Gospel Singing Caravan
Innovation and versatility are two necessary ingredients essential to a successful endeavor. In 1961, some of most innovative and versatile groups in gospel music put their thinking caps together to form one of the finest entertainment packages in the history of the gospel music industry. The Gospel Singing Caravan incorporated great artists in a package that filled auditoriums throughout the country.
One of the gentlemen involved in the production of the concert was an old circus promoter, so he had some wonderful ideas to bring a great crowd to the singing. They didn't want to use commonplace wordage such as "All Night Singing", "Gospel Music Concert", or "Battle of the Songs" but wanted to come up with something new and inventive. After discussing several ideas, they decided to call their concert "The Gospel Singing Caravan".
The advertising campaign for this first concert was quite extensive including promotion via television, radio, newspapers, and posters throughout the area. The stadium was packed, and the concert was a tremendous success. The success of this event was so encouraging that the promoters then decided to book the same talent in Anderson, South Carolina at the Civic Center. Again, the building was filled to capacity and Caravan began to roll along.
After two successful programs, the promoters decided to move on to other ventures, yet the Caravan continued to roll along. Urias LeFevre and Elmo Fagg called their groups together to discuss the success of those two concerts and decided that the Gospel Singing Caravan idea was too good to abandon. With the blessings of the original promoters, they continued with the name of the "Gospel Singing Caravan.
Elmo Fagg was the stage director for the Caravan. At this time, gospel singings were often all night affairs. He and Pierce LeFevre put their heads together to make the Gospel Singing Caravan a great experience for the fans. Instead of a tiring all night program, the Caravan program lasted about three hours. Each group would sing 30-40 minutes, there would be a short intermission, and the Caravan choir closed the program. This concert style filled auditoriums for all of the Caravan programs. "Sold Out" performances became the norm for the Caravan.
The Gospel Singing Caravan appealed to all types of gospel music fans. The LeFevres had a television programs in their market, so television was the next logical step for the Caravan. Martha White Flour was the primary sponsor for the Gospel Singing Caravan television program. A.O. Stinson produced the hour long syndicated program. In a very innovative tactic, Eva Mae LeFevre was chosen to emcee the television program. This was undoubtedly a first for a female in gospel music. Her charisma and charm became an integral part of the Caravan show. It soon became one of the most popular programs in their respective markets. The majority of these recordings were taped at the WBTV studios in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The television program would begin with the choir singing the Vep Ellis classic, "This Great Caravan Keeps on Rolling Along." During the course of the show, each of the Caravan groups was featured singing their latest hits. In keeping with the versatility of the groups, many other segments became fixtures on the program. Each telecast featured an instrumental number. The LeFevres were quite proficient on several instruments, and announcer Tom Hipps was often featured playing the organ.
In addition to their television programs and concert appearances, the Caravan also produced "SING Magazine." Each month, the magazine would feature articles about each Caravan group. The newest recordings by the artists would be promoted, as would any interesting news about the Caravan members as well as other interesting tidbits about the leading groups in gospel music. Other groups recording on the SING label were prominently featured in this magazine. Several interesting Caravan personalities had their own monthly columns discussing industry issues or just a light-hearted look at life.
Each Caravan artist recorded for SING records. In addition to their individual albums, the members released five Caravan albums on the SING label. Three of these recordings featured popular recordings by each of the Caravan groups and a few songs by the Caravan Choir. They also released two special recordings. The other was a complete album by the Gospel Singing Caravan Choir. The choir segments were so popular that the Caravan fans demanded that they do an entire album of choir favorites. It quickly became one of their best-selling albums.
The Caravan continued for quite a few years. As Eva Mae often said, "We were coast to coast and border to border." At the apex of their popularity, the Gospel Singing Caravan was heard on more than forty television stations. Several former members of the Caravan have said that the saddest day in their professional history came when the Caravan dissolved.
Unfortunately, very little remains of the original Caravan television recordings. Video tape was very expensive, and the producers of the Caravan programs erased these tapes when they were returned to the station and recorded the next batch of programs over them.
Following in this rich heritage, Mike LeFevre and David Statton of the LeFevre Quartet had a vision to bring this great program back to the fans of Gospel music. The two men met with Matt Felts of Beyond Measure Marketing and the idea begin to take shape. The Caravan began to roll again. Following a meeting in Nashville, TN with the leaders of the Blackwood Brothers, The LeFevre Quartet, the Becky Simmons Agency and Beyond Measure Marketing, the Gospel Singing Caravan was back. With the addition of the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Gospel Singing Caravan lived up to its heritage by uniting the most popular names in Gospel music. Arguably the three most well known names in Gospel music history, these groups continue to please fans all across the country.
The Caravan family immediately went to the studio to begin work on their first album. Honoring the incredible tradition set before them, the first song they recorded was the title song to the original Caravan show "This Great Caravan." The Gospel Singing Caravan is signed with Daywind Records.