This is the grand patriarch of the North Carolina Easter family, paternal overlord of several musical aggregations with near-eternal lifespans. Actually, there were three original Easter Brothers that formed a bluegrass and gospel group under the family name in the early '50s, but it is often the father and son team of this man and precocious Russell Easter, Jr. that old-timey country music fans recall from vintage Grand Old Opry shows. James Easter and Ed Easter were the other singing siblings, each of whom produced offspring who graduated from diaper changes to learning chord changes as the family band wandered the Southern gospel music circuit (i.e. a series of Pentecostal Baptist churches of various dominations). Russell Easter, Sr. 's children were the aforementioned Russell Easter, Jr. and Rodger Easter. The Easter Brothers developed a grand reputation not only as performers but as songwriters, coming up with numbers such as "Thank You Lord for Your Blessings on Me," "The Darkest Hour," "They're Holding Up the Ladder," "He's the Rock I'm Leaning On," "Help Me Stand Lord," "Jesus, You've Just Made My Day," "Heart That Will Never Break Again," "Please Don't Tell My Daddy," and "Hand Me Downs" that have become became standards. Russell Easter, Sr.'s tunes are first choice for younger gospel groups wanting a cover song that is not only vintage but totally sincere. He began recording with the group for King, a major '60s country label, and was involved in creating the family label, Commandment. That outfit was eventually absorbed into the Lifeline label for production and distribution. Many of these recordings were done in combination with the skilled Green Valley Quartet.
Russell Easter, Jr. was already something of a celebrity in country music circles as a teenager, and his father encouraged him to take advantage of many session offers coming from Nashville. In the early '90s, Easter, Sr.'s granddaughter Shannon Easter and her husband were murdered in their home, a gruesome tragedy that shocked Easter, Jr. into breaking off his contacts with secular country & western performers such as Donna Fargo, Glen Campbell, and Boots Randolph. From here on in, the family was performing exclusively as a gospel group, although Easter, Sr. always works some traditional Appalachian material into the programs the group presents. "Thank You, Lord, for Your Blessings On Me" was an Easter Brothers smash from 2002. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi