State of Michigan Special Tribute
to Hosea Humphrey
Celebrating Fifty Years
of
"Gospel Song Roundup"

1958 - 2008


Let it be known that it is with great pride we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of "Gospel Song Roundup," a program that has been cherished not only by the residents of this state, but throughout our nation and across the globe.

It was in 1958 when Hosea Humphrey launched "Gospel Song Roundup," a program which would touch the lives of listeners for a half-century and proudly endures to this day. Mr. Humphrey, through "Gospel Song Roundup," has given the opportunity for the timeless gospel favorites to be enjoyed by families which consist of those who recollect on the music of their past and ones who take in the inspirational melodies for the first time.

We appreciate this day Mr. Humphrey's profound desire to lead his audiences toward a closer relationship with his Savior through country-gospel music and advancing the legacy of gospel classics in an ever changing world.

Acknowledging Mr. Humphrey has advanced his program's availability from the traditional medium of local radio to include newer media through the World Wide Web, "Gospel Song Roundup" has found a welcomed place in the homes of listeners from Michigan, Iowa, Florida, and Pennsylvania to five other continents.

Recognizing his accomplishments, in 1999 the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Mr. Humphrey into its membership, being the first individual inducted into the Hall under the banner of gospel music. Surely all who know Mr. Humphrey can take pride in their comrade's most laudable achievements and together celebrate this most significant milestone.

In special tribute, therefore, we celebrate the golden anniversary of "Gospel Song Roundup," one of the longest running gospel programs in the United States of America by the same artist and stand in ovation for Hosea Humphrey's headship of the program. May the hand of the divine be with him in his future endeavors.

Signed,

Brian Calley,
State Representative, The Eight-Seventh District;

Patricia L. Birkholtz,
State Senator, The Twenty-Fourth District

Jennifer M. Granholm,
Governor

The Ninety-Fourth legislature at Lansing
Wednesday, April 9, 2008



'Gospel Music Golden Anniversary' Celebrated

2008


Imagine what could happen if a young person obtains a guitar and opportunities to use his musical talents.

For Hosea Humphrey, of Middleville, Michigan (U.S.A.), the outcome has spanned a half century and resulted in countless personal appearances, recordings and his own gospel music radio program which has become one of the country's longest running weekly broadcasts with the same host.

This year, Humphrey's "Gospel Song Roundup" marks its Golden Anniversary. In August, the musician aired a two part commemoration over WBCH Radio, based in Hastings, Michigan and made the special available to podcast listeners the following month.

The public celebrated the broadcaster's accom- plishments during an evening service at his home church last April. State Representative, Brian Calley presented Humphrey with a "State of Michigan Special Tribute" for longevity and "advancing the legacy of gospel music in an ever changing world."

U.S. President George Bush and Congressman Vern Ehlers echoed similar sentiments and noted Humphrey's humble beginnings in the congratulatory letters they sent.

The singer's musical beginnings go back to his hometown of Freeport, Michigan where at the age of 15 he swapped his rifle for an used guitar. One of the neighbors, Richey Wagner carried a guitar in the back of his Model A Ford. He showed the guitarist-to-be some chords and started him strumming. In 1953, the young musician met Jerry Merrill, of Hastings, and took five or six lessons. Besides the influence of Wagner and Merrill, Humphrey used to listen to Ray Overholt on local radio and TV.

When it comes to radio, the Barry County resident remembers, "I always liked the idea you could be one place, talk, and people could hear it across the country-side."

One day in high school, students were gathered in the assembly room for a mock radio show. The speaker wire traced back to a side classroom where a live microphone waited for Humphrey and his fellow "broadcasters."

His first "real" radio experience came from a speech class field trip to WFUR in Grand Rapids. Before the program went on the air, students were asked if any wished to speak on the radio. His classmates whispered to him to raise his hand and he did.

Several years later a family friend, Gerald Cairns, also of Freeport, took a special interest and invited him to sing on a Coldwater, Michigan station and later for a Sunday afternoon broadcast on WAHL, now known as WBCH, Hastings.

One invitation would lead to the musician's own gospel music program. What is unknown to most is this opportunity for a regular program came by accident. With hindsight, the guitarist recognizes divine providence brought together all necessary circumstances.

Cairns had influenced the station to start a 15-minute daily evening broadcast, called "Sunset Gospel Melodies." Typically records were played, but Humphrey was invited to do the Thursday and Friday airings live. The station did not know about Cairns' arrangements. The new broadcaster was so nervous he believed any future in radio was gone. He had already decided not to come back the next night. By the end, the singer recovered his composure and finished fairly well.

Station owner-manager at the time, Don Garey, had tuned in the last of the program at his home next door. He assumed records were playing until he and his son popped in at the studio. Once off the air, the owner and his son emerged from the rear of the auditorium and said, "Young man, that was good!" Garey bragged on the presentation for several minutes.

"I guess he got me believing it, too," Humphrey recalls. "'I'm supposed to come back and do tomorrow's program,' I informed the manager."

"'We want you to come back. We'll get a sponsor and keep you on' the station chief responded." The new recruit's regular radio program was born in 1958, adopting the title "Sunset Gospel Melodies" from the station.

A short time later WAHL was sold to the Barry Broadcasting Company and became WBCH. With the fall schedule changes, "Sunset Gospel Melodies" was moved to Saturday afternoons. The change made the title obsolete, so the program was renamed,"Gospel Song Roundup" to reflect the western flavor of Humphrey's gospel music. The name has remained to this very day.

The credit for still being on the air goes to long time WBCH manager, Ken Radant. Back in the 1960's an upcoming work schedule change would make live radio impossible. Humphrey decided to quit, but the radio executive suggested tape recording and "Gospel Song Roundup" remained on the air.

Besides Michigan, the singer's broadcast has been carried on stations in Iowa, Florida and Pennsylvania. His songs have been aired in Ohio and North Carolina in the U.S.A., on a country music program in the Netherlands and over European short-wave into Africa. Several times he's been seen on broadcast and cable TV.

Since that time Humphrey learned of a newer avenue through recording magazines and recognized podcasting as a way of reaching beyond the boundaries of radio signals. With the help of Ed Englerth, a local musician and librarian, the signer added this new medium to his broadcasting repertoire.

Locally, the signer-entertainer has done countless personal appearances for churches, banquets, senior centers, nursing homes, community celebrations and fairs. He has also written several songs and produced a number of records, tapes and CD's.

When asked about his secret for radio longevity, the veteran broadcaster replies, "Mostly sticking to it."

Humphrey also cited encouragement given over the years from folks who've written in. "Not just letters, but they call or say something."

There's one more critical ingredient the radio host adds, "It's a style they understand." His listeners are proof. Whenever Humphrey sings a familiar song, it's normal for the audience to spontaneously join in with his smooth, sing-along voice and simple approach. 

No doubt it's these traits as well as a common identity with the inspirational messages of faith contained within the lyrics that have earned the singer a devoted audience. No one knows more about listener loyalty than WBCH's Sunday morning deejay, Chad Henry. 

"If I'm busy doing something and not watching the time; I can be just two minutes late starting the program and the phone will ring," he said.

As to the impact his music has on the public, the vocalist isn't sure how to tell. He does know of a Caledonia couple who lost their crops. Devastated, they found comfort listening to "He Washed My Eyes With Tears" from one of Humphrey's 45 rpm records. Another time, he learned of a man who placed his faith in Christ after hearing the inspirational music. And a Middleville man found comfort from Humphrey's music tapes during a  terminal illness. His wife reported he passed from this life while listening to them.

Musical success isn't the singer's real goal. He sees a higher, eternal purpose. "I always see each song as a mini-sermon or praise or conviction. When you convey a song you convey the message of the songwriter," Humphrey said. "And it'll affect different people in different ways."

There have been lighter moments, too. After a concert at the Ionia Prison an inmate came up and said, "I hope I'm here next year when you come back!"

Several years ago, Paul Ballinger, who was then WBCH's Sunday morning deejay, recorded "Gospel Song Roundup" on cassette for Thornapple Manor. The nursing home staff noticed the residents were more calm during Humphrey's Sunday morning broadcast, and concluded the singer's music during the week would produce the same affect. The practice had to be stopped because the residents began to think everyday was Sunday!

The musician has his influence on children, too. He can name three of them who said, "I want to play the guitar like Hosea," and years later all of them have played publicly.

This singer's accomplishments have not gone unrecognized. Twice previously the State of Michigan honored him with a Certificate of Special Tribute for "...advancing Gospel music in Michigan" and celebrating 30 and later 40 years of broadcasting. For his work in promoting traditional country-gospel music the artist was honored again with a 1999 induction into the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame. He was the first to be inducted in the "gospel" category.

How long does Humphrey plan to continue? "As long as the Lord allows and people will listen," he says.

For one young man who traded his gun for a guitar and took advantage of opportunities to use his talent, the good news he presents in song has become a part of the lives of many in West Michigan and with the aid of the Internet, five other continents as well. No doubt these people wish Hosea Humphrey and "Gospel Song Roundup" a happy golden anniversary and hope for many more years.

"Gospel Song Roundup" is aired each Sunday morning at 7:45 on WBCH-AM (1220), Hastings, Michigan (U.S.A.), and podcasting at: 


Written by Gary Humphrey for the April 26, 2008 edition of "The Reminder" Newspaper, Hastings, Michigan, U.S.A. and adapted for internet use.