George Beverly Shea Biography

1 February 1909, Winchester, Ontario, Canada. Born into a religious family (Shea’s father was a Wesleyan minister), he first sang in the church choir. Later resident in the USA, where he sang with the Glee Club at Houghton College, New York, he worked in radio and developed a following through his appearances on religious radio broadcasts. In particular, from 1943, Shea’s distinctive bass-baritone voice became known to millions worldwide through the many years he spent singing hymns and gospel music as a member of the entourage of evangelist Billy Graham. From radio, Shea moved into television with Graham in 1952, extending his audience still further and winning a 1966 Grammy Award for Best Inspirational Performance, also being nominated on numerous other occasions.

In addition to the traditional music he sang, Shea’s repertoire also includes hymns he had composed, including ‘The Wonder Of It All’, ‘Sing Me A Song Of Sharon’s Rose’, ‘I Love Thy Presence, Lord’, and ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’, lyrics for the latter coming from a poem by Rhea F. Miller. Shea’s contribution to the furtherance of gospel music was recognized in 1978 by the Gospel Music Association who inducted him into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 1996 the National Religious Broadcasters Association elected Shea to their Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Shea’s story was documented in the television programme, The Wonder Of It All (1998), produced and transmitted by UNC-TV, North Carolina. Shea has also contributed to religious music books, including How Sweet The Sound (2004) and Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites, Vol. 2 (2005).

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.