Original Chuck Wagon Gang - (1936 WBAP - Rose, Anna, Dad, Jim)
Hollywood Bowl Poster - (06-22-1963)
Movie - Sing A Song For Heaven's Sake (1966 - Roy Carter, Ron Page, Howard Gordon, Anna Gordon, Louise Clark (Porterfield))
The Chuck Wagon Gang (1936-Present)
The Chuck Wagon Gang was founded as a radio group, maintaining a radio show and recording for many years before ever making personal appearances outside the state of Texas. Through the years other family members would fill in when someone was away.
There have been many instances where the recording Chuck Wagon Gang was different than the touring one. There are also several occurrences where former members returned years later to record and/or travel as full-time members again. The Chuck Wagon Gang was associated with Columbia Records from 1936-1975. During this time, some family members were retired from traveling but contractually continued to record for Columbia. Therefore, some touring members never recorded with the group.
The Chuck Wagon Gang holds the distinction of being the oldest recording mixed gospel group still performing with ties to the original founders. By trade, the Carters were farmers who migrated from place to place to pick cotton. The singing group came from humble beginnings in 1935 as the Carters found themselves in Lubbock, Texas without enough money to buy medicine for a sick child, Effie. Dave Carter and two of his children, Lola and Ernest of his Carter Quartet (no relation to the Carter Family of Bristol, VA), arrived at radio station KFYO in Lubbock seeking live singing employment on radio in order to buy medicine for Effie. They landed the job. Effie soon re-joined them and the Carter Quartet remained at the station for about a year.
The radio response had been so overwhelming that Mr. Carter decided to move his family to Fort Worth, Texas. They auditioned for several stations and finally hit the big one, 50,000-watt station, WBAP. Already on the station was a western band known as the Chuck Wagon Gang, sponsored by Bewley Mills. The flour company sent this group out on location advertising the flour, and hot biscuits were served on the spot. The Carter Quartet was hired by the station and instantly became Bewley's Chuck Wagon Gang. In addition to the group's name change came individual name changes for the sake of simplicity: D. P. became "Dad," Effie became "Anna" despite the fact that she had a sister named Anna, Lola became "Rose," and Ernest became "Jim." Their repertoire consisted of ballads, folk, western, and popular songs of the day plus one hymn or gospel song each day.
The group became very popular at WBAP. In one promotion, Bewley Mills offered a picture of the group in exchange for coupons from purchased flour sacks.
Two British record producers, Don Law and Art Satherly, heard them early on and quickly signed them to an exclusive recording contract with American Record Corporation. Their first recording sessions occurred at a makeshift studio at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas on November 25 and 26, 1936 where they recorded twenty-two titles of both gospel and western songs. "The Son Hath Made Me Free" was their first recording. Their gospel recordings soon became so popular that after three western sessions, the decision was made to only record gospel music. The Chuck Wagon Gang's contract and master recordings were purchased by Columbia Records (now Sony Music). Their association with Columbia Records lasted thirty-nine years during which time they recorded 408 known masters. At one time, the Chuck Wagon Gang was the second highest-selling artist on the label, second to Xavier Cugat, and they were followed in sales by the newly rising star, Johnny Cash.
The group was content with their popular radio program and on occasion did a few personal appearances in Texas and neighboring states. Their records were being heard nationwide as well as in several foreign countries. Concert promoter Wally Fowler heard them on radio and decided they were a must for his "All-Nite Singings" which were becoming very popular in the South. Traveling to Texas, his mission was to convince the Chuck Wagon Gang that folks outside Texas were ready to hear them at live concerts. The group was reluctant but finally booked two dates with Fowler in Augusta and Atlanta, Georgia. Even as they traveled for these dates, they called Fowler ready to turn around and go home, but after much persuasion, the group agreed to come to the concerts.
Much to the Gang's surprise, thousands of enthusiastic folks were on hand to greet them in both cities. The Gang did not know the "norm" for Wally's programs. As a radio group, they sang western and gospel music from songbooks. They did not realize they were expected to sing all gospel music at Wally's programs and have the lyrics memorized like other gospel groups. Much to the surprise of other groups on the program, they sang from their songbooks at these two engagements. After these appearances, the Gang granted Fowler many 10-day tours during the early years but did not yet desire to tour full-time. Except for brief interruptions during World War II, their radio shows lasted 15 years, but their career was mounting for full concert work, where their travels would eventually take them to the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City, Hollywood Bowl, Gator Bowl, Daytona International Speedway, numerous appearances on The Grand Ole Opry, and international travels to Canada, and Nassau and Spanish Wells in The Bahamas.
The Gang's popularity was greatly enhanced by radio play. Many locally sponsored 15-30 minute daily radio programs, playing only Chuck Wagon Gang music, sprouted across the nation. In the 1950s, promoters Rev. and Mrs. J. Bazzel Mull of Knoxville, Tennessee began playing their music weekly on large 50,000-watt stations in Nashville, Chicago, New Orleans, and other large cities. Millions of records and songbooks were sold across the nation as well as many foreign countries from the Mulls' radio shows. Around 1956, the group briefly moved headquarters from Texas to Knoxville and Rev. Mull became their booking agent.
Turning to television in the early 1960s, they made a number of black and white video clips for The Wally Fowler Show and Mull's Singing Convention. The Chuck Wagon Gang also co-hosted a TV Show with The Rangers Trio called The Gospel Roundup, a fifteen-minute show that aired Monday through Friday featuring two songs from each group. This program was aired and rerun for approximately five years. They made numerous guest appearances on several country music shows including shows with the Wilburn Brothers and Porter Wagoner as well as an appearance on the Gospel Singing Jubilee.
As with any organization, and particularly with a music group, personnel changes are inevitable. The Chuck Wagon Gang remained essentially a family group through the years. As family members retired or left the group, other family members, as well as non-family members, came into the group. Each edition has remained a close-harmony quartet and contributed to the ongoing success of the Chuck Wagon Gang.
One of the first commercially licensed recordings of Albert E. Brumley's classic "I'll Fly Away" was the Chuck Wagon Gang's, recorded on December 16, 1948. Another notable recording was made years later when the Chuck Wagon Gang celebrated 75 years. Twelve guest artists were invited to appear on this recording including George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Gatlin Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, the late Billy Walker, John Conlee, The Jordanaires, and others.
A consistent face in the Chuck Wagon Gang has been alto singer Shaye Smith since the early 2000s. Smith is the granddaughter of the late Anna Carter Gordon Davis (the group's first alto singer) and the late Howard Gordon who played guitar for the group for many years. Smith's voice reminds older fans of Anna both in terms of her vocal tone and singing style. The group sings a new song occasionally but mostly features songs that are tried-and-true Chuck Wagon Gang standards, continuing to adhere to Dad Carter's instruction to "Sing the old songs, and sing them the way I taught you."
Billboard reported that disc jockeys of America voted the Chuck Wagon Gang eighteenth most popular of all small singing groups in the nation, considering all genres of music, and third most popular of all Columbia Recording artists (1954)
Anna Gordon - Miss Gospel Singer (1954)
Columbia Records their first gold record for "I'll Shout and Shine," commemorating 20 years on Columbia Records (1955)
Voted "Number One Gospel Act in America" by Disc Jockey Association (1955)
Kentucky Colonels (1966)
Appeared in movie, "Sing a Song for Heaven's Sake" (1966)
30-year plaque from Columbia Records (1967)
Dad Carter was posthumously inducted into the GMA Hall Of Fame in Nashville on April 3, (1985)
Gold Record by SESAC commemorating 50 years of recorded music, an unparalleled milestone in Gospel Music November 28 (1986)
Lifetime Achievement Award from SESAC (1986)
Letter from President Ronald Reagan regarding 50th Anniversary (1986)
Gospel Group Of the Year - TNN/Music City News Award (1988)
Gospel Group Of the Year - TNN/Music City News Award (1988)
Gospel Group Of the Year - TNN/Music City News Award (1989)
Rose Karnes Living Legend Award from Grand Ole Gospel (1989)
Roy Carter Marvin Norcross Award (1989)
Anna Gordon Davis Living Legend Award from Grand Ole Gospel (1990)
Gospel Group Of the Year - TNN/Music City News Award (1991)
Gospel Group Of the Year - TNN/Music City News Award (1992)
Grammy nomination for "Still Rollin'" (1992)
Gospel Group Of the Year - TNN/Music City News Award (1993)
GMA Hall Of Fame Induction of all past and present members (1998)
Anna Carter Gordon Davis inducted into SGMA, Pigeon Forge, TN October (2005)
Rose Karnes inducted into SGMA, Pigeon Forge, TN October (2006)
Shaye Smith Kentucky Colonel June 14, (2006)
Induction into Christian Hall Of Fame, Frisco, TX (2007)
CWG recordings are among the historic recordings at both the White House and The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC
Charles Waller & The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in Greenville, SC, honored the group for a plaque in commemoration of 75 years of recording (August 13, 2010)
Roy Carter inducted into SGMA, Pigeon Forge, TN (September 28, 2011)
75 Years of Gospel Music awarded by Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Nashville, TN November 26, (2011)
Blue Ridge Hall Of Fame, Wilkesboro, NC (June 9, 2012)
Due to the large number of projects recorded by the Chuck Wagon Gang, the discography section has been divided into separate pages to allow easier loading and viewing. Please click on one of the links below in order to access the decade you wish to view.
1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s