The Fairfield Four and Jimmy Jack Whitaker are Winners at the 13th Annual USAGEM Awards

usagemThe 13th Annual USAGEM Awards Show was held on Saturday November 19, 2016 at the historic Texas Troubadour Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee. This yearly event is sponsored by the United States Association Of Gospel Entertainers & Musicians.

The Reed Brothers opened the show with a country flair. They performed their version of the gospel classic song “Through It All”.

The Fox Brothers were the hosts of the show. Joining them were several segment co-hosts including: Russ & Linda Murphy; Tommie & Dwayne Lewis; Ann Hartmann & Tank Tackett; Sheila Berry Harrison & Larry Dunlap; Julian & Bonnie George; and Bev McCann & Rachel Taylor.

Jimmy Jack Whitaker was the big award winner of the evening, garnering awards for the Gospel Entertainer, Singer/Songwriter, and Musician Of The Year. He also took home the Christian Country Crown Jewel Award. During the show, Whitaker performed one of his self penned songs, “Just Like Joseph” and then announced a brand new artist to the show. After his introduction of Daniele Carson, Whitaker stayed to accompany her with his guitar during her heartfelt performance.

Later in the show, Daniele Carson was presented the award for Video Of The Year for her song “You Will Fly”, which was one of the most emotional acceptances of the evening. She explained that this song was inspired by her experience of being abused as a child. Through these experiences, she is now giving back to less fortunate children through her work with the Jimmy Jack Foundation.

The two and one-half hour show was intertwined with song performances and award presentations. There were several highlights during the program including an impeccable performance by The Fairfield Four. Their vocal harmony on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” immediately brought the entire audience to their feet.

After their performance, Lynn Fox and Sandi Kay Shupe presented The Fairfield Four with the Black Gospel Crown Jewel Award. The Fairfield Four has been performing as a group for more than ninety years. The current members are grammy award winners and have appeared in movies such as, “O Brother Where Art Thou”.

The Song Of The Year accolades went to Sandi Kay Shupe for her self-penned song, “Thank You”. In a very emotional acceptance, Sandi explained that she wrote this song and dedicated it to the memory of her mom and dad. She went on to dedicate her song of the year award to their memory.

This year’s Female Vocalist Of The Year Award went to Christian Country singer and TCT television host, Melanie Walker. The winner of the Male Vocalist Of The Year was Frank Pizarro. Pizarro is most known for his work as a 9-11 responder and New York City Firefighter.

Peggy Inks, along with her husband Don Inks, received the prestigious USAGEM Diamond Award. This lifetime achievement award was presented to both of them for their many years of service in ministry and to USAGEM. Peggy was also presented the award for Comedian Of The Year.

There were ties in two different categories this year. In the Vocal Group category, awards were presented to the Mississippi based band, The Reed Brothers. Also picking up the Vocal Group trophy was the Nashville based group, Mending Fences.

Randy & Wendi Pierce and The Davis Family were the tie winners in the Duo Of The Year category. During The evening, The Davis Family also garnered the USAGEM Sapphire Award. During the show, Randy & Wendi Pierce performed “Work Of A Carpenter”, while The Davis Family performed their top nominated song, “Look Up”.

This year’s New Artist Of The Year accolades went to southern gospel music soloist, Bob Etzel. The USAGEM Ruby Award was presented to one of the award show’s segment co-hosts, Dwayne Lewis.

This year’s Bluegrass Crown Jewel Award winners, Leipers Fork Bluegrass performed “The Three Bells”. This song was made famous during the 1960’s by Jim Ed Brown & The Browns and was performed by Leipers Fork Bluegrass as a tribute to them. New artist, Cassidy Huckabay, who received this year’s Contemporary Christian Crown Jewel Award, did a pristine job performing her top nominated song, “Dying Again”.

Saxophonist and musician nominee, Shelton Bissell played perfectly, performing his own rendition of “Wayfaring Stranger”. Other wonderfully fulfilled performances were “Thank You Mom & Dad” by Connie Lea, “Precious One” by Cherie Brennan, and “I Trust In You” by Cassie Cornish.

Joanne Cash Yates performed her nominated song, “The Cost Of The Call”. In this writer’s opinion, this is a true example of a perfect marriage of singer and song. Written by legendary gospel songwriter, Joel Hemphill, this song is tailored perfectly for Ms. Joanne.

Other notable performances on the show were “Church Like We Knew Back Then” by Jim Sheldon; “That’s How You Learn To Live” by Southern Faith”; “Sunshine, Rain, & Roses” by Debbie Bennett; “My Sweet King” by The Pearly Gates; and “Lead Me To The Rock” by legendary gospel singer, Tank Tackett.

Closing the show this year was Sandi Kay & New Hickory. This group had the crowd on their feet with their rousing, upbeat song, “Stand By The River”.

Comprising the USAGEM band were: Tom Campbell (fiddle), Dewitt Johnson (Keyboard), Lashell Spears (piano), Jack Roulier (lead guitar), Jay Shupe (pedal steel), Mike Dunbar (bass), and Barry Wayne (drums). The backup vocalists included Sandi Kay Shupe, Paul Sparks, and Cassie Cornish. The trophy presenters for the show were Summer & Autumn Ryan.

Some of the award presenters were: Laura Mathy; Mariah Neff; Philip McCoy; Marty Merchant; Chuck, Candace, & Madisyn Kuykendall; Daniel Johnson; Randy Ferrell; David Davis, Becky Short, & Maddy Short; Johnny Mack; Nick Brennan; Joanne Cash & Dr. Harry Yates; Chloie Wright; and Larrice Byrd.

Below is a full list of this year’s USAGEM award winners:

Gospel Entertainer Of The Year – Jimmy Jack Whitaker

Female Vocalist Of The Year – Melanie Walker

Male Vocalist Of The Year – Frank Pizarro

Vocal Group Of The Year – Mending Fences

Vocal Group Of The Year – The Reed Brothers

Musician Of The Year – Jimmy Jack Whitaker

Duo Of The Year – The Davis Family

Duo Of The Year – Randy & Wendi Pierce

Singer/Songwriter Of The Year – Jimmy Jack Whitaker

Comedian Of The Year – Peggy Inks

New Artist Of The Year – Bob Etzel

Video Of The Year – “You Will Fly” Daniele Carson

Song Of The Year – “Thank You” Sandi Kay Shupe

Christian Country Crown Jewel – Jimmy Jack Whitaker

Southern Gospel Crown Jewel – Rick Alan King

Contemporary Christian Crown Jewel – Cassidy Huckabay

Black Gospel Crown Jewel – The Fairfield Four

Bluegrass Crown Jewel – Leipers Fork Bluegrass

Diamond Award – Don & Peggy Inks

Emerald Award – Laura Lewis

Pearl Award – Margaret Anne Smith

Ruby Award – Dwayne Lewis

Sapphire Award – The Davis Family

Servant’s Heart Award – Chuck & Candace Kuykendall

Helping Hand Award – Don McCloud

Media Award – Rob Patz, SGN Scoops Mazazine

Radio Servant’s Award – Bruce & Connie Lea Cutler

Film & TV Award – The Music City Show

Excellence In Outreach Award – Rockin’ Reggie & Kat Vinson

USAGEM President’s Award – Ann Hartmann

Absolutely Gospel Music

Formed over 25 years ago by Founders Deon & Susan Unthank originally as became the most viewed Southern Gospel website on the Internet with over 1 million hits per month. The website is based out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In April 2010, SoGospelNews changed its name to, allowing the site to cover all genres of gospel music. Before the passing of founder Deon Unthank in December 17, 2022, he arranged the sale of the site to a dear family friend, Bev McCann. The site is now run by Bev McCann and the Nashville 37201 media group.
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