Oak Ridge Boys Singer Calvin Newton Has Died
Calvin Newton, the former lead singer of the country and gospel vocal quartet Oak Ridge Boys, has died. Newton passed away "peacefully in his home" on Lookout Mountain, Georgia, on Friday, March 3, according to his obituary. He was 93. Newton's cause of death was not disclosed.
Born in West Frankfort, Illinois, in 1929, Newton showed an interest in music at a young age when he first began signing in church. By the age of 6, Newton was singing with his mom and dad on a Saturday morning radio show in Harrisburg, Illinois. After moving to Chicago in the '40s, Newton began signing with Victory Four and later with the Kingsmen Four. He went on to join the Melody Masters in 1947. Just a year later, Newton joined the Blackwood Brothers. He joined the Oak Ridge Boys, then called the Oak Ridge Quartet, in 1953. At the time, the band consisted of Wally Fowler, Bob Weber, Joe Allred (later replaced by Cat Freeman), and Bobby Whitfield (replaced by Livy Freeman), with Newton serving as the band's lead singer until 1956. During his time with the band, the quartet recorded on three labels-Oak Ridge, Gospeltone, and Dot Records. He also joined the Sons of Songs in the late 1950s.
"Our sympathy goes out to the family of [Calvin Newton], who was an important and iconic member of The Oak Ridge Boys' gospel legacy from 1953-1956. Top to bottom: Joe Allred, Carlos Cook, Calvin Newton, Bob Weber, and Bobby Whitfield. RIP Calvin," the Oak Ridge Boys paid tribute on Instagram."
Newton was laid to rest during a funeral in Georgia on Monday, March 13. The Oak Ridge Boys were on hand to help pay tribute to Newton with a performance, the band writing on Twitter, "A blessing to see and sing with so many longtime dear friends ... we are singing Will The Circle Be Unbroken."
Newton was a Korean War veteran, member of the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Tri State Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. He is survived by his son Wesley, daughter Jackie, and their respective families, plus extended family. Amid his passing, tributes have poured in, with one fan commenting on the Oak Ridge Boys' post, "So sorry. R.I.P Calvin Newton. Sympathy to the family members."