Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Murrell Ewing-The Good Times

This is the reason I started this blog.

Murrell Ewing is one of those voices that penetrates to the core of your soul.  In the entirety of music, there are a few voices that just resonate to the beautiful losers of life.  Leonard Cohen is one such voice.  I would say Nick Cave is one.  Up there with them is Murrell Ewing.

Listeners of Murrell Ewing are not likely fans of Leonard or Nick.  The same with listeners of Leonard and Nick.  Yet all three have voices that reach up to the Heavens and are golden voices that sing to the core of your being.  All three explore the spiritual depths of humanity.

Murrell Ewing is one artist I never tire of listening to.  Back in the 90's, I came across cassette tapes of his albums.  Some were hard to find and I had to rely on copies from friends to satiate my hunger to listen to his music.  To me, his music is genuine and sincere.  Like the psalms of David,  Murrell's songs are poetry.  Many of his songs prayers to God. His music is a true ministry and not just for entertainment.

Murrell Ewing wears his heart on his sleeve when he sings these songs. His voice is raw and sometimes in an undignified way. You can hear and feel his desire for God's love and to see God's justice in the world.  His music invites the spirit and mercy of God into our hearts and invokes in the listener a humble attitude. These songs are not empty repetitions of praise but a journal of struggles with God and the flesh with which Murrell Ewing wrestles with.  These songs are both divine and human at the same time.

And, like the voices I mentioned before, there is no one else quite like Murrell Ewing.  In United Pentecostal music, the quality of the final results can vary.  Some are earnest efforts by mildly talented musicians.  Not all are recorded on the best equipment and in the finest studios.  Not that music to the heart of God has to be perfect to move the Spirit of God.  These songs, however, flow with mastery of musicianship honed by hours of practice and prayer.  Murrell Ewing and his family (Joan, Landy, and Vonnie) have made tremendous contributions to music.  Landy would go on to help his father record several more albums and have a proficient music career of his own.  Vonnie is likewise continuing to have a strong music career as well.  Joan wrote several of these songs.  On other albums Landy joined in writing.   While performing live Joan contributed powerful spoken word pieces to Murrell's music.  I had an opportunity to hear one such song with Murrell and Joan at a conference in Milwaukee, WI several years ago.  It was by far a day I will never forget.

Rev. Murrell LaVonne Ewing was born January 9th, 1941.  In 1950, Tom Ed and Marie Ewing, his father and mother, moved with Murrell to Lake Charles, LA.  His father would become pastor of the church, leaving his job with the State Highway Department in Jonesville, LA behind.

In August 1966, T.E. Ewing suffered a stroke and Murrell came to the church as a co-pastor to help his ailing father at the Eastwood Pentecostal Church.  A full history of Murrell's service to this church can be found here:

Several years ago, I came across this album for sale online.  While I had most of his cassettes, I never found vinyl records of his recordings.  Copies of his records are hard to come by.  I have a handful on vinyl and the rest of his music I have on cassettes or CD.

Wanting to buy more records, I contacted his church in Lake Charles and spoke to a very lovely woman at reception.  She was very friendly and sent me cassettes of the albums I did not have yet.  As for the condition of the vinyl records?  I was advised that they were stored out in a shed apart from the building and the hot Louisiana summers have not treated the albums well at all.  She said they would go through them and any that were still in good condition she would gladly mail them to me.  I never received any records from them.

And this is why I do this blog.  When not even the church who put out the records care for the albums, it is sad that what exists become harder and harder to find.  It is my goal to share these great treasures of music with you not to get anything out of it.  I have spent my own time and money in acquiring the albums in this blog and ask for nothing in return but that you listen, download, and maybe leave a kind note of thanks.

As for Murrell Ewing, he passed away December 31st, 2010.  A voice such as his is a true rare gem.  There has never been one such as him nor will there be another.  I am fortunate to have lived during a time I could hear him in person.

The text on the back cover:

Heart of thanks to you for sharing with me your wildest dreams, your frequent smiles, and just enough tears to make the flowers grow.  You have taught me a little lesson called "put yourself in their place" and now I can write their story, whomever they are, which often saves me from having to live this same story myself.  My thanks to you for baring your soul that cold December night as you declared to our church, "Take me to the potter's house but not to his field."  I will never forget "The Cleft in the Rock" and because I could not forget the sermon, you now sing the song.  Thank you for your beautiful frame.  For it is not true that the frame can make even the plainest of pictures appear to be a work of art?

For the counterpart, to whatever role God's plan has offered to me in life's drama, the architect of my dreams could not have designed a better you.  In my role as husband, you've been the adorable wife; as father, you've been the loving mother; as Christian, you've been the fellow laborer; as pastor, you've been the model saint.  And now for playing your counter-role so well, I think it only fair that for one time I be your counterpart.  You be the writer--I'll try to be your singer and I promise to do my best.

Birth: Jan. 9, 1941
Catahoula Parish
Louisiana, USA
Death: Dec. 31, 2010
Beauregard Parish
Louisiana, USA

Obit in Lake Charles American Press 1-2-2011.
Photo and obit from Johnson Funeral Home. Age 69.

Murrell LaVonne Ewing departed this life from his residence in Beauregard Parish Friday morning, December 31st. He was 69 years of age. A resident of Lake Charles since 1950, Murrell Ewing has served as the Pastor of Eastwood Pentecostal Church since 1966. 

Pastor Ewing is preceded in death by his parents, Tom Ed and Marie Ewing. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Joan Clark Ewing; a son, Landy Ewing (wife, Lauren) of Kansas City, Missouri and a daughter, Vonnie Ewing Lopez (husband, Aaron) of Lake Charles. He is also survived by four grandchildren: Matthew Ewing (and wife, Natalie); Taylor Ewing Trahan (and husband, Jimmy); Aaron James "AJ" and Lindsey Lopez all of Lake Charles. The Ewing family is anxiously awaiting the birth of the first great-grandchild this month. A host of family and friends, along with the Eastwood church family, will also cherish his memory. 

Pastor Ewing, in addition to being an outstanding minister and speaker, was equally well-known for his singing. An outstanding soloist, he was also a founding member of the Conquerors Quartet - a group that traveled and sang southern quartet gospel across the south. For decades, many of his sermons were transformed to music and lyrics by his wife, Joan, and shared in services and concert venues across America and around the world. His performance of "He Saw Me" on a Bill Gaither Homecoming project continues to be one of the most popular Murrell Ewing clips viewed on YouTube. Joan and Murrell Ewing were awarded the Pentecostal Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their immeasurable contribution to Pentecostal music. 

Born in Catahoula Parish, in a community known as Boggy Bayou, Murrell Ewing entered the world on January 9, 1941. At the tender age of nine, when his parents relocated to the Lake Charles/Moss Bluff area where they assumed the pastorate of what was then known as English Bayou Pentecostal Church, Murrell Ewing became a Lake Charles resident - and for him, though he traveled the world - there was never any place quite like home. 

Murrell met the love of his life, and he and Joan Clark Ewing were married in Kinder, Louisiana on November 24, 1959. They served as choir directors in camps and held choir clinics in churches around Louisiana and across America, while he continued to become a much-sought after speaker as well. After a time as Assistant Pastor in Alexandria, Louisiana, serving with Pastor G.A. Mangun, - Murrell and Joan relocated to Lake Charles in 1966 to assist his parents in pastoring Eastwood Pentecostal Church and became Senior Pastor in 1981, where they remain in service to that congregation and this community. 

Through the years of his leadership as Pastor, the congregation has grown and flourished. In April of 1984, they relocated from their existing building on Opelousas Street to the 9.5 acre complex at the intersection Highway 171 and Interstate 10. Offering Sunday School classes, and bus transportation to the less fortunate, consistent Christian teaching and leadership have been the hallmark of Eastwood through the years. The Ewing's commitment to Lake Charles has been lived out in the lives they have touched through ministry and song. Murrell Ewing's pastor's heart was not limited to the members of his congregation, but extended to the entire Lake Charles community as reflected in his words on their church's website: "If it's winter, come in out of the cold. If the summer of life has parched your soul, you'll find a cool oasis here. The worship, the doctrine, the power to change lives. It's all still here. We've been praying that you would come." 

In addition to his local church involvement and his personal ministry in preaching and singing worldwide, Murrell Ewing was highly involved in the work of the Louisiana District of the United Pentecostal Church as well as in national capacities. He served as Louisiana District Youth President, was a member of the Louisiana District Board, and for many years served as the Youth Camp Principal at the District's youth camps in Tioga. On a national level, he served on the music committee and participated in the development of the Sing Unto The Lord hymnal. He and Joan served for many years as consultants and participants in national programming for both home and foreign missions. 

The impact this man's influence has had on both young people and adults through the brief years of his life is truly immeasurable. Murrell Ewing will be missed not only at Eastwood, but also in the city of Lake Charles. Anyone who was privileged to know him will remember some kind word or deed, and will mourn his passing. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pioneers for Christ

First off, I am quite sorry it's been so long since I last shared an album with you.  This is not intentional.  I am sorry to report after making my last post I found out my dog, my best friend for the last ten years, has lymphoma.  I will spare details of the diagnosis but his needs became a priority.

Ironically, it was lymphoma that took the life of Carroll McGruder.  So knowing now that was how he died and dealing with my dog's cancer makes this all the bit more personal for me.

My introduction to Christian music was on KJLY from Blue Earth, Minnesota.  Late night they played the most lush and beautiful music I ever heard.  The Don Wyrtzen Singers were a particular favorite of mine.

When I decided to buy Pentecostal music, I found "The Carroll McGruder Singers" in the Pentecostal Publishing House catalog.  No real description, just the title and list of songs performed.  I imagined quite and beautiful music not much different from the music I heard on KJLY.

What I received was "Come Fly With the McGruders."  It was a live performance.  It was pounding.  It was throbbing.  It was pulsing.  It was ALIVE.  It was vivacious music and drenched in the Holy Spirit.  It was unlike anything I ever heard up to that time.  And I loved it.

I came to learn that Rev. McGruder was quite a force not only in Pentecostal music, but music as a whole.  He was the driving force behind the Harvestime concert recordings.   For many decades, Rev. McGruder with his wife, Priscilla McDonald, recorded several albums together.  Their discography reaches back to 1985 with their first release Good Things Are Happening.

While Rev. McGruder was a key figure in the United Pentecostal Church, there was a time he was also a key figure in the music scene for the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, a sister Oneness Pentecostal organization. I am not sure when and why Rev McGruder left the ALJC for the UPCI but it appears the aforementioned discography only references his UPCI work. 

I know he used to be with them because of the rare treasure I found to share with you today: Pioneers for Christ.  This was a compilation album put out by the ALJC.  I am not sure of the year, but if I were to make a safe guess, I would put this around 1969-1970 based on the look of the album.

Rev. McGruder has two tracks on this album.  Once as a solo artist, the second with his then wife, Linda Evanna Coffey.  Rev. McGruder married Sister Coffey Christmas Day 1965.  They served as pastor/wife in Windfall, Indiana.  This was a church founded by Rev. McGruder's father in 1953.  

(Sis. Coffey passed away in 1975. On June 1, 1976, he married Priscilla Elaine McDonald. She would be his partner in the McGruders on every recording they made.)

Rev. Carroll McGruder was born October 25, 1946 in Holcomb, Mo. His father was a farmer at Puxico, MO. Shortly after 1950, they moved to Michigan.  His parents, Lester and Fannie McGruder, began working in the auto industry in Detroit.

While in Detroit his parents became involved in the Pentecostal Church Assemblies of God.
"Dad became a self trained preacher which was very common back in those days," Rev. Carroll McGruder said.

"From the time that I was seven years-old until I graduated from high school, which for me would be a 10 year period, I was in Indiana," he said. "After high school, I started traveling and preaching, singing and holding revivals as an evangelist." He did this until his father resigned his church in Windfall and he took over as minister.

"Between the years of 1969 and 1975, I pastored at Windfall, Ind., at the Windfall Pentecostal Church," McGruder said, later moving to Twin Falls, Idaho where he pastored a church until his move to Kennett in 1981.

During this time Rev. McGruder and Sister Coffey participated in the Pioneers for Christ project.  I do not know if this is the earliest recording of Rev. McGruder's music, but it's the earliest I've found so far.  He pastored in Windfall, IN at the time of this recording. My estimation of the recording being around 1969-1970 seems accurate.

If Carroll had been singing and evangelizing after high school, there likely is a recording out there that predates this one.  If anybody has it and would like to share it, I would love to hear it and share it with my readers.

"All through my childhood and preaching, singing was a part of the ministry," McGruder said, adding, " From the time I was four years-old, I have no memories that don't include standing on a grocery store counter and singing for nickels and dimes." He adds that from the time he was 15 years-old, he has been writing songs and singing.

Continuing, McGruder said, "I love it. I love people."

And that's the reason McGruder's music has lasted so long.  He loves the music, he loves the people he ministers to, and he loves Christ.

In 2013 in Nashville, TN, at the BMI Awards honored Rev McGruder.  He received the award "Christian Writer of the Year."  This was not just for Southern Gospel but Christian music as a whole.   It is from that ceremony where the quotes in this article originates.

I am sure I will have more time to discuss the impact Rev. McGruder had on music in future blog posts.  For now, enjoy this early and precious recording.

As for the other musicians involved:

Rev Carl Shrute pastors at the Living Way Apostolic Church.  He received the Holy Ghost when he was thirteen, started preaching when he was fifteen, and was an assistant pastor in Pensacola, FL.  At the time of this recording, he was a pastor in Gravetown, GA.

Finding information about Connie Farrow is a bit more difficult.  I found an article written by her, however. In this article she references the "Assemblies of God" (which caused me initial confusion thinking the ALJC and the AOG were the same. My mistake) But it suggests she left the ALJC and went to the Assemblies of God.

As for The Wilson Brothers Quartet, they had one release as a group:

I found this information about them on

Bishop Steve Wilson (b. March 7, 1947) is a Christian gospel singer from Potts Camp / Bethlehem, Marshall County, Mississippi, USA. He sang with the Wilson Brothers Quartet in the late 1960's and early 1970's with his brothers J. Michael WilsonSam Wilson (5)Tim Wilson (22). and Steve Wilson (38).

Bishop Steve Wilson was born March 7, 1947, in Atlanta, Ga. to J. Frank and Lillian Wilson and was one of ten children. The family moved to Potts Camp, Ms. in 1948 where his father assumed the pastorate of the Bethlehem Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastor Wilson was raised in the Bethlehem community, and graduated at Potts Camp High School in 1965.

He attended Pentecostal Bible Institute in Tupelo, Mississippi from 1966 to1968. From what I understand, this was an early United Pentecostal Bible college (and also had CM Becton as a student.) Bishop Wilson began the Wilson Brothers Quartet that traveled the Eastern United States and produced several recordings. The quartet was in demand in the early 1970’s at churches, camps and conventions. He became the Mississippi Youth Director of the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ and later became the National Apostolic Crusaders Director and began their first National Youth Convention, which is carried on today.

He married Pat Snider of Sharon, Tennessee USA on May 15th, 1971. Bishop Wilson began full time ministry at the Bethlehem Church (Potts Camp, Mississippi) in 1968, first as Youth Pastor, then Assistant Pastor, and later, Associate Pastor. After some time he assumed the role of Pastor. In 2009 Bethlehem Church joined Bishop Wilson in celebrating his 40th year of service at this congregation. In March of 2009 Bishop Wilson retired as Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Church.

Download the record for FREE here: