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The Sundown to Sunup Gospel Sing, an outdoor gospel music event, was held on the first weekend in August in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) starting in 1969. During that time, the event was billed as the “largest outdoor gospel sing.” It was later named for its founder, gospel songwriter Albert Edward Brumley of Powell, Missouri, who penned such well-known songs as “I’ll Fly Away” and “Turn Your Radio On.”
The idea for the Sundown to Sunup Gospel Sing was conceived after a gospel singing event in Bentonville (Benton County) in 1968. Brumley and his sons, Bill and Bob, worked with Springdale Chamber of Commerce president Lee Zachary to bring the event to Springdale’s Parsons Stadium in 1969. That first year, the singing was a one-night event. A flat-bed truck served as the stage for performers, with stacked chicken crates as steps leading to the stage. About 1,000 people attended, netting about $100 profit, which was split between the Brumleys and the event’s sponsoring organization, the Springdale Chamber of Commerce.
In 1972, a second night was added to the singing. A third night was added in 1977, and in 1993, the event was expanded to four nights. Several nationally known gospel groups sang each evening. The list of performers over the years includes the Oak Ridge Boys, Bill Gaither, the Blackwood Brothers, the Stamps Quartet, and the Kingsmen.
The Saturday session lived up to the event’s name, with groups literally performing all night long. The popularity of the Sundown to Sunup Gospel Sing peaked in the early 1990s, when attendance over the four days averaged 30,000. By that time, the event had expanded to include a golf tournament, a talent contest, and an old-fashioned singing school.
In 2002, the event moved to an air-conditioned indoor venue on the campus of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). In 2006, the event moved to Lebanon, Missouri, where it was known as the Albert E. Brumley Memorial Gospel Sing. It relocated again in 2016 to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it is called the Brumley Gospel Sing.
For additional information:Albert E. Brumley & Sons Inc. http://www.brumleymusic.com (accessed February 14, 2013).
Fredrick, Leon. “25th Brumley Gospel Sing Becomes Four-Day Event at Springdale.”Ozark Mountaineer 41 (July/August 1993): 38–39.
Hall, Kay. “Gospel Sing Had Shaky Start.” Springdale Morning News, July 13, 1996, p. 6A.
Hively, Kay, and Albert E. Brumley Jr. I'll Fly Away: The Life Story of Albert E. Brumley. Branson, MO: Mountaineer Books, 1990.
Susan YoungShiloh Museum of Ozark History
Last Updated 7/5/2017
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