BOILING SPRINGS — Longtime gospel group The McKameys will perform during an upcoming concert in Boiling Springs.
A gospel concert featuring The McKameys will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the Boiling Springs 9th Grade Campus. The group will be joined by special guests King James Boys and Oasis.
The McKameys are Ruben Bean, Peg Bean, Sheryl Farris, Connie Fortner, Roger Fortner and Eli Fortner. The group was organized in 1954 as a trio of sisters — Dora, Peg and Carol McKamey — and is currently in its fifth decade of spreading love and blessing through music. Even though there have been several changes made in the group’s makeup, the signature harmonies, songs and joy of singing has remained through the years.
The group — based in Clinton, Tenn. — was started by Dora, who surprised her sisters with the announcement that they would all sing as a trio at church, where their father was the minister.
“She gathered us up in her kitchen, started singing and we each found our parts,” Peg explained. “We just thought we were gonna sing that one time, in her home church, but different people heard us and invited us to sing at their church or at revivals. Then, out-of-town evangelists heard us at the revivals and invited us to come to their churches, and we started traveling to Florida, Indiana and Ohio, and that’s how it all started.”
In 1957, Ruben Bean started playing guitar for the trio, and he and Peg were married two years later. As their daughters Connie and Sheryl grew up, they traveled with their mom, dad and aunts. After Dora and Carol retired from the trio in 1971, it was a natural move for Connie and Sheryl to fill their aunts’ shoes.
“The girls had been singing special duets at our concerts, so one day after Dora and Carol told us they were retiring, I heard the girls singing,” Peg said. “I went in and added my part, and I thought, ‘Wow!’ So when Ruben came home we sang for him, started working on the music, and by the end of the year we were taking bookings. The group never stopped.”
They sold albums from the original group at first, and then in 1972, they made their first McKameys album with the new line-up. In 1983, another change occurred as Sheryl left the group to fulfill obligations as a minister’s wife. Carol then returned to the group. In 1987, Roger Fortner was hired to play guitar for the group. In 1999, Connie and Roger’s son, Eli, began taking the stage with the group, quoting scripture and singing occasionally. In 2006, he officially joined the group as a rhythm guitar player. The group also uses digital tracks during their performances.
The McKameys have had 24 No. 1 singles and, in 1999, they were honored by the Horizon record label for having the most No. 1 hits in Southern Gospel music.
“It’s the joy of the Lord and the strong message in the songs they hear,” Peg said. “We try to have fresh songs and new encounters with the Lord so we can pass them along to those in need of it.”
In March 2009 another change in personnel came to the group when Carol retired from the road — after 26 years of traveling and singing — to spend time with her husband and their grandchildren. Sheryl Farris, Peg and Ruben’s youngest daughter, returned to the group to fill Carol’s position.
The group’s website — www.mckameysonline.com — states the following:
“Since 1954 the quality of The McKameys has always been there. The harmonies, the songs and the love of the message and for the people it reaches has never wavered. Fans can feel it emanate from the stage as the group breaks into song, because nothing can take the place of sincerity when it comes to delivering the gospel to the people.”