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THEY'RE 'SINGING ALL-NITE' IN DIXIE
Folks come by the thousands and stay till dawn at Wally Fowler's gospel sings.
by Allen Rankin
What Broadway or Hollywood showman would even try to hold a paying audience of thousands all night—from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.? Yet big, bull-voiced Wally Fowler, from Possum Trot, Georgia, performs this feat almost any time he chooses. With his All-Nite Gospel and Spiritual Sing Concert, he is probably doing more than any other one man to convert old-fashioned gospel singing into big-time show business. Even his more usual "short" shows—which end around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.—hold fans about twice as long as a screening of Gone with the Wind.
Not long ago Fowler and his sacred-singing quartets "of radio and record fame," as they are billed, arrived in At­lanta, Georgia, for a one-night stand. A week earlier, Lib-erace, the piano-playing idol of TV, had packed the city's 5,200-seat Municipal Auditorium with 5,520 admirers. Fowler drew a record 7,100 clamoring fans, and hundreds more were turned away.
Other cities and towns throughout the South and Mid­west have had similar experiences. During the last five years, gospel singers as a group have drawn larger audi­ences more consistently in these areas than any other reg­ularly scheduled, paid-admission attractions—including con­cert artists, road companies of Broadway plays, prize fights, and even ice shows.
Wally Fowler's All-Nite Sing is the largest and most successful of a dozen religious musical road shows that at­tract an estimated 2,000,000 paying fans a year. It plays to audiences of up to 15,000 a week in some 200 towns and cities in 38 states each season. A single such show at Montgom­ery, Alabama, drew 9,000 enthusiasts, and another at Win­ston-Salem, North Carolina, 10,018.
"Reprinted by permission of Allen Rankin from Collier's, Vol. 136, No. 4, August 19, 1955, pp. 26-7."
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III