GOGR as soon as we came off stage we went back stage and set in the seating area to visit with friends for awhile. Jim comes walking through using his cane. He saw us setting there and stopped. Looking straight toward us he lifted his came and pointed at each one of us and said, “You boys are good. You ain’t as good as me, but you’re good.” He then just walked on off. Our bass singer didn’t know quite what to make of the comment and I told him, “Charles he just gave you a great compliment, trust me.” We sang with him the next year during sound check and Jim was always a hoot.

  37. DRIP wrote:

    ref to post 32—-ok folks, we have a Hamill fan in Arkansas that has a studio and is going to make a master cd from the cassette—Do we have any cd duplicators anywhere that are willing to chip in for the cause????contact me at Lane9750@aol.com

  38. Michael Davis wrote:

    This is probably some of the best comments I have ever read on this blog. Congrats to Doug for providing this forum.

    My family has known Jim for many years and always enjoyed his stage antics. He could say and do things others would never attempt or be allowed to do.

    My favorites memories of Jim are from a personal perspective. When my son Christian was a teenager, he would ride the bus with the Kingsmen frequently. Eldrige and Jim were so kind to him. I would give Christian food money for the road but Eldridge and Jim never allowed him to pay. He always brought back my money along with additional money given to him by Eldrige for “being a helper” on the trip.
    Christian would tell us, “the guy(Jim) you see on stage is so different from the guy on the bus…he is so good to me”.

    My favorite Jim Hamil memory happened about eight years ago at the NQC. We were staying in the same hotel as Jim. One night walking down the hallway Big Jim spotted us and yelled out to Christian, “come here boy and give ole Jim a hug”. Christian ran down the hall to Jim and upon reaching him, Jim dropped his cane and gave Christian a very long bear hug. A picture is worth a thousand words. It is so easy to see why Christian loves Jim Hamil so much.

  39. DRIP wrote:

    For everyone that wanted Hamil to hear about these posts, I just found out that was done this afternoon.James, Jims son printed them out and read them to him. James said Jim shed many many tears this afternoon and that he really appreciated what people were trying to do—Please pray that God will keep my hero comfortable–Lane Rainwater

  40. Rod wrote:

    I personally was impacted by Jim Hamill…Here’s a story some may enjoy…I was singing with a quartet named Crimson River in the 90’s and if I say so myself we were pretty good. We were opening for them and did so several times after the fact. I’ll never forget we did a sound check and Hamill was sitting down front…Just as were finishing up he walked up and took the mic and said, “Now let a real lead singer show you how it’s done. Afterward, being the young singer that I was I walked up to him and asked his advice on how I had done and he replied, “Sing two more weeks and quit”. I know he was kidding but after that he never failed to tell me what a great job I had done…He was the greatest emcee and lead singer there was…I’ll always remember his wit, talent, love for God and underlying compassion I knew he had.

  41. BobB wrote:

    Daniel Britt currently has an 18 minute interview with Jim Hamill on his home page.

    http://www.danielbritt.com

  42. makinitmaggie wrote:

    On the flip side….We recently attended a concert which featured The Talleys. They were as polished as a mint silver dollar…and as professional as they come. They were also predictable and orchestrated. The intros and stories were the same ones as on the “Celebrate” DVD at home. We had driven 120 miles, purchased tickets, had dinner out, made arrangements for the mother-in-law, just to view a rerun, for the most part. (You would think the artists would get sick of saying the same things night after night.) Too bad we missed the Jim Hamill days. Sounds like just what we needed and wanted.

  43. BlazingSaddles wrote:

    Just wondering who wrote ‘Wish You Were Here’, this is a songwriters song. Best to all.

  44. John wrote:

    Hamill’s influence goes far beyond what most observers are aware.

    Back in the mid 1950s at Central Bible College in Springfield, MO, Jim was a student, and of course loved to sing. He was always forming quartets, and helping those who were interested learn the art of quartet singing.

    One student in particular caught Jim’s attention. He had a great bass voice, but in Jim’s words, “…didn’t know what to do with it.” Jim reluctantly had to turn this fellow student down when he auditioned for a quartet Jim had organized, but the young bass was determined to sing.

    Knowing this, and being the kind of man he was, Jim kept working with this fellow student, spending all kinds of time in the school’s rehearsal room…and never stopped encouraging him.

    Hamill’s time at CBC didn’t last long, and months later, he was back home in Memphis listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. On this particular night, Wally Fowler was presenting up and coming gospel quartets, and one quartet called the Evangelaires from CBC in Springfield, MO appeared.

    Hamill was touched when he heard the bass singer…it was that fellow student he had turned down months before for his campus quartet, and here he was, on stage at the Grand Ole Opry!

    Later, that bass singer joined another campus quartet, who would go on to a long and distinguished career in gospel music…known to this very day as one of the finest gospel groups ever.

    The quartet? The Couriers. The bass singer? Dave Kyllonen.

    But if not for Jim Hamill, young Dave might not have developed the ability or confidence to be a professional gospel singer.

  45. David wrote:

    #35-I looked on eBay today & the Live Across America, Mississippi Live, and Singin’ in the Sun CD’s are available. My copy of the Mississippi Live CD was found in a Cedartown, Georgia record store’s discount bin for $1.98! I’ve had the Mississippi Live VHS video since it was released in the 80’s & have purchased Live at the Alabama Theatre & Georgia Live VHS videos off eBay in the past year. One of my most treasured Kingsmen items is a Paul Belcher’s Battle of Songs concert in Knoxville, TN from 1987 that a friend of mine & taped onto blank tapes in a boombox we’d brought along(this was of course back when you could do that & not get into trouble). In addition to the KMen, Gold City, The Singing Americans & The Mid-South Boys were also on the concert, & after intermission all four groups were on stage in a Hamill-led choir. This was back when Dwayne Burke was (trying to) sing bass for the SA’s & Ray Dean & Tim showed him what true bass singers were!

    One more Hamill story & I hope this will jog some memories for more stories: Ever been to a KMen concert where Hamill would put someone on stage from the crowd to sing? He did this in 1984 at a Mull’s Thanksgiving Concert & had an 7 or 8 year old kid sing “When Crossing Time Shall Come” from the Live at the University of Alabama album. The kid did a beautiful job & there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

  46. James Hales wrote:

    I remember one concert in Williamston, NC with the Kingsmen along with 3-4 other groups. (this was in the early 90s before Jim retired)

    The Kingsmen, of course, has them throwing babies and all. After their stand, I was in the lobby talking with someone and Jim walked by me and turned and said, “Where’s our record table? Oh there it is…the one with all the people around it!” And let out a laugh.

    Everybody around thought it was hilarious., as well as myself.

    Jim Hamill could work a stage better than anyone. He has brilliant mind and knows what to do and how to do it. I don’t think that there is a single person in the industry today who can carry a program like Hamill could. I knew when I was going to a Kingsmen concert I was going to be extremely entertained as well as abundantly blessed and definitely got my money’s worth, and then some.

  47. Ben Harris wrote:

    I just listened to the Daniel Britt interview of Big Jim. All SG artists should take the time to listen to what this simple man had to say. The altar call segment made those old glory bumps run up and down my back like you would not believe. God Bless Big Jim, there will never be another like him.

  48. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    Ben, I agree with you. It was such a blessing to listen to the interview with Big Jim. I liked how he answered the question about how to go about properly certifying a group. His answer was “right on.”

  49. Norman wrote:

    I talked to Jim’s wife and son last night and I agree with Lane, something needs to be done. As a promoter I too have an abundance of Hamill stories and I’ll cherish them forever. I’m willing to do my part so let’s all get behind the Hamill CD thought and make it work, I know of no gretare way of showing Jim and his family jow much we love him.

    Norman Bonds

  50. scope wrote:

    I have the cassette Drip talked about. I loved it so much that over the years I’ve bought at least 10 copies to give out to people who I knew would enjoy it. At the very end of the tape Jim thanks the fans, and apologizes to anyone he may have offended with his saracastic humor. As we listened to that part my daughter said she thought he was apologizing to me because over the twenty odd years I’ve known him, he has picked on me many times. I told my daughter that Jim owes me no apology; I always knew he was joking, and that he wouldn’t have kidded me if he didn’t care about me. I would love to hear him yell at me again.

  51. Ben Harris wrote:

    I will do the mastering on the JIm Hamel CD for free if someone will send me thevarious masters they want included.

  52. Joe wrote:

    Ya know, folks- this here is some pretty amazing stuff. Has there EVER been a thread on AVFL with such a great theme, so many wonderful memories, and so much positivity and agreement?

    Maybe Doug is onto something here. I have read and re-read every one of these comments. I have never enjoyed a thread here more, than I have this one.

    So what have we learned?

    1. There really DOES need to be an exhaustive compilation set of digitally-remastered CD’s of the Jim Hamill-era Kingsmen stuff. I would buy three sets myself. Let us know how we can help, and I think all of us would be “in”.

    2. There really HAS BEEN no one like Big Jim, in most if not all of our collective memories. If we all had known that the 70’s-80’s Kingsmen with Jim Hamill were going to be singing 100 miles away from our computers tonight, we’d all be there, and not typing here!

    3. These posts really DO need to be continually read to him. So glad to hear the earlier ones touched him so-hope that they continue to give him a boost.

    4. This type of thread brings out the very best of Doug’s readers, and SGM fans. Not a single negative or harsh word in 50 posts- simply amazing.

    Thanks, Doug- for this opportunity to honor a giant. This was truly a neat experience.

  53. Joe wrote:

    Folks-

    Sorry I forgot to mention this in my last post. I pulled out all of my Kingsmen CD’s, and found 3 I had bought a few years ago when they were last here. Included were two Bibletone CD’s, of 70’s-era stuff.

    I went to the website for National Recording Corp. www.narecorp.com

    and they have 4 older CD’s for sale, with Jim Hamill on them. Thought some might want to know.

  54. jj wrote:

    Dean Adkins commented about the fact that the Booth Brothers of today have the same spontaneous sort of stage presence that the Kingsmen had in their heyday. Isn’t Nick Bruno - the guy who writes on sogospelnews -a producer who has worked with both groups during the times of their success. I enjoy his honest articles and am a big fan of both groups.

  55. Scott Spangler wrote:

    Jim Hamill was, hands down, the best emcee IMO. My 2 best memories will always be the night I tried out for the baritone part for the Kingsboys and Hamill and Foxie were there. I was playing football in high school at the time and was solid…big ole boy!! Hamill said my part was good and all, and then asked me how old I was. When I told him I was 17, he said, and I quote, “Good God boy, you’re them same age as them, but with your height and size, you make then boys look like midgets”….and the second best memory I have of Jim Hamill was the night at GOGR when I was singing baritone for Naomi Sego and we gave Hamill a ride from the Peace Center back to the hotel for the midnight breakfast and I drove our bus. I was SO nervous on that short little trip that I could’ve threaded a sewing machine while it was running!!!

    There will never be another emcee in gospel music that will come close to Jim Hamill, and I love that man with all my heart!

    Scott Spangler

  56. Mickey Gamble wrote:

    I would again like that thank everyone for their outpouring of interest in and support for Jim Hamill. I would also remind those who might be thinking of copying or recreating his work in some way that all such masters have performance copyrights owned by someone and that unlicensed mass copying or distribution of such would be illegal. This would also involve the copyright owners of the songs involved.
    Next week, we at Crossroads will be taking a look at the KM masters we own that include Hamill performances as well as the “solo” masters we recorded for him after this retirement. If we can create something of interest, we will do so and give profits to Jim and his family.
    If anyone is interested in this or has suggestions as to how to assemble such a compilation, please communicate your ideas or interest to info@crossroadsmusic.com.
    Mickey Gamble
    Crossroads Entertainment & Marketing, Inc.
    Horizon Records

  57. quartet-man wrote:

    I’m glad people are giving Jim roses when he is still able to enjoy them. Far too often we wait until they are gone. This might help us and the family (which of course is great), but I think we should let people know this before they are gone too.

  58. BUICK wrote:

    RE: #56. I am so glad someone brought that up. In the euphoria of this thread, some seem to have forgotten about the practicalities and the legalities. What a VERY generous offer from Crossroads. The fans get what they want; the Hamills get what they need; Crossroads conducts its legitimate business and the lawyers are satisfied. Seems like a real “win-win-win-win”. I say, “Go for it, Crossroads. And I hope you sell a million of ‘em.”

  59. quartet-man wrote:

    I never commented on #56 yet, but will rectify that. :-)
    Having Crossroads use the original masters is cool. I do wish Benson would do the same. I have a cassette of the Hamill interview I got from Harold Timmons. I am not sure who if anyone owns the copyright to it. Obviously there are no song royalties. If it is something Jim did himself, I would think getting permission from his family would be easy to do what was recommended.
    I see no label on it and the phone number on it is [x xxx xxx xxxx] which shows up as Jim Hamill on White Pages.com. Since the number was published on the cassette and on a site I just found, I put it here, but please show discretion if calling it. I am sure they don’t need a bunch of people calling for other reasons at this point.

  60. Radioguy wrote:

    I have a 16 year old daughter that doesn’t have a whole lot of interest in Southern Gospel. However when I play some of the KM live albums, especially Live…Naturally, she sits there and listens because of Hammil. She loves his story about Ernie jumping out of the closet and scaring him on the bus. She has often said, Man that guy is good at what he does. It just goes to show if someone is good at what they do, they can cross a lot of boundaries.

  61. thom wrote:

    To Mickey Gamble and the Crossroads folks:
    I am very proud of you for your offer to make a Jim Hamill compilation and to give his family the proceeds! I will certainly purchase some of them.

    Please include his introductions of various group members over the years, “Lurch” “Pocahontas” “Squeaky” etc.
    There are some great material from the KingsGold Concerts - (boy I miss those!) -
    AND Re-Release the live concert footage on DVD’s!

    Like “Buick” said - this sounds like a “win-win-win-win!”

  62. Kent McCune wrote:

    I’ll share my best Jim Hamill moment. It was at a King’s Gold concert (Kingsmen and Gold City) in Hazel Park, MI somewhere around 1993 or 1994. The place was packed and so my kids (all in grade school) were sitting on the floor very close to the stage. Hamill noticed the kids singing along with all the songs (they knew all of them). He called the kids up on stage and they sang a song with the Kingsmen, sharing mics with them and everything. It was an up-tempo song with answering parts and so the kids were leaning in and out of the mics with the singers filling in the answering parts. The crowd went crazy. A true spontaneous moment! The man was awesome.

    I’ve seen the Cathedrals a million times and loved every performance. George was a great emcee, but no one compared to Jim Hamill. (And by the way, he didn’t like that “Wish You Were Here” song at all. I remember him at the 1992 NQC complaining about having to sing that song because it was #1 at the time. He couldn’t avoid singing it, but he didn’t like it! He would tell the crowd they could take a bathroom break while the K-men sang that song. Hilarious.)

  63. Radioguy wrote:

    Wish You Were Here is a great song sung well by Tim Surrett. However, it is not and never was a Kingsmen song. Tim Surrett was fantastic with The Isaacs, but I felt he never fit with the Kingsmen…at least the first time around.

  64. Dave wrote:

    I wish somebody would find a way to distribute all of Hamill’s solo projects that he has available for him. I have never seen them available except for ordering directly from him.
    I have a few of the earliest ones, but the last 2 or 3 i have never got. I also hear he had a DVD of a solo concert.

  65. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Blazing Saddle (#43),
    “Wish You Were Here” was written by Michael Williams. Here’s a link to a photo of him I took in Burnsville, NC in 2006:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/12225511@N00/207643969/in/set-72157594225689626/

  66. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Radioguy (#63),
    If it never was a Kingsmen song, it’s mighty odd, because they named an entire recording after the song.

    Tim Surrett does sing it, BUT he recorded it originally when he was a member of the Kingsmen. That version was the number one Southern Gospel song on the Singing News monthly chart from May-August in 1992.

  67. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Thom,
    The KingsGold projects were handled by Benson, unfortunately, not Horizon/Crossroads.

    I just sent Mickey an email to say it would be nice if he could convince the owners of the Benson/Riversong masters and the owners of the older Canaan masters (think _Big And Live_) to get on board with this fantastic idea and contribute several choice cuts to the cause.

  68. bbqtenor wrote:

    David

    I think getting all of those old masters re-released is a great thing. I would definitely purcahse them.

  69. Dave wrote:

    “Wish You Were Here” is one of their most requested songs even up until the present. Tim Surrett originally sang it, later Jason Selph, and now it is sung by Bryan Hutson, and people still love to hear that song.

  70. Paul Jackson wrote:

    “Wish you were here” brought the group a lot of new fans…and even more new customers. I think ‘92 might have been my first NQC. The song made a strong impression on me. Big Jim was smart to stage it, “like it or not”…still praying for him. Good info DBM. Seems we can always count on you to care about the writers.

  71. Radioguy wrote:

    David Bruce Murray (#66) Yes I know. I have the album (C-D). It’s a fantastic song sung very well by Tim. It deserved everything it won that year. My point was, stylistically speaking, it was not your typical Kingsmen song. Even compared to Child Child, The Judgement, vocally and instrumentally it didn’t have that typical Kingsment punch.

  72. Keith wrote:

    To Mickey and the Crossroads Team:
    I want to echo Thom’s request (#61) that you release a DVD or maybe a series of DVDs featuring live concert footage of the mighty Kingsmen of the Hamill era. I would most definitely add them to my collection.

  73. thom wrote:

    #63 Radioguy - I would have to disagree with you - I thought Tim Surrett was a fantastic lead singer with the Kingsmen, I loved the lineup with him, Chris Collins on Tenor, Parker Jonathan Baritone, and Ray Dean Reece on Bass,…and of course Hamill being Hamill and singing some.
    Surrett was a a great lead singer with them the first time around and to hear him do that song “Live” was an awesome experience.

  74. Oldtimer wrote:

    Hamil was very partial to Surrett - he loved Surrett’s singing and didn’t mind telling you so.

  75. Norman wrote:

    I spoke with Hammill’s wife yesterday and Jim seems to be improving a little better Praise God! A definite financial need exists
    and with all the positive comments let me suggest something. Whoever produces cd’s or product will have to have time to do it but the need is now not later. As for myself I’m sending $100.00 today directly to the family and I’m not worried about getting any product I’m just thankful for the blessing I got many times over the years from Hamill and The Kingsmen, Let me challenge all of you Hamill fans to do the same thing and let’s not talk about our love for him but as Christians should, let’s show it!! Send all monies to:
    JIM HAMILL, 126 South Joyce ST, East
    Flat Rock, North Carolina 28726.

    Norman Bonds
    Family Promotions

  76. Dale Steenhoven wrote:

    This is from an Amazon review, for Jim’s cd, Old Man’s Still Got It. I thought if somebody was sharing these posts with Jim, he might like to hear about this one.

    I love it But I cant Find the Apple Tree Song ByJim Hamill, August 3, 1999
    By A Customer

    Yes Mister Jim I heard you on the Radio 91.5 FM in Summerville SC I heard the Song The Apple Tree Song That Touched My heart. Now I listen to the Station alot any more. That song touched me and the song Apple Tree something about that song caught my hears as I was flipping throw the station, and because of you I am finding my way back to Christ. May God Bless you and your family. Special Thanks From Robin I would Like to Know where I may get this song( THE APPLE TREE SONG ) IN GOD WE TRUST A Special thanks to 91.5 in Charleston SC Radio Station For That Day Thanks

  77. Jim2 wrote:

    There is a relatively recent release from New Haven Records (distributed by Provident) with the Apple Tree Song, called Kingsmen All-Time Favorites. It should be available at most Christian Bookstores for $13.99. If not in stock it can be easily ordered from Provident or New Day. Allmusic.com shows it came out in 2004, I think it is newer than that, but they usually have good information.

  78. Tom wrote:

    I realize that I’m probably a little late to this game. The last time I read the comments to this post was several days ago, when there were only about 15 comments. I want to add my simple thanks to Jim Hamill and the Kingsmen. I’ve always been amazed at Hamill’s emceeing abilities, and I loved the “three chords and a cloud of dust” spirit the Kingsmen embodied.

    As I read the comments posted in the last several days, some have mentioned the difficulty in tracking down rare Kingsmen live recordings, and others have expressed interest in helping the Hamill family. I felt inspired to send off a quick token check to Hamill. But then I immediately thought of something better: I currently am offering for auction on eBay the rarest of all Kingsmen CDs–the early “double disc” of “Stand Up at Opryland USA” and “Mississippi Live” on one compact disc. As others have noted, most of Hamill’s emceeing got edited out in order to fit the songs from both albums on one CD–so you won’t get the genius of Hamill’s emceeing work. But the CD is very rare and the music is superb. I will send the full, final selling price of this auction to Jim Hamill and his family. Hopefully I’m not violating any eBay rules and they won’t cancel the listing! The auction ends Tuesday night, November 6, and is at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320176648126.

    Tom

  79. Don Page wrote:

    Well, I am coming in at the tail end of this post, but what an enjoyable hour it has been. All the comments about Big Jim have been wonderful and brought back many great memories. I saw Jim and the Mighty K-Men probably 40 to 50 times between the late 70’s and early 90’s. Each concert was an “event”. You knew incredible things were gonna happen and Big Jim never let us down. As stated in prior comments, each concert was different as Jim was the best at reading an audience. I was fortunate to play drums for a PT Qt in Nashville in the late 80’s and early 90’s and we opened for The K-Men a few times and what a blast it was. Jim always invited us back up at the end to finish out the program, usually with How Great Thou Art. ( With Arthur Rice holding that one note for about 5 minutes!) What great memories! I recently have had the great pleasure of “sitting in” on drums with a group called Open Heart in which the great ex-Kingsmen - Wayne Maynard (Child, Child) sings and I have heard hundreds of Hamill stories over the past few weeks. What a blast to hear about the great history of the Kingsmen and Jim Hamill from someone who was along for the ride. Finally, count me in on the re-release of any of the old product.Thanks to Crossroads for volunteering to take on the project. Keep Jim and his family in your prayers.

  80. Faith wrote:

    Jim Hammill died early this morning.

    Big Jim, we all loved you, and we are all going to miss you.

  81. Dave wrote:

    Amen! Jim will surely be missed here by many, many people. Think of the Kingsmen reunion in Heaven today : Jim Hamill , Eldridge Fox, Anthony Burger, Calvin Runion, John Broome, Jim McCauley, Reese and Louis McKinney, Charles Matthews.

    Plus all the other gospel singers that have left us, J.D., Rex, George, Glen, Howard , Vestal, Jake , Hovie, and so many others.

    WHAT A MEETING.

  82. Ken Williams wrote:

    Big Jim is Gone but our memories of his fun and laughter will always be with us. I lost a true friend today and so did Southern Gospel Music. Jim was one of a kind that we may never see again in Gospel music.

    Heaven Is Sweeter Now!!

    I love Ya Jim and i already MISS YA! Love, ken

  83. Joanne wrote:

    I too have many, many wonderful memories of Jim Hamill! He was an awesome man. You know another person he spent time with teaching to sing his part was Elvis. Elvis always wanted to sing in a group, but Jim said he couldn’t harmonize - lol. Jim had many stories and I loved to sit around and listen. He was a great storyteller. He never expected something out of you that he himself was not doing. He lived up to every bit of what he expected out of you. He could be hard and demanding, yes that went with the job, but he could be loving and caring too. I missed Jim the day he left the road and would always go to the concert if I heard he would be there.

  84. LuckyDog wrote:

    One memory of Big Jim that stands out for me came in a concert where Parker Jonathon had unwittingly (?) made the decision to wear a bright coral-colored jacket.

    At the end of one of Parker’s more dynamic numbers, (I think it was “My God Forgets), some guy in the audience decided to whistle out loudly as the applause died down.

    Big Jim immediately siezed upon the opportunity and boomed out, “boy, you’d better be careful yelling at men wearing pink coats!!” Of coarse, the crowd went wild, Parker got zinged and the whistler got called down, all in one fell swoop! It was perfectly timed and hilarious!!

    Jim was one-of-a-kind, for sure.

  85. Dorothy Reitz wrote:

    Ed and I saw Jim many times and had to travel 50 to 60 miles to do it. we will miss him here in Illinois. I havent seen how old he was , does anyone know? thanks Dorothy

  86. DRIP wrote:

    I believe he was 73 last August

  87. Anita Cage wrote:

    When Jimmy was ten his father became pastor of First Assembly and his family moved to Memphis. I believe he inherited his musical talent from his mother and his leadership abilities and showmanship from his father. His mother, born Kathryn Stone of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, where Jim himself was born, was a well trained, extremely accomplished, and talented musician. She gave unstintingly of herself to create in a few short years an outstanding music ministry in a church where music had barely existed before. Pastor Hamill was a charismatic and dynamic preacher, a talented organizer and a visionary leader. He often would let his congregation glimpse flashes of his humor, for example, denying any musical ability of his own and adding that he had received ample advice on the subject. That small, fragmented and struggling church became inspired, growing and exceeding goal after goal, becoming a very large and successful ministry during the Hamill years. During the six years before we moved away, my brothers and I knew Jimmy as a playmate, a typical preachers’ kid, a little abrasive and with a reputation for being a bit bossy but always funny, too, and likable. Jimmy’s mother said early on that he had a musical gift. In those pre-teen years, however, she sometimes had trouble corralling him for the kind of training she wanted him to have. Once his voice started to mature, I think he might have begun to understand what his mother, as well as his father, had given him. I lost track of him for more than fifty years and have just seen online the tributes to his life and his career and heard some of the clips of his amazing voice. I was so touched that I could see the Jimmy I knew as a child and I join you in mourning the passing of the boy and the man. It is such an illustration of the working of the spirit in our lives to reflect that Jim’s extraordinary gifts existed before he was born and that, when he was ten years old, his unique talent was fully known only to God — and to Jim’s mother, of course — and now to see how that gift was realized in him, the music, the gentle spirit, the flash of mischief, all flourishing together to become the blessing he gave to everyone who heard him sing over the past half century.

  88. keith nelson wrote:

    I have have had the privellege to, have seen the kingsmen many a times since 1972. I was privelleged to be at the live naturally recording,in Mt. Vernon,Ill in 1980. I was glad to call Foxie,Anthony Ray Reese, my personal friends as we spent so many times over meals, and visiting, on the bus. There was not a selfish bone in the Great Jim Hamill! He would go out of his way,and give you the shirt off his back, to help, encourage a group. The last time, I saw my dear friend, was in, Greenwood,In. I could tell, he wasn’t feeling well, as I had been around him enough, to know. But he was his jolly self. I saw, the showmanship, of him and, he thrilled me. But I saw the seriousness of him and the gentleness, of this great man. I miss Hamill, and the Kingsmen will never be the same, without Hamill! I loved him as a brother and friend. I was saddened to hear he passed Nov,19!

  89. Jim Woodyard wrote:

    I saw Jim Hamill for the first when I was 5 years old. It was at Hiland Park open Bible church in Des Moines, Iowa. I sat on the front row of that church and heard my first quartet. The name of that quartet was the “WATCHMAN.” When they sang the song, “THE FOURTH MAN” I was hooked. I have been singing and listening to southern gospel music ever since that day. Thank you Jim for the influence on my life. I would bet there is some real good singing on Saturday night when all the great singers join together in Heavens concert hall for a gospel concert.

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