10 Years Ago: Glen Payne Goes Home
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Boone, NC - Today marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Glen Payne, lead vocalist for the legendary Cathedral Quartet.
Below is an article from the December 1999 issue of Singing News.
Below is an article from the December 1999 issue of Singing News.
Southern Gospel Music Mourns The Loss Of Another Pioneer
GLEN PAYNE 1926-1999
Written by Dr Jim Goff & Danny Jones
He was a hero of the faith, soldier of the cross, singing out the grand old story.
Glen Payne, beloved leader and talented lead vocalist of the legendary Cathedral Quartet, passed away October 15, 1999, following a battle with liver cancer He was 72 years old.
Born near Rockwall, TX, on October 20, 1926, Glen Weldon Payne's life spanned much of the history of Southern Gospel. As a young boy, he traveled to Dallas to attend the Stamps-Baxter School of Music. Like many farming families, the Paynes had been hard hit by the Depression and, thanks to a letter from Glen's grandmother, VO Stamps offered the boy a scholarship to attend the annual school held in the Oak Cliff suburb each June. It was a gesture of warmth and friendship that the boy would never forget and, for the next sixty years, he would determine to make good on the famous song publisher's investment.
Glen attended the school for four summers beginning in 1939, learning shape notes and taking voice lessons. He was there in June 1940, when VO Stamps conducted his last school shortly before passing away from heart failure two months later. VO's brother, Frank, made sure the Payne boy continued to get the annual scholarship.
In 1944, Glen moved to Dallas and took a job with the Stamps-Baxter Company, working in the plant and singing in one of the many company quartets before finally heading off to help America and the Allies in the final days of World War Two. Late 1945 found Glen in the Philippines, serving in the occupation army. After his release from service at the end of 1946, he returned to Dallas. By now, Frank Stamps had left Stamps-Baxter to form his own Stamps Quartet Music Company. Mr Stamps hired the young man again, both to sing and to help assemble songbooks for the new company. Glen sang baritone for a time with the Harley Lester Stamps Quartet and then as a member of the Stamps All-Star Quartet.
Within a decade, he had made a name for himself and was now singing lead for the successful Stamps-Ozark Quartet of Siloam Springs, AR. His distinctive curly mane set him apart, as did the clarity of his voice. Such was the beginning of one of the greatest lead singers in Southern Gospel history.
By 1957, Glen had signed on to sing lead in the Weatherford Quartet, a group that produced a long line of great singers in the Southern Gospel tradition. The late-50s ensemble of Glen along with Earl and Lily Fern Weatherford, Armond Morales and Henry Slaughter remains to this day one of the greatest assemblings of Gospel Music talent in history - the word usually used to describe them is "smooth."
They set a precedent few have matched in the half century since they sang regularly on radio and television as well as in concert as a part of the outreach efforts of Rev Rex Humbard's Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron, OH. In February 1959, they recorded In The Garden - long regarded as one of the finest Gospel Music albums ever produced. While singing with the Weatherfords, Glen met and married Van Lua Harris. The ceremony, televised live from the Cathedral of Tomorrow sanctuary on November 30, 1957, sanctioned a union that would remain true for more than forty years and would produce three children, Carla, Todd, and Darla.
When the Weatherford Quartet left Akron in 1963 to resume a full-time touring schedule, Glen did not make the bus. He remained behind with a couple of other former Weatherfords, Danny Koker and Bobby Clark, to form the new Cathedral Trio and continue as a regular part of the Humbard ministerial outreach. When George Younce left the Blue Ridge Quartet to move to Akron the following year, the group became the Cathedral Quartet.
For the next five years, the Cathedrals remained with the Humbard ministry. The impact on the quartet was significant, much as it had been with the Weatherfords before them. The Cathedrals became one of the first Southern Gospel groups to make worship a natural part of their presentation. For years, they sang as a part of one of the nation's best known evangelical teams and, even when their singing led them to concert halls and paid admission audiences, the influence was not lost. Southern Gospel Music was sung for a specific purpose - to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all that came to listen. The quartet didn't preach but the impact of their singing was oftentimes like a sermon.
Importantly, their experiences in Akron led Glen, George, and the other members of the Cathedrals to rededicate themselves personally to the cause of Christ. It had not always been so. Though Glen had been raised a Methodist, he, like most of the rest of the early generation of singers, had learned to sing Gospel songs as an art form and as a part of the entertainment business - wholesome family entertainment, but entertainment nonetheless. But the years at Humbard's Cathedral of Tomorrow had a lasting impact on his life. Southern Gospel Music took on a new meaning and the opportunity of singing the Gospel message in song became a lifetime passion as well as an occupation. The Cathedrals left the Rex Humbard ministry team in 1969 in order to spend more time on the road and build the group's base of support. For the next three decades, some of the best names in Southern Gospel would fill the baritone and tenor spots but the backbone of the group's identity would always be Glen and George. Relatively obscure during the early 1970s, their group's name paling alongside the more publicized groups in Southern Gospel, Glen and George ultimately led the Cathedrals all the way to the top. Along the way, their commitment to two things never wavered: a musical performance consistently seeking perfection and a sweet spirit of worship that unashamedly proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ.
As Southern Gospel grew, so did the Cathedrals. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, they had ascended to the pinnacle of Southern Gospel Music, winning practically all the awards the industry could bestow on them and reveling in the fans' response to their music. Glen himself took no less than 11 Singing News Fan Awards, most being the Favorite Lead Singer Award. He was also officially inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 1997.
In mid-September 1999, Glen was diagnosed with liver cancer. He passed away at his home in Franklin, TN, on Friday afternoon, October 15th, at approximately 2:15 (CST), with his family at his bedside.
With Glen's passing from this world, an incident occurred that should uplift and encourage every Christian. Long-time Payne family friend and Nashville attorney Russ Farrar tells the story (with permission from Glen's family). "On that Friday afternoon, Glen was near the point of death from the liver cancer that had ravaged his body. Although not in any pain, he would kind of drift in and out as he lay in his bed. Sometime between 2:00 and 2:15 the family was gathered around Glen's bed and everyone there was singing Victory In Jesus.' Then the next song was What A Day That Will Be.' As the family was singing, on three occasions Glen said wow.' Then, as Van describes it, those standing near the head of the bed saw a flash of light much like a flashbulb going off on a camera and Glen peacefully took his last breath and made his way to his eternal home.
"I don't think there could have possibly been a better homecoming or one more well deserved."
It was a long road from Rockwall, TX, through the heights of the Southern Gospel Music industry, to his eternal reward - a road that passed through the likes of VO and Frank Stamps as well as Earl and Lily Fern Weatherford, a road traveled alongside good friends like George Younce. And, significantly, it was a path chosen and charted with a clear understanding that, successful or not in the eyes of the world, this was the path of obedience to his Savior. Amen.