John Edmonds began his professional career at the age of fifteen in his hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was singer and pianist for a local group called the Gospel Ambassadors. In 1961, the group was asked to do a live weekly television show for WLTV (now known as WBKO). The popularity of the group grew, and soon the young teenagers were being invited to sing throughout their home state and even into Tennessee and Indiana.
THE GOSPEL AMBASSADORS
(Seated at the piano - Edmonds; l to r - Johnnie Mills, Sarah Forte, Bobby Austin, Nola Martin, Carrie Anthony)
The earlier and first inspirations for Edmonds came from his parents - Addie and Jewel Edmonds. It was at their insistance that he took piano lessons, and it was their persuasian that encouraged him to join the young peoples' choir at his home church, and the band and chorus at school. Example always works better than precept, however. It was watching his family perform as a singing ensemble that had the young Edmonds mesmerized. That group was called the Frierson Memorial Choir named for his maternal grandfather William A. Frierson. This was Edmonds' first introduction to gospel music as it was known in the 1950's.
THE FRIERSON MEMORIAL CHOIR
(Young Edmonds - front and center; front row l to r - Addie Edmonds (mother), Elizabeth Frierson (aunt), Bessemer Kimbrell, Cecilia Halsell, Hazel Ferrell; back row l to r - Marshall Edmonds (brother), Porter Ferrell, William Frierson (cousin), Jewel Edmonds (father)
The final push needed by the youngster came from watching a special Christmas television show some time in the mid-1950's. Mahalia Jackson, accompanied by a sole piano player named Mildred Falls, made a guest appearance on the Steve Allen Show singing Silent Night. It was at that moment that Edmonds decided he wanted to be a singer just like Mahalia and that he wanted to play the piano just like Mildred Falls. He began to purchase song books and sheet music. He began to buy record albums of Mahalia Jackson, the Roberta Martin Singers, and the Clara Ward Singers. With the song books and sheet music, he honed his music reading skills. With the records, he developed his ability to "play by ear". He constantly posed questions to the school band director and choir teacher. He constantly begged the church musician and choir directors to show him some special chord or some fancy run. He himself was on a run.
In 1964, Edmonds founded his own group giving it his name - John Edmonds and the Angelic Specials. They began touring coast to coast - from sea to shining sea. In the first few years of organization, performances were limited to churches. In time, the singing unit expanded its territory to include schools, colleges, universities, festivals, and even night clubs.
In 1970, Edmonds relocated his singers to Los Angeles, California where he became affiliated with the Hollywood Overseas Committee in conjunction with USO Shows. Contracts were signed. The group was now known as The John Edmonds' Gospel Truth. During the next four years, The Truth entertained American troops in Vietnam (three times), Greenland, Labrador, The Philippines, Korea, Japan, Okiniaw, Guam, Australia, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Sicily, Germany, and Holland.
l to r Edmonds, William Cullom, Frederick Lowe
l to r - Edmonds (at piano), Lowe, and Cullom
(front and center) Marilyn Whitlock; back row l to r - Frederick Lowe, John Edmonds, William Cullom
In 1974, Edmonds and the Truth signed with Opryland, U.S.A. The group relocated in Nashville, Tennessee and performed as regulars at the theme park for two seasons. They were the first gospel group to have its own show on a daily basis at the park. During this period, Edmonds also signed contracts with Nashboro Records. There were three subsequent album releases.
In 1979, Edmonds once again returned to Los Angeles working in such venues as Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knot's Berry Farm, Studio One Backlot, The Ice House, and many more.
THE JOHN EDMONDS' GOSPEL TRUTH - LOS ANGELES
1980's Front and center - John Edmonds; back row l to r - Howard Scruggs, Steven Whitlock, George Ford, Frederick Lowe
Edmonds once again makes his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky working in his church (The Mount Zion Baptist Church) and mentoring other singers and musicians. In recent years, he also has been actively working with the Kentucky Arts Council. He continues to travel - performing in churches, schools, universities, and at fairs, festivals, and expositions. Most recently, he celebrated the release of his 14th recording project - A Word From Heaven - co-produced with fellow musician and friend, Zachary Tichenor.
CO-PRODUCERS - A WORD FROM HEAVEN
Zack Tichenor; John Edmonds
Edmonds now boasts a career that spans five decades and five continents. He has shared the stage with such luminaries as Della Reese, Ricky Skaggs, Clara Ward, James Cleveland, the Coasters, Stevie Wonder, Dottie Rambo, and Rosie O'Donnell. His audiences have included such luminaries as presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, Princess Elisabeth of Denmark, Quincy Jones, Mary Tyler Moore, Don Knotts, Bob Hope, and many, many more.
With such an impressive track record, Edmonds still feels that the best is yet to come. "My best days definitely are ahead of me," Edmonds says with a smile of assured conviction.