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Wally Fowler

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Biography

b. Wallace Fowler, 15 February 1917, near Adairsville, Georgia, USA, d. 3 June 1994, Hollow Lake, near Nashville, Tennessee, USA. His father was the cotton king of Bartow County, until the Depression left him broken both in health and financially. Fowler once worked in a florist’s to support the family and began singing in the Harmony Quartet. In 1936, he became lead singer with the John Daniel Quartet, whose repertoire varied from gospel to variety songs and moved to Lubbock, Texas. He began to write songs and first sang his popular ‘I’m Sending You Red Roses’ (a number 2 hit for Jimmy Wakely in 1944) in Dallas. In 1940, the quartet relocated to Nashville, where they played on WSM and the Grand Ole Opry. In 1944, Fowler formed his own group, the Georgia Clodhoppers, which included Chet Atkins on lead guitar, to work on WNOX Knoxville. They became regulars on theMid-day Merry Go Round and before long Fowler also formed his Harmony Quartet. Among many appearances, the quartet began to sing in weekly concerts for children at nearby Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which led to Fowler renaming the group the Oak Ridge Quartet. He moved to Nashville, and from 1946-50 became a regular part of thePrince Albert Show on theGrand Ole Opry. After Red Foley continually introduced them as ‘Wally Fowler And His Oak Ridge Boys’, the name became permanent and the quartet became one of the country’s most popular gospel groups. Fowler left them in 1952 but in 1970, after many personnel changes, the group turned to country music and have since registered many chart hits and won many awards. Apart from his activities with the quartet, Fowler became involved in promotional work and songwriting (Eddy Arnold enjoyed Top 5 country hits with ‘That’s How Much I Love You’ and ‘I Couldn’t Believe It Was True’). In 1948, he organized his firstAll-Night Singing in Nashville, an event that proved so popular, it led to many more in other towns. During his long career, Fowler often helped others, including the young Patsy Cline. He recorded for several labels, but in later years, he went into semi-retirement and tended to avoid publicity, although he continued to promote some gospel and variety shows in North Carolina. He also surprisingly gained a minor country chart hit, ‘Lo And Behold’, in 1984, singing with his Tennessee Valley Boys. He was elected to the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 1988. Fowler drowned on a fishing trip with his son-in-law in 1994 when he was found face down in a lake. A doctor believed he may have fallen in after suffering a heart attack.

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