Valdosta Daily Times

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November 16, 2013

Song Birds of Dalton keep on going

DALTON — Deed Robbs was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was told he only had weeks to live.

That was eight years ago.

“I’m still here,” Robbs said.

The gospel song, “Nobody But You, Lord” has become his personal testimony, one he sings proudly as a member of the Gospel Song Birds of Dalton.

“When I was in trouble, you came to my rescue,” as the song goes, “nobody, but you, Lord. Nobody but you.”

“Nobody but God keeps them going,” David Arnold said. “It’s a blessing he’s still here.”

The men, along with seven others, perform at churches, festivals and other functions around the Southeast in the Dalton-based all-male black gospel group.

Singing is a way for them to worship God. Being in the group is a way they bond with other believers, are uplifted and encourage others.

The group recently celebrated its sixth anniversary with a song service at New Hope Baptist Church on Roan Street in Dalton. The celebration featured several artists along with the Song Birds. Other members of the group are Chester Beck, Herl Bonds, Thurman Dozier (vice president of the group), Eli Ellington, George Ramsey, Dony Suttles and George Walker. Arnold is the group’s president.

There was a function six years ago where a person was looking for gospel groups to perform.

“So we got together to perform and just stayed together after that,” Arnold said. “We’re all lifelong acquaintances. Singing praises and enjoying what we do. We’ve all been singing for years. We just go at it and enjoy it.”

The group focuses on hymns but often gives them a jazzy feel or a little blues twist on the song. Songs range from traditional to contemporary.

“At the end of the day, we still go back to the hymnal,” Suttles said. “So much of it has a sorrowful tone, but we’re often dealing with those conditions.”

Though Arnold spent most of his adult life with a gospel singing group, he said it took some spiritual maturity before he fully understood.

“I was running too fast then,” he said. “When I was singing back then I never cried. Sometimes when I sing now I cry because I know what I’m talking about. ... I love singing praises, lifting up the name of Jesus. I can’t sing to you. I sing to Jesus. I can’t sing about it if I don’t believe it.”

For Suttles, singing is about tradition.

“Before we could walk we were listening to notes,” he said.

Dozier sang for many years with a group called the Spiritual Heartbeats.

“I enjoyed singing in that group,” he said. “Good time. ... It got to where we couldn’t practice. I had to sing somewhere. I hooked up with this group and really enjoy it. I just love to sing.”

Members say gospel groups such as theirs were once more common, but they fear it’s a tradition that’s beginning to fade in this area.

“We’re trying to keep it going,” Arnold said. “We’re singing praises for God. It’s all about him.”

All members are originally from the northwest Georgia area and live in Dalton now. And each member has a different home church, though they spend many Sundays together traveling to different churches.

“It’s a group of great men,” Arnold said. “We have a little headaches from time to time. But if I was going to be on a (spiritual) battlefield, I want to be there with these guys. There are ups and downs, but you can always talk to them. You can call on them. We’re more than friends. We’re like brothers.”

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