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Three Decades: Memories, Part 1 (#538)
For more than 30 years, Southern Gospel music has been my profession of choice. As I jokingly told someone recently, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly during that time. But I wouldn't trade any of the memories I have for any amount of money.
During the next few weeks, I'm going to share some of the "bigger" memories. Though they'll appear in no prescribed order, I think I've arrived at a list of 10 "big" highlights up to this point. And considering the on-going situation with Tracy Stuffle, the one you're about to read is the best place to start...

There have been many priceless moments that have taken place during the annual Singing News Fan Awards. During the 2005 awards presentation, Tracy Stuffle's comments—or lack of comments—when his wife, Libbi, was announced as Favorite Female Singer, rank near the top of those "had-to-be-there" incidents.

You see, Brian Free and Tracy were the Fan Awards presenters during that segment. They had rolled through a couple of awards, and then it was time for the Favorite Female Singer award. They read the nominees; and then, not doing what Tracy thought was planned, Brian stepped aside and told Tracy to announce the winner. The original plans called for the duo to make the announcement together.
Just minutes before he went on stage, I had told Brian to let Tracy read the name on the winner's card.

Brian's no dummy. He looked at me and grinned, "This is going to be interesting, isn't it?"

I told him, "Just let Tracy read the card."   

Tracy never read the card.

Instead, when the plaque and card arrived, Tracy set them down on the podium and started to pick up the winner's card. Just as he moved the card, he saw the picture on the plaque and realized who the winner was.

Stunned silence.

Brian was beginning to get concerned. He looked at Tracy. He looked across the stage at me. He looked at Tracy again, and then he looked back at me with that "Help!" look in his eyes. I think Brian was concerned that if Tracy fainted, he would have to catch Tracy.

Libbi, meanwhile, was watching Tracy from her stage-side seat and wondering why he wasn't talking.

Tracy finally said, "Come on up here, Libbi."

 I'm almost positive I heard Brian breathe a sigh of relief.

Sheer pandemonium set in at that point. The audience had figured out what was happening while Tracy was staring at the plaque, and they couldn't hold it in any longer. Libbi realized their son Jared was nudging her and saying, "That's you, Mama! That's you!" The rest of The Perrys and practically all the other performers gathered around the stage were going crazy in appreciation.

I may be wrong, but until that day in 2005, that was quite possibly the only time in Singing News Fan Awards history that the winner's name was never actually called on stage.

\When the presenters were picked for that year's presentation, the final balloting results were not in. However, when the results were known by the show's planners—at that time, me and two other people—we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to help create an everlasting memory.

Next: Why Michael could not keep the food on his fork—The only concert with The Cathedrals and The Booth Brothers.

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