TOP PHOTO: Peg McKamey. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PEG MCKAMEY’S FACEBOOK PAGE)
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – The sad news of the death of Southern Gospel’s down-to-earth icon Peg McKamey came into WLAF early on Tuesday morning.
In the spring of 2014, Peg spent an afternoon sharing stories, voicing liners and visiting with WLAF’s Charlotte Underwood.
Here is that story.
Peg McKamey reflects on 60 years of singing gospel
By Charlotte Underwood
CLINTON, TN (WLAF) – After 60 years of singing and more than 50 recorded projects, Peg McKamey is still going strong with no plans to retire the voice that has touched thousands over the years as part of the nationally acclaimed gospel group The McKameys.
“Only the Lord knows about that. It’s in the Lord’s hands; it always has been,” McKamey said on Tuesday in an interview with WLAF. The daughter of a coal miner and preacher, she was born in Clinchmore in the mountains of Campbell County. Her singing career began in 1954 when her oldest sister Dora decided she wanted to sing a song at church. McKamey said she was “too young to be scared” and her little sister Carol was even younger.
“She said ‘Peg, you and Carol sing this part, and I’ll sing that part’, that was at the Moran Baptist Church in 1954,” McKamey said with a laugh adding that she never dreamed she would be a professional singer.
“I just never thought I had the voice for it; I never felt I was a good singer,” Peg said seriously. Thousands upon thousands of gospel music fans disagree with her and the group’s 28 number one singles over the years attest to the McKamey’s popularity. As the years passed, the group would go where they were invited to sing and the invitations just kept coming.
“I just love people; I love listening to what they have to say, especially about the music and how it may have inspired them or helped them. I am always in awe of what God did for me, how he came into the mountains of Clinchmore,” Peg said. Both her father and mother were musical.
“My daddy loved to sing. He had a thunderous voice and didn’t need a microphone, he would just blast out with a song or preaching – he just loved it.” Her mother played the banjo and had learned it from her dad, Peg’s grandfather. She recalled her grandfather visiting and hanging his banjo on the wall.
“My mother had 12 kids, he had to hang it on the wall to keep it from getting broke,” Peg said with a laugh. She herself played guitar.
Growing up, Peg lived in Lake City for a while, as well as Clinton, attending school in both places.
She met her husband Ruben Bean at his church where he and his family sang and played music. Later on, he began playing guitar for the sisters who had previously been singing acapella mostly. She and Ruben will soon celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. The couple had two girls and adopted two boys.
Peg said she listened to gospel music so much on the radio they had that once one of the boys went to visit a friend and had the opportunity to listen to some other music at the friend’s house.
“He came back so excited and said mama; they have a radio that plays country music!”
The group recorded their first album in 1968 after she and Ruben had married. In 1972, her two sisters, Dora and Carol retired and the couple’s daughters Connie and Sheryl stepped in and are still singing with the group today.
“Both my girl’s took piano lessons and are very musical.”
The group went full-time in 1980, and it has been a great gospel ride for the group over the years.
Peg’s grandson Eli Fortner and her son-in-law Roger Fortner are part of the group now. Peg said she and the family spend a lot of time on the road and says she loves it.
“We get off the road and I think, “oh what am I going to do now?’” She said each place the group visits is special to her.
“The older I get the more overwhelmed I am by God’s love and God’s grace. As long as the Lord provides, I’m willing to be used by him; he has been so good to me.”
The group has performed on television in front of millions and in front of live audiences of 20,000 or more, spreading God’s love through a mission of music.
“You remember things over the years – like 10,000 people singing along to “God on the Mountain”,” Peg said. That particular song was voted the number one song in 1989. It was number one for five months and stayed on the charts for nearly two years.
Peg said that was her favorite song to sing, even after all these years.
“There is always someone in the audience who has never heard it and it is always such a blessing to the expression on their face when they get reminded that God’s the same no matter where you are.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 12/27/2023-6AM)