HALL OF FAMERS
Dale Lawrence Shelnut
1935 - 1983
Inducted 2001 - Southern Gospel Music Association Hall Of Fame
Few individuals ever sang a Gospel Song with the innate
feeling of Dale Shelnut.
Born July 29, 1935, just outside Guin, Alabama, Dale began
his career in 1951 with the formation of the Rhythm Masters. In 1960 he joined
the Tennesseeans Quartet but he became best known as lead singer for the
Dixie Echoes and as a regularly featured soloist on the Gospel Singing Jubilee
Always a crowd favorite, Dale took control of the Dixie
Echoes in the late 1960s and for the next fifteen years kept them atop the
industry as one of Southern Gospel's finest quartets. He passed away suddenly
in 1983 but not before making an irreversible contribution to the heart and
soul of Southern Gospel.
This painting of Dale Shelnut was presented to Randy and his mother on May
23, 2001. Painted by some of Dale's closest friends: Mike & Susan Davis
from Birmingham, Alabama. They attended the SGMA Banquet to support Dale's
Hall Of Fame Induction.
Randy Shelnut & Randy "Scoot" Shelnut Jr. were on
hand to receive the award.
The statement's below are by Jerry Kirksey,
Editor-in-chief of the Singing News Magazine
This is one of the two Dale Shelnuts I had the
honor of calling my friend. "Be Yourself" that was the only advice Dale would
give anyone, and he lived it better than anyone I know. Dale was Dale. He
was real to the bone and plain as a piece of cornbread. He didn't even know
how to put on airs. He loved singing, farming and ranching. He loved the
Lord, Shirley, Randy and Andrew and then all the rest of us.
This is the other Dale Shelnut. He was a singer
and I do mean singer. Dale had a powerful voice and a range that was the
envy of many singers. Dale could be heard with or without a PA set. He was
a lead singer, but he could climb over most tenor singers and hang in there
with the best of the baritone singers. Dale loved to sing more than any man
I ever knew. It was so easy for him, the sounds just poured out. His voice
was as big as was his heart.
Dale first sang with The Rythm Masters in 1959.
He joined the Tennesseans Quartet in 1960. The Tenneseans are pictured above:
L/R at the top is Noel Fox who later joined the Oak Ridge Boys, and Dale
Shelnut who joined the Dixie Echoes in 1963. Dean Basham is in the middle.
On the bottom left is Wally Laxon. The man in the bottom right is Eddie Crook
who later joined the Sego Bros and Naomi and then the Happy Goodman Family
before going into the record business.
Dale was a mama's boy and proud of it. He is picured
mom, Mrs. Lemmie Shelnut. Folks this lady knew how to cook.
Dale and his wife Shirley, at Christmas, let's
just say a few years ago. I don't want to get any calls from a mad Shirley.
Of course I don't really think I would because I am not sure you could make
Shirley really mad. She is a sweet and lovely lady. A great mom and grandmother.
Dale also thought he was a cowboy. Most of the
time he was taller than the horse. But he did love to ride. I took this photo
at Devine Farms in Pensacola, Florida. We all, the Florida Boys, Dixie Echoes
and Carolyn and I used to go out there a lot. We even had a few concerts
in the rodeo area.
A friend gave Dale this old truck and Dale loved
it. He was prouder of this truck than he would have been of a new Cadillac.
Dale's first farm was northwest of Pensacola in the Pine Forest area. It
was made up of a small farm house and maybe three or four acres of land.
One day Dale purchased a bunch of fence post and fence wire and drove out
to his farm. He drove his precious old truck out into the middle of the field
behind the farm house. He proceeded to layout his fence post, dig the holes,
drop in the post and then he strung the fence wire. Late that afternoon with
his job completed he got into his truck and prepared to leave. He drove around
the fence line a few minutes and discovered he had not put in a gate. He
had fenced himself and the truck in. He got out of the truck, took his wire
cutters and cut a hole in his brand new fence. Then he drove the truck out
and went home.
Pictured L/R Joe Whitfield, riding the bus hood
is a very young Randy Shelnut, Sue Whitfield, the great tenor singer, Larry
Ford also very young, and I am not sure who that is next to Dale
Dale loved to tinker and fix up old things. Some one else
gave Dale this old bus. This photo was taken at the parking lot of "Shepherd
of the Hills' outdoor drama in Branson MO. Remember I told you Dale did not
know how to put on airs and he would really make fun of anyone who tried
to around him. Joe and Sue Whitfield were with the Dixie Echoes at this time
and of course Sue being a lady liked everyone and everything to look nice.
She really didn't think Dale's old bus was all that great. Dale was going
to drive the old bus back to Pensacola while the rest of the Dixie Echoes
rode in the regular Dixie Echoes silver eagle bus. As you can see Dale had
hand painted Dixie Echoes on his old bus. Sue told Dale not to drive along
with them as she did not want anyone to think she had anything to do with
the old bus. So what does Bro. Dale do? He road the bumper of that big Silver
Eagle bus all the way to Pensacola Florida.
Pictured here are L/R Tom Walls owner of Supreme
Records for whom the Dixie Echoes recorded at that time. Tom was a lot like
Dale, a real down to earth guy who was great to work with. Tom and his wife
Jean ran one of the best record labels in the history of this industry. Don't
you just love the outfits Tom and Dale are wearing.
Pictured here is Left to Right Dale Shelnut, Sam
Goodman and Rusty Goodman. I am not sure if we were on the Echoes or Goodmans
I took this photo in Guin Alabama many years ago.
Whit was giving Dale some kind of a plaque. It was Dale Shelnut day in his
hometown of Guin.
This was typical Dale Shelnut. Here he is playing
tennis without a tennis court, Dale called it just batten that dumb ball
back and forth over the bus.
The Dixie Echoes in the 60's JG Whitfield Bass,
Dale Shelnut Lead, Hal Kenndy featured soloist, George Forbus Tenor, Joe
Whitfield Baritone and Sue Whitfield pianist.
This version of the Dixie Echoes came about in
the 70's and featured top L/R Randy Allred son of Glen and Shirley Allred
of the Florida Boys, and Dale Shelnut. Bottom L/R Randy Shelnut and Andrew
Shelnut sons of Dale and Shirley Shelnut. Both Randy Allred and Andrew Shelnut
later retired, as neither one liked living on the road.
May 11, 1983, was one of the worse days of my life.
I lost one of the truest friends I ever had. Dale was the kind of man and
friend you want in your foxhole, as we used to say in the army. This meant
a man you could trust with your life. Dale was up on his farm in the north
end of Escambia Country Florida near Pensacola. He had a plow horse and he
loved to plow with an old fashion plow. On this particular morning he was
plowing behind his horse when he suffered a fatal heart attack. A neighbor
saw Dale's plow horse wondering around and knowing Dale never let the horse
out, he went over to check everything out, and found
Dale use to tell me when he retired from singing he was
going to build himself a vegetable stand out on the main highway near his
farm and he was going to grow and sell fresh vegetables. Lord knows I wish
he had made it, because I know those fresh vegetable would have made for
some great eating.
When a man dies who was as vibrant and alive as Dale Shelnut
was, I think it is harder for all of us to accept his death. Dale was loved
in all fifty states. Signs such as the one above sprung up across the land.
We as an industry and the uncountable friends and fans across America mourned
the lost of this very special man, singer and friend.
I think Roy Pauley really captured the essence
of Dale in this drawing. A man so strong he could break you in half, yet
so gentle he wouldn't hurt a fly. A man whos talent was of such magnitude
he inspired awe, and a Christ like spirit of humility that inspired love
and respect. Dale Shelnut was an eternal optimist, always happy, jovial and
upbeat. He wouldn't let you be down. Not around him at least. I really believe
if you were to look up the definition "Down to Earth" and/or "Common Sense"
you would find a photo of Dale Shelnet beside each one.
In honor of Dale Shelnut, please allow me to past his
thought on to you, no matter what's happing to you are around you "Just be
The one and only Dale Shelnut.