A SPECIAL EVENING FOR A SPECIAL LADY
If you were to look up “Energizer Bunny” in the dictionary, it’s very possible that you’d see a picture of Lou Hildreth there. This amazing lady with the red hair and big smile has recently celebrated 75 years (yes, you read that right) in Southern Gospel music! She began performing as a child with her family group, the Singing Wills Family, and appeared on TV with them in “Wills Family Inspirational Time,” the first gospel TV syndicated series produced in color during the ’60s. Later, she became the first woman to own an artist agency in Nashville, helping to launch the careers of the Gatlin Brothers, Mark Lowry, Larry Ford and Duane Allen, among others.
A tribute concert for “Ms. Lou” was held in October in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., during the Creekside Gospel Music Convention, featuring many of the artists she has known and encouraged through the years.
J.P. Miller, Lou’s friend and former television co-host from the program “Inside Gospel,” coordinated the evening’s events, and many members of Lou’s family enjoyed the festivities, including her husband of 66 years, Howard. The inimitable Tim Lovelace played the jovial host, and Channing Eleton set an energetic and uplifting tone for the evening with a few songs, including a lively piano arrangement of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”
Many performers graced the stage, including a trio formed by Christian artist Phil Cross and the Triumphant Quartet’s David Sutton and Clayton Inman. The Blackwoods performed, and R.W. Blackwood, Jr., and the other men in the group serenaded Lou with a parody of the song “Elvira,” changing the lyrics to “Lou Hildreth.” Other artists included Jeff Stice, Ava Kasich, Jeff Chapman (from Kingdom Heirs), Ann Downing and the Williamsons.
Special presentations honoring Lou’s contributions to gospel music were made by Dr. Jim Moss of PTL, Rick Francis of Singing News Magazine, John Lanier of Christian Voice Magazine and Rob Patz and Rhonda Frye of SGN Scoops. There were also video tributes from Mark Lowry, Larry Gatlin and Larry Ford. A special video clip was played featuring Bill Gaither performing the song “Tho’ Autumn’s Coming On” for Lou and Howard, during a Homecoming event.
Artists and family members filled the stage for the grand finale, a medley of “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul” and “How Great Thou Art.” Lou smiled from ear to ear during the entire evening and said “I was thrilled to see the video tributes and all the artists who crossed the stage, held my hand and said the nicest things. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I was tremendously honored.”