HomeEntertainmentMusicCountry MusicEarly Oak Ridge Boys Gospel Singer Calvin Newton Dies

Early Oak Ridge Boys Gospel Singer Calvin Newton Dies

by TK Sanders

Gospel singer (Wesley) Calvin Newton, an early Oak Ridge Boys singer during the group’s first iteration, died earlier this month in Georgia. Newton served as the band’s lead singer for three years in the 1950s before the four current members even joined. The Oak Ridge Boys paid tribute to Newton during a funeral service on Monday, March 13.

Newton moved to Lookout Mountain, Ga. in 1988, and it’s there he died on March 3. Wife Joyce preceded him in death.

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Newton is a Korean War veteran, member of the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and a member of the Tri State Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. In his official obituary, Newton’s family notes that he performed solo for ten years before joining the Oak Ridge Boys.

The band recorded “Crying in the Chapel” and “I Believe” with Newton decades ago. After three years, Newton became the high tenor of the Sons of Song, a vocal group that he’d continue to work with for decades. News coverage of his death even cites the lesser-known Sons of Song as Newton’s primary musical accomplishment; his time as an Oak Ridge Boy was more of a footnote.

Regardless of his career, people who knew him recall his talent more than anything.

“He was the sweetest tenor voice you’ll ever hear,” Joe Bonsall writes on Twitter.

“A blessing to see and sing with so many longtime dear friends,” the Oak Ridge Boys wrote on Twitter. “We are singing ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken.'”

The Oak Ridge Boys first formed in 1947, but the band has seen many iterations since

Newton leaves behind a son, Wesley, a daughter, Jackie, plus their respective families and extended family. A celebration of life took place on March 13, with the graveside service to follow on Tuesday (March 14).

The modern version of the Oak Ridge Boys fans know today really began when William Lee Golden and Duane Allen joined the group in 1965. Richard Sterban and Bonsall joined a few years later. In the early days, they enjoyed considerable gospel success. But later they became famous as country music hitmakers.

The Nashville-based group, which officially began in 1947, has 17 No. 1 Billboard Country hits to date. One of the reasons the band persists, according to its own members, is the love of country they all share.

“I happen to love America,” William Lee Golden said. “I’ve always loved America. I’m thankful for this country, and for all the people in it. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

“We never get tired of traveling in America,” he added. “Most of the touring we’ve done in our career has been done in America — North America, in Canada, too. We’ve been fortunate through the years.”