From My Perspective: Our Days With Sammy Hall

I was sitting on a beach in New Jersey when Mike, a friend of mine who was running the snack shop, walked toward me said, 

“Your mom’s on the phone.”

 

Now in those days, this wasn’t unusual, especially since there was no other way to connect. Find a community pay phone, park by it and give your mom the phone number. That’s what the Salem County Sportsmen’s Club Snack Shop/Beach phone had become: A community. Everybody used it to find their kids.

 

My mom said that Sammy Hall called and was offering both Jeff Duffield (my then boyfriend) and me a job. I gathered my stuff and jumped in my ’73 Plymouth Gold Duster and headed home. I’m thinking during the drive, “Who in the world is Sammy Hall?” 

 

Jeff had a prior knowledge of Sammy after hearing him perform in Atlanta around 1971. I forgot I recorded one of Sammy’s songs, “Jesus Is the Man For the Hour”. Wow. That song was from one of my favorite Oak Ridge Boys albums, “Light”. But still, I knew nothing about Sammy. We said yes.

 

This was a huge step for these two yankee kids who just graduated from high school. We soon make the trek to Sevierville, Tennessee and join a group of rock ‘n roll ruffians who learned to play gospel music! What an eclectic group. Lenny Stadler, on bass, came from a hard rock music background. Mike Cain, drums, was playing clubs when he got the call. Row Jennings was a young Church of God girl. And together with Sammy, Jeff on keyboards and me on vocals, we rounded out a whirlwind of over 400+concerts in a year. Sometimes we’d sound like ‘The Mamas & The Papas” and other times we’d sound like a cross between contemporary Christian and southern gospel.

 

Sammy recently went home to be with the Lord and Lenny passed away also from cancer. But the legacy of these two will live on. Weekly, if not daily, I receive messages either on Facebook or by email from people who found God at a Sammy Hall Crusade. Our music at the time was years ahead of most. It was also hard to pigeon-hole Sammy into a venue. One week we’d do a series of Orrell concerts in the mid-west, then the next week, sing in High Schools all over the south, doing more of a British rock flare.

 

I had the privilege to sing for Sammy’s home-going service. I sang Elmer Cole’s classic, “Ten Thousand Years”. This was a signature song for us in the ‘70s and one that Sammy graciously gave me the lead. 

 

I’ve just spent ten minutes of your time telling you facts. Some you may have known. But now, let me just share a piece of emotion that I’ve probably never shared before.

 

We left the group the next year. We didn’t leave because we didn’t agree with the philosophy of Sammy’s ministry. If anything, that alone could have kept us there for decades. We also didn’t leave because we weren’t getting the industry “looks” and accolades. We got plenty. And many top record labels were offering Sammy and his “new” group a chance at doing some great things. Gary S. Paxton, for one, grasped the concept and talent of this band. Jeff and I didn’t even leave because we thought our specific talents weren’t focused enough. No. Truthfully, I always thought that we had way TOO much focus. Jeff was the first American gospel keyboardist to play a Mellotron, a Clavinet and a Wurlitzer electric piano - all at the same time on stage. And I was featured way too much vocally. We also didn’t leave because we had difficulty with getting along with band members. No way. Rick Sandidge, who drove the bus for us, still remains to be one of our closest friends. And the connection piece has always been there with all the band members. We really had no clue how much we had.

 

The reason Jeff and I moved back to New Jersey was to start our own ministry. We could barely make it on $99 a week back then. So, soon after we were married, we began a music ministry in the northeast. Forty-plus years later, we are still in that ministry. It has taken on all kinds of dimension and changes, but I have to say, if it wasn’t for Sammy Hall and the gift he gave us, I doubt we would have taken such risk. Ironically, we moved back to Tennessee four years ago..

 

It’s a different world now. Groups come and go and change personnel like dirty socks. But for one very brief moment in time, Sammy Hall’s group, the one that turned heads, still continues to be discussed and written about. We saw this energy at his funeral. It was a surreal moment for me, because back in the day, I didn’t really think anyone paid attention. And maybe that was a good thing. God was protecting all of us from letting it go to our heads.

 

Sammy later traveled internationally doing huge business events and other outreach venues. But still, as far as I’m concerned, he was at his best when we all shared one cause, one voice, one band, one hope, one mission: To reach young people for Christ. And to do it well - musically.

(Sammy's Funeral service) 

Comments

Teresa Gambrell November 29, 2015 @10:16 am
I was a young teenage girl when I saw Sammy Hall singers. I had just had back surgery, not long out of my cast when the group sang for a winter retreat. My parents let me go, only if my older sister could go too. I remember Sammy's testimony and often pray that God would give a Sammy Hall experience to people that I am praying for,especially those dealing with addiction. I still have several records. I was sorry to hear about the cancer and his his passing, but I know he is singing with Jesus now. My condolences to the family. Thank God for people like Sammy, who work to win others. I wonder if Sammy could even pick up his crown!
Dale Curtis November 22, 2014 @12:42 am
I recently found and added those wonderful Sammy Hall Singers collection of albums to my ipod. Sue, I live in Phoenix, Az and had the pleasure of seeing you perform with Sammy at Glendale Church of God, probably in 1972(?). You sang 10,000 years- it was the first time I'd ever heard that. I loved it and the many other beautiful songs performed. The group spent about a week there and I showed-up every night. As a teen-ager, it was a rough time for me, but your words and melodies helped me sort-out right from wrong way back then; and they have replayed in my memory many times since. When I checked on Sammy's recent whereabouts, I was saddened to find he lost his battle with cancer, but in his own words, 'I can hear him now- singing around that throne'. Thank God for Sammy Hall. And thank you Sue, for the sacrifices and efforts you made so long ago- 400+ concerts in a year, and I was lucky to catch a very small part of that! Your witness made a big difference in my life and I just wanted you to know that. God bless you.
Ralph Moore October 23, 2014 @01:08 pm
Sue,good to read about commenting on Sammy Hall.I got saved at one of his singings in the early 70,s.I miss Sammy already even though it,s been over a year since he,s been gone.He was my favorite singer and he had a lot of good singers with him in the 70,s.He had a lot of good songs on his albums and wrote a lot of good songs.The song I love Sammy wrote and sing was That,s all that matters anyhow on the Hooked on a good thing album.Now I have a radio program on Sundays that,s on for an hour/half.(From 1:30-3:00.Suppose to be on the internet at www.KTC broadcasting.com.I play a lot of Sammy Hall songs on my program and will do so as long as God lets me have this program.Yes Sue I have played your song Ten Thousand Years a lot on my program.So you may want to try to get this program on Sundays the time I mention.I,ve been on for four years now.If you talk to Sammy,s wife Jackie anytime soon you can tell her that his songs is heard on my program and do so as long as God lets me be here.I really enjoyed seeing you and Jeff with Sammy.I saw ya in Charlotte,N.C. and at North Gaston H.S. In Dallas,N.C.close to where I live now.God bless you.I saw you at Sammy,s memorial service singing that song ten Thousand Years.I seen it on line little after his death.Good to see you here on Sammy,s web site.glad I checked it out today.Hope you will send me an email on this message and if you can get this program let me know.But I will be doing all Christmas music starting Nov,30th and continue until Dec,21st.From Ralph Moore.Gospel Music Time
kim Ridgway October 09, 2014 @07:35 am
My parents were in Amway and I went to the big conventions so I could see Sammy and The Goads. Loved his music!
Alice Henderson January 28, 2014 @06:09 pm
I met Sammy Hall in 1974 at my high school in Marietta, Georgia, the whole band was great, Sammy had the most beautiful voice, I had never heard such a beautiful sound in a man's voice like that, true talent. He could sing rock, country, gospel, contemporary christian and love ballads, very unique and he had the most sweet compassionate way about him. You could really tell he cared about the lives of the kids. I admired him for he did to stop the drug problems in the schools. He will be sadly missed.
Abby Bates November 09, 2013 @12:25 pm
I have always loved Sammy Hall and his group ever since the first time I heard him sing at my at my high school in the early/mid '70's I used to own all of his albums and would sing along with all of the songs!!!
Beth Zimmerman July 03, 2013 @09:02 pm
So what part of the "Northeast" was home for you? I grew up in Maine. Grandfather worked for the railroad and then became a lobsterman when he retired. I left Maine to go to college at 19 and I've only been "home" 3 times since then. Last time was 23 years ago. Some days I almost ache for pine trees and ocean breezes and the call of seagulls soaring (to the dump)! My parents retired in Texas and my siblings both migrated to the Southwest eventually so except for Maine itself ... there's not really a reason to go back. But oh ... my heart does long for home!
Alan DeVoe July 03, 2013 @01:43 am
Sammy was the first "Christian Rock" experience I had at the age of 8 and to this day I have him, the whole band and crew to thank for getting me interested on the 'tech' side of things! I remember sitting there during the concerts, watching Dave run the spot, John run the projectors, Sammy pouring his heart out with his music, the flash pots going off, the great sound of the band and so much more! After watching all of this I have never forgot the music and got more and more into behind the scenes stuff! I started out running sound at our old church at during my early teens, I have sang a couple of Sams songs in church, built a 4 channel stage lighting system from scratch, started helping out by running stage sound (monitors)for a few groups and a church, ran spot light, fog machines, house sound, put together the slides for Sundays services, I recently ran stage lighting and TV camera and now I am the 'Live' video director at our church! I owe all of this to Sammy, a man that had a gift to reach kids like no other and will forever be a part of my life! Sammy will be missed but at the same time he will live forever!
Matthew Kimball July 02, 2013 @08:14 pm
While I was not saved under a Sammy Hall Crusade, he brought me through some tough times and his ministry was one I wanted to be a part of. I used to always tell my mother, one day I am going to work with Sammy Hall Ministries. I'm honored to be a part of this Ministry and the friends I have made along the path less traveled has also blessed me every day. As well as help shape me into the Christian man I am today. Thanks to God, Sammy and everyone I've come in contact with at Sammy Hall Ministries.
Sue Duffield July 02, 2013 @04:59 pm
Thanks Mark. Indeed, you are one of thousands. There's no doubt.
Evangelist Mark Kearns July 02, 2013 @04:48 pm
Very True. I am in the ministry today because of the influence of Sammy Hall. May God Bless the Memory of the man who lead multitudes to Christ!!!
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