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As the resident “house band” at the Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., it’s estimated that the Kingdom Heirs sing to more than 2 million people each year – more than any other Southern gospel group.
They put on multiple performances each day from March through October.
When that ends, there is Christmas show that runs through Jan.1. And it’s been that way since 1986.
That only gives the Kingdom Heirs about eight weeks a year to get out on the road.
Nominated for many gospel music awards through the years by the Southern Gospel Music Association, the Dove Awards and the Singing News Awards, the Kingdom Heirs have become fan favorites. They’ve had No. 1 hits and many top 10 songs, along with a string of 12 top 5 songs in a row.
They’ve also had 18 songs nominated for Songs of the Year.
“We stay busier that a windmill in a hurricane,” said Kingdom Heirs’ leader Steve French. “You come home on Monday, take your suits to the dry cleaners, go to the bank and do all the other stuff. Tuesday is your ‘honey-do’ day and Wednesday, you prepare to leave. On Thursday, you hit the road. It’s going great, but you do stay busier than a one-armed paper hanger.”
Once again, that road is coming to Lancaster. The Southern gospel quartet will perform at 7 p.m. tonight at Second Baptist Church as part of the 2010 GlennMark Concert Series. This is the Southern gospel music quartet’s third visit to Lancaster since 2008.
“Loyalty is a big thing to me and when we find somebody who likes us, we’re gonna be loyal to them,” French said. “We ain’t gonna go down the road and work someplace else. We’ve fallen in love with the GlennMark folks (Mark Blackmon, Dennis Nichols and Glenn Totherow). We love coming to Lancaster and people there love Southern gospel music. Something keeps drawing us back and as long as they’ll have us, we’ll keep coming back.”
These days – between weekend snowstorms and detouring the I-40 rock slide in the Pigeon River Gorge – getting a tour bus from the mountains of East Tennessee to the Piedmont is quite a feat, French said.
But that’s what they’re doing.
“This is a special year,” French said. “We’re celebrating our 25th anniversary with Dollywood. It’s a big time and there’s some wonderful things in the works for us when the park opens back up in the spring. Why, they even put our picture on the bus.”
While the Kingdom Heirs touring schedule is limited, French said the quartet wants to give fans who can’t come to see them at the theme park that opportunity.
For some groups who travel, French said it may be a piece of cake. He said it’s anything but for the Kingdom Heirs.
“I’ve stayed in a lot of Walmart parking lots at night,” he said, laughing. “We call this our ‘2010 Mall Tour’ because outside performances, that’s usually all we get to see. A lot of them can get into the routine of what you need, but with our limited schedule, it’s really hard to do that.
“All of us are creatures of habit,” French said. “When we’re at Dollywood, all we do is walk in and sing. You take the PA system, for instance – microphones, amps, cords and all that stuff – except for these eight weeks a year, it sets in storage for nine months.
“But you gotta have it,” French said. “After all that time, you go over there, pick it up, load it on a bus, go to your first date and expect it to work.
“When you think about it what’s even more amazing is that it works,” he said. “Thank the Lord it always seems to (work).”
Want to go?
WHO: The Kingdom Heirs
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday; doors open at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Second Baptist Church, 1526 Great Falls Highway
HOW MUCH: Adult tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets for children ages 7 to 12 are $5 and can be bought at the door. Children under age 6 are admitted free. Advance tickets are available at Cooper Furniture, 311 S. Main St; Living Water Christian Bookstore, 101 S. White St., and Mungo, Nichols and Hess, 1107 Chesterfield Ave.