After 63 years of singing, often with the Georgians, Calvin McGuyrt feels it’s time to step away from performing, producing, songwriting, booking, etc.
At least, he feels it’s time to stop doing all of these things, and more, full-time with the Georgians.
So, next weekend, when McGuyrt joins fellow Georgians Todd Johnson, Jeremy Allen and Kevin Parten on stage for the annual Georgians Homecoming performance in Valdosta, it has been dubbed “Calvin’s Farewell Concert.”
McGuyrt isn’t quitting all together. He will still sing the occasional scheduled concert with the group which will continue, likely as the New Georgians, via the other members.
McGuyrt will still write songs, but not the type of on-demand songwriting of the past dozen years for the annual Georgians’ CD, which had him weighing the needs for a “fast song ... a slow song ... an uplifting song ... a sad song,” but rather he will write a song when he feels the inspiration. He cites a recent incident where he and wife Lavina heard three sermons on Job within a matter of days. McGuyrt felt called to write a new song about Job’s biblical sufferings and how they compare with the tribulations we face in our lives.
So, he will still be involved in the gospel and contemporary Christian music which he loves, but McGuyrt won’t have to be involved with it all of the time.
Having recently turned 76, McGuyrt is at peace
“After much prayer and thought, I feel the time has come not to be an active part of the Georgians,” McGuyrt notes in a letter to friends and fans. “I have been serving the Lord 63 years in the ministry of gospel music, both on church staff and the Georgians. It has been a joyful and rewarding experience, and I have total peace with this decision.”
The Georgians’ beginnings are pinned to McGuyrt’s life. McGuyrt was raised on the shape-note singing of his father who taught the musical style in several schools. His father was also the leader of the Stamps Melody Quartet, according to the Georgians’ history.
“My dad became a Christian in 1936 and I was born a year later in 1937. By that time he was already the music leader in our church,” McGuyrt recalls. “My parents always thought this was a part of God’s plan, as His favor has always been on life. I have felt from a small child a calling of gospel music in my life that included not only singing, but writing and arranging.”
Upon his father’s retirement from the group, Calvin McGuyrt became its leader.
“I vividly remember at the age of 12 singing in my first quartet, the Stamps Melody Quartet, as the tenor before my voice changed,” McGuyrt notes. “Besides my dad and me, other members were A.B. Taylor, his son Little Jimmy, who was with the Rebels Quartet for over 40 years, and Harold Bowman, bass singer. It was an exciting time when my dad bought us our first Palm Beach light blue suits.”
In 1955, McGuyrt changed the name of the group to the Georgians. For several years through the late ’50s and ’60s, McGuyrt and the Georgians traveled throughout the nation performing their brand of barbershop-quartet harmonies applied to gospel music. In 1962, the Georgians signed with Songs of Faith in Nashville, Tenn., joining gospel names such as The Segos, Wendy Bagwell & The Sunlighters and The Florida Boys. The Georgians recorded albums and toured.
“I have been privileged to sing to multitudes of thousands from Florida to New Mexico to Canada, including the famous Annual All Nite Sing in Waycross, where over 12,000 attended, the world’s biggest All Nite Singing in Bonifay, Fla., with 15,000, and the monthly Wally Fowler All Nite Sing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.,” he notes.
Yet, the life of a musician on the road is difficult, and McGuyrt left full-time touring. He became a minister of music, led a 70-member church choir, became involved in several endeavors, raised a family with first wife Marilyn, but he never forgot the Georgians and his days of touring and singing.
In 2002, McGuyrt felt compelled to revive the Georgians. In the decade since, the group has recorded about one CD per year, embracing various musical genres for their songs of faith.
The group has earned many distinctions for its original music and dynamic performances, including being named last year as the Southeastern Southern Gospel Music Conference’s Male Quartet of the Year. The Valdosta-based group won this top honor from gospel groups from eight Southern states, including Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana. McGuyrt has described the distinction of the Georgians being named Male Quartet of the Year as being the greatest achievement of his 50-plus-year professional singing career.
Yet, with Marilyn’s passing after battling cancer for many years and Calvin marrying Lavina on Aug. 4 of last year, McGuyrt feels the time is right to step away from the Georgians.
“As time goes on and at 76 years of age, we experience that life changes,” McGuyrt. “However, I’ve heard it often said that a minister never fully retires. But, of course at some age you can’t be as active.”
Yet, McGuyrt proves one may always take a new leap of faith.
“Calvin’s Farewell Concert,” the Georgians Annual Homecoming Concert, also featuring gospel groups the Diamonds, the Piersons and VictorySong.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3.
Where: New Covenant Church, 3531 Bemiss Road.
Admission: No charge but a love offering taken.
Sponsor: Valdosta DARE Program.