|Birth: ||Oct. 10, 1922|
|Death: ||Jun. 17, 1992|
Los Angeles County
A Paoli, Oklahoma native, EARL WEATHERFORD raced home from school every day to listen to the Frank Stamps Quartet? on the radio. It was not unusual for him to walk five miles on a Sunday afternoon to attend a singing convention. He moved to California during World War II to work in the shipyards. In an era before TV he joined a quartet called The Gospel Harmony Boys in 1944. He organized the group for a Gospel radio show on a local station, KGER that took off and became very popular in southern California. Original members included Earl Weatherford; tenor, Harold Turman?, lead; Bob Gillis?, bass and Grady Weston? as baritone. This area had a lot of immigrants from other parts of the US due to the war and war economy. According to Lily, "You could almost throw up your and and draw a crowd..." such was their hunger for Gospel Music.
Earl was a devote' of the male quartet. His influences included The Homeland Harmony and The Blackwood Brothers. Few people in Oklahoma had heard of The Speer Family or The LeFevre Trio?. Mixed or family groups were still a novelty. In those days, afternoon singing conventions were a common occurrence. These conventions emphasized tight harmonies and vocal blending, even to the point of enunciation of words in the same accent. Earl was a quick student and from these conventions, he formed his personal philosophies about proper quartet singing. It was also at just such a singing that Earl met the beautiful sixteen year old Lily Fern Goble who would have profound influence on the group's future. Lily knew of mixed groups such as The Speers from her Nazarene connection.
Lily Fern Weatherford? was born November 25, 1928, in Bethany Oklahoma to a strict Nazarene family, Lily Fern Goble was a PK (preacher's kid). Her family moved to the Los Angeles, California area when she was four years old so that her father could pursue his ministry. In 1944, "in walked this tall, dark, handsome young man..." [Earl Weatherford]. Although she had previously attended a couple of Sunday afternoon singing Schools, this was Lily Fern's introduction to quartet style Gospel Music. She also recalls that many of the churches in California used Vaughan or Stamps/Baxter books as regular "church hymnals."
Lily and Earl hit it off and were married in 1945. a master singer and patient teacher, Earl taught Lily to sing with "heavier tones" and "blend with men." Little did he know that he was preparing his wife for her eventual career in The Weatherfords. Throughout the late 1940's, The Weatherfords worked regular jobs and sang on weekends.
In 1945, lead singer Harold Turman left the group. Earl moved to the lead position and Lily was asked to "fill in" until a new tenor could be located. (earl was a male quartet kind of guy.) Whenever a new member was hired, Lily was replaced and sent back home. Lily soon tired of the constant replacements and in 1948 persuaded Earl to give her a regular singing position in the group. By this time, The Weatherfords were well on their way to a successful career in Gospel music. they performed three live radio shows per day and sang in a church or concert nearly every n9ight. All the while, they still worked regular jobs. According to Lily, "Gospel Music was really big in California in those days, and we enjoyed huge crowns almost everywhere."
As 1949 dawned, The Weatherfords finally hit the road full time. "Full time" status meant "full time" members. several Weatherfords opted for the security of a "regular job" so Earl and Lily had to form a new group. Sixteen year old Armond Morales? (whom Lily claims as a surrogate son) was hired as bass singer. before it was over, he would spend 14 years of his illustrious career with the group. Earl and Lily, along with Armond Morales, and another husband and wife couple, Les Roberson? and Raye Roberson?, hit the road full time. They literally moved form California with no definite home to come back to. In an era that predated the quartet bus, this group tour the country in first class fashion in a 1948 Buick pulling a one-wheel trailer!
In order to be closer to the center of Gospel music, and to take advantage of a radio contract, The Weatherfords ended up at WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At that time, all music was based on radio play, usually live, and Gospel was no different. As a 50,000 clear channel station with a nationwide reach, WOWO literally introduced America to The Weatherfords and the calls started coming. During their "Ft Wayne" years, Armond Morales was drafted into the military and George Younce replaced him. Longtime member Raye Roberson got pregnant and also decided to quit traveling. Danny Coker? was brought on board to fill that vancany.
It was about this same time that a young preacher had an idea for a weekly television program, which was still a brand new medium of communications. Rex Humbard? was preaching in an old, refurbished theater in Akron, Ohio called Calvary Temple. He had heard The Weatherfords on the radio and extended them an open invitation to move to Akron and work at his church on his fledgling TV show. In 1953, WOWO went to "canned" music, which left The Weatherfords without a radio contract. Deciding that the time was right, Earl Weatherford moved the group to Akron and went to work with Humbard. that wasn't a difficult decision because church work was Earl Weatherford's first calling. He was more interested in a church setting. Lily emphasized, "Ministry, no entertainment, was his first priority. The Weatherfords have always been more of a church group."
Success was soon coming as the Lord blessed Rex Humbard?. The Weatherfords found themselves dinging from the stage of the brand new, ultra modern Cathedral Of Tomorrow. Just a couple more member changes and the group would be set. One of their lineups during that transition period included Lily, Earl, George Younce, Jim Hamill? and Danny Coker?. Eventually, George Younce left. Recently discharged Armond Morales was back. Les Roberson went to The Oak Ridge Quartet. Soon, Glen Payne and Henry Slaughter? were added.
The Weatherfords were now Earl, Lily, Glen Payne, Armond Morales?, and Henry Slaughter?, a lineup that stayed together for nearly eight years from 1955-1963. The Weatherfords sang for Humbard on Sundays and filmed TV on Mondays. That gave them five days for "Weatherford" business, a business that was making more demands on the ever popular group as Rex Humbard?'s ministry mushroomed. Rex wanted a full time group on staff to be at The Cathedral every day, but the Weatherfords felt their work was in a different field, namely traveling and singing. Henry Slaughter? left the group to lead the choir at The Cathedral Of Tomorrow? in early 1963. Lily left the group to spend more time with a new son. When the situation finally came to a head, the group was EARL WEATHERFORD, Armond Morales?, Glen Payne, Bobby Clark, and Danny Coker?. Rex called these men into his office and told them of his plans for a full time group at the church. He asked who wanted to stay and who wanted to go. Glen Payne, Danny Coker? and Bobby Clark formed the now famous Cathedrals (then a trio before George Younce joined a short while later from the Blue Ridge Quartet.)
Lily, Earl and Armond hit the road with Mack Evans? hired from The Rangers? to sing baritone and Jerry Evans? came from the Couriers?. Soon Mack answered his country's call for the armed forces in 1963 and Armond Morales? answered Jake Hess?' invitation to become an Imperial? in 1964. As so often happens in this business they had to regroup yet again.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, The Weatherfords traveled the country. Earl and Lily had two children. An older daughter did not take an interest in the quartet but son, Steve Weatherford? did. One day, on the road, the baritone singer got sick and had to fly home. Like his mother before him, Steve begged his dad for the chance to sing. He kept bugging him until finally one day, Earl said in exasperation, "All right? Show us what you can do"" The rest is Weatherford history. Steve has traveled with the group every since.
A life of full time touring finally took its toll when EARL WEATHERFORD died of congestive heart failure while on the road in Long Beach, California. Father, teacher, Pioneer, and great Gospel singer had come full circle and died on June 17, 1992, where it all started in Southern California.
Personal tragedy struck again last year when Steve Weatherford's home was lost to a fire.
The Weatherford's list of impressive former members reads like a Who's Who of former and today's great Gospel singers. Space doesn't allow to mention them all.
Throughout it all, Lily and Steve Weatherford? carry on with Kenny Payne?, whose mother was one of the group's original pianists. The Weatherfords work as a trio but have kept that smooth vocal blend which comes from years of singing together. Church ministry is still their first love although they can be seen on many concert stages across America. Work is Lily's secret for success and The Weatherfords? are working harder than ever and are now enjoying some of the biggest personal accomplishments of their long career. They have a different look from a different era, kinda like Palmetto State, but their stage performance is strictly first class.
Created by: Roger Vick
Record added: Jun 11, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 19844943