Many talented vocalists and musicians step onto concert stages across the country year after year; however, only the faithful and dedicated overcome the pressures of life on the road. Ed O’Nea, whose name has been synonymous with Gospel Music for more than 60 years, can certainly be labeled as one of the faithful and dedicated. Now, after six celebrated decades, O’Neal has announced the retirement of The Dixie Melody Boys’ name.
O’Neal joined The Dixie Melody Boys in 1961 and became owner and manager of the quartet a few years later. Over the years, O’Neal and The Dixie Melody Boys have enjoyed tremendous success, including countless hits and a Grammy nomination. In 2000, O’Neal was named recipient of the Marvin Norcross Award, the highest honor presented at the time during The Singing News Fan Awards Ceremony. Additionally, in 2004 he was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. While success has abounded, as is the case with most quartets, adversities have also been encountered. In fact, over the past six decades O’Neal has seen over 90 personnel changes – quite possibly a record in the Southern Gospel Music world, O’Neal admits. “In all seriousness, though,” the legendary bass singer shares. “I am so grateful for all the guys who have called The Dixie Melody Boys home. Each and every one of them are very special to me.”
The list of Dixie Melody Boys alumni reads like a who’s who among Gospel Music’s finest. Yet with all the changes, The Dixie Melody Boys and Ed O’Neal have stood the test of time. O’Neal’s love for the men he has traveled with, his family, the people he has met through Gospel music, his desire to always present quality music, united with his desire to never compromise his responsibility to spread the Gospel have made him a true Gospel music legend.
As a result of numerous health issues O’Neal encountered during 2019, he made the decision to semi-retire from the road. He added another bass singer to The Dixie Melody Boys, as he felt it important that even when he was unable to be at an engagement The Dixie Melody Boys would deliver the same first-class experience audiences expected from the group. Just as O’Neal and the Boys were readjusting to the group’s new travel model, the calendar year of 2020 unfolded.
No one was exempt from the challenges of the chaos of the worldwide pandemic in 2020, and the Southern Gospel Music world was greatly impacted. Many have continued to feel the negative effects, and according to O’Neal, The Dixie Melody Boys are no exception to this. “The past few years have been very challenging,” O’Neal shares. “I appreciate the promoters and pastors who have supported The Dixie Melody Boys, especially over the last few years, and I commend the guys who have worked really hard to keep the legacy of The Dixie Melody Boys alive. They have represented Ed O’Neal and The Dixie Melody Boys with class, and I appreciate that, but after a very deliberative, thoughtful and prayerful period of time, I feel the best thing to honor the heritage of the Quartet is to retire the name.”
As the 86-year-old singer explains, not being able to sing and travel has taken a toll on him personally. “It’s hard to give up something you have done for 60 years. It’s tough watching the guys roll out each week and not being able to go with them. Physically, it’s just been impossible for me to do any longer.” O’Neal, however, admits that he has a peace about this decision and knows it’s best. “Honestly, I never imagined how good Gospel music would be to me and for me. God has blessed me more than I ever thought possible. I never dreamed 60 years ago where God would lead The Dixie Melody Boys. He has blessed us beyond measure. I have said this a million times, but the truth is, all I ever wanted to do was sing a song. I must say, I love the music now as much as I ever have, and I believe in it’s message now more than ever. When my Gospel music buddies come to the area, I do my best to go see them, and I will continue to do that. I will always love the music and will always support it.”
While O’Neal may be retiring The Dixie Melody Boys’ name, the legacy will live on in the hearts and lives of those who have been blessed by the music created by the gentleman who has lived his life proclaiming that all he ever wanted to do was sing a song.
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