Paulding has a long history with the Southern gospel genre – serving as home to the late Wendy Bagwell, for whom Wendell “Wendy” Bagwell Parkway in east Paulding is named. Bagwell and his group, the Sunliters, performed in parts of five decades and were famous for the comedy song “Here Come The Rattlesnakes.”
Another longstanding group, The Nelons, are a family group made up of Kelly Nelon Clark, husband Jason Clark, and daughters Autumn Clark and Amber Nelon Thompson.
The group formed in 1977 as the Rex Nelon Singers. Kelly Clark was a senior in high school at the time, and that is when she started singing with her father’s group.
The current members started singing together 12 years ago when one left the group and Mrs. Clark convinced Thompson at age 12 to fill the spot.
The group now performs about 150 shows a year.
“It is a way of life for me,” she said.
Mrs. Clark said she had always wanted to be a Southern gospel singer like her father.
“We love people,” she said. “When they come to hear us I hope we bring them hope.”
The Nelons have many awards to their name, and they recently added the Silver Telly Award in the People’s Choice category for their music video, “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus?” The Telly is awarded for films and videos.
Harry recently was hired to lead Dahlonega-based group the Omegas. As a son of a choir director he has been singing in church since he was 2 years old.
He said he grew up listening to Southern gospel music.
“The Gaither Vocal Band has probably had the biggest influence on my voice,” Harry said.
He and his sister started traveling in Georgia mostly in their own group on weekends when he was in the eighth grade. He also sang in shows at Six Flags Over Georgia.
For 17 years he was a music minister for churches, mostly in Alabama, and finished his career leading choirs at First Baptist Church of Dallas, where he worked for four years.
He then left the church to try a solo music career. In May he started auditioning for a few groups and after a couple of months filling in with the Dixie Melody Boys, he landed a place with Omega.
“We are trying to reach the world, and music is very powerful,” Harry said.
The group sings a more progressive Southern gospel style, which is more contemporary than groups like the Gaithers.
“For me a good song is a good song,” he said. “There are people in the world hurting that need to hear the message of Jesus Christ.”
The group is booked every weekend through January, he said. On average they perform 140 to 150 dates a year and it is growing, Harry said.
“It is an absolute dream come true,” he said.