Gospel Great Dies At 73

Southern Gospel legend and Opry regular J.D. Sumner passed away Monday morning, three days before his 74th birthday, at a condominium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. With his gospel group, The Stamps, the Nashville-based singer was performing dates at a Myrtle Beach theater when he suffered a heart attack. Known to have the world’s lowest bass voice, Sumner and his band were Elvis Presley’s principal backing vocalists from 1972 until Presley’s death in 1977, contributing to Grammy-winning performances in 1972 and 1974. The native of Lakeland, Florida, worked with numerous Southern Gospel combos, including the Sunny South Quartet, the Sunshine Boys and the renowned Blackwood Brothers. Sumner helped found the Gospel Music Association. He was inducted individually into the GMA’s Gospel Hall of Fame in 1983, and last spring he was inducted again as part of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps. Sumner also helped form The National Quartet Convention. He wrote more than 500 songs, among them such Southern Gospel favorites as “The Old Country Church,” “Crossing Chilly Jordan” and “He Means All The World To Me.”