Tuesday, January 06, 2004

GOSPELOBIT: Jake Hess, four-time Grammy gospel winner, has died at the age of 76. Hess was a former member of the Melody Boys and the John Daniel Quartet. It was Daniel who gave him his first name - prior to that, Hess had been known solely by the initials W. J., given to him by his sharecropper parents. It was while lead singer with the Statesmen that Hess performed at Hank Williams' funeral; he also performed at Elvis Presley's.

Laying down the roots of a style which would eventually lead to modern Christian music, Hess faced the sort of criticism (devil's music and so on) that still plagues the genre today, but went on to be regular on Bill Gaither's Homecoming Friends.

He played music up until his death, despite a really rotten record of ill health: four heart attacks, two open heart surgeries, two ops against cancer, diabetes and some kidney problems on top: "I go into these churches and auditoriums, and people say, 'Well, Jake, how are you doin'?' ... if I told them all my 'isms', which takes quite a spell, I'd have to hear all their 'isms.' So I've been saying 'nothin' but fine' about 40 years, just to conserve time, and it's become such a habit that I can't give anybody a straight answer anymore!"

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