The Red White Family performs in the close, three-part harmony of Southern Gospel that is familiar to many South Carolinians. Their style is the latest in the long history of the bluegrass and gospel that White helped promote in the Pee Dee region in the 1950s.

Born in 1928, Red White served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was an employee of the Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Office in Horry County. His first love, however, was bluegrass and gospel music and its performance and promotion in the Pee Dee. In 1958, White formed the first bluegrass band in the region, Red White and Dixie Boys. The group toured and promoted bluegrass across state lines so successfully that it became difficult to keeping band members after they were trained in the tradition. White turned to his young children, Gwen and Barbara, and taught them to play. Gwen White Johnson said, “By the time I was twelve, Daddy had taught me how to play the guitar and bass.” Her opportunity came when a bass player quit right before a radio performance in Tabor City, North Carolina. “Daddy showed me the three major chords and said, ‘You’re ready. Let’s go and cut the show,’” she said. Barbara White Old began by singing tenor. To reflect the new family lineup, her father changed the name of the band to Red White and Bluegrass.

The band promoted its music through concerts, touring, and a television program that ran on WECT in Wilmington, North Carolina for 15 years (1963 - 1978). Red White’s bands have performed at the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking for more than 40 years.

In 1994, White changed the name of the group to The Red White Family. The focus is now on the three-part harmony style of Southern Gospel, and the group includes White’s son, William, and his son-in-law, Craig. Promotion of the music has continued with a busy touring schedule and an annual Southern Gospel event in Horry County, “Carrying on the Family Tradition.”

Red White died in 2000 and the award was presented for the Red White Family’s dedication to “carrying on the family tradition” by continuing to perform and pursue his ideals. Barbara Old said, “He gave his best years to trying to please other people. He taught all of his children to sing and play instruments along with many, many, men who have been in his band. It is not easy to teach someone to sing harmony in a bluegrass band. He encouraged people, young and old, to carry on with this music, not to let it die.”

It is the nature of communities that practice traditional art forms to perpetuate those arts through generations; that is the case with the Southern Gospel music of The Red White Family. The White family received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2000.


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