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The Kings Messengers celebrate 45 years of music, worship and friendship
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Members of The King's Messengers include, from left, Chad Pruitt, Tommy Meyer, Gerald Freeman, Randall Allison, Stan Parker, Jerry Carder, Harold Deyton and Ronnie Nichols. The gospel group celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, and they'll perform an anniversary concert Sunday at The River Community Assembly of God in Murrayville.

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The King's Messengers sing "Damascus Road."

The King's Messengers

45th anniversary singing with special guest, Georgia

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: The River Community Assembly of God, 5043 Thompson Bridge Road, Murrayville
How much: Free
More info: 678-234-5125

They've gotten paid with buckets of fried chicken, sang for a judge in a courthouse and had a few hair dye jobs gone bad.

That's just a few of the things The King's Messengers have experienced in the past 45 years.

The first tour bus the Gainesville-based Southern gospel group owned was the old bus that country star Waylon Jennings drove on tour. Now they drive the former Allman Brothers' bus.

Through the years, quartet member and tenor Stanley Parker has served as bus driver and has seen his own share of mishaps - like being wedged on a bridge and stuck under an overpass.

But throughout all the excitement and adventures, there is one thing they say has stayed the same for The King's Messengers: Their message about the Lord.

"Why God has kept us together is because it's not about us, it's all about him and the ministry," said Jerry Carder, the Murrayville resident and lead singer of the quartet for 12 years. "We are like fishers of men; we come to spread a net over the waters and the congregation is the water and we're trying to reel in souls for the kingdom."

Added baritone Ronnie Nichols, "It's not about money. There is nobody in this group, including us, that gets one penny. ... It's about the music."

The King's Messengers formed in 1964 at Lanierland Christian Center in Murrayville, now called the River Community Assembly of God. Original members are long gone, but Carder and Parker are the oldest second-generation members of the group.

"It just started as a group in church singing on like a Sunday night or Sunday morning and it evolved, and I guess we didn't really start actively traveling until probably in the mid-1970s," said Parker, who began singing with the group at 12. "As far as the original group ... then we had the New Life choir, and they traveled for years. And the choir and quartet recorded albums back then, but they recorded them together."

Parker said the quartet over the years also has been known by other names, like The Ambassadors and The Messenger's Quartet.

The men say they have stayed together so many years because of the family-like bonds they have formed.

"In today's movement of groups most of the time, most groups fold within a 20-year span or less because of the finances just aren't there," said Carder, who began with the quartet at 13. "The pressures, the traveling. If the families don't back you ... it won't work."

Other members of The King's Messengers are bass singer Gerald Freeman from Toccoa, pianist Chad Pruitt, bass guitaist Harold Deyton, drummer Tommy Meyer and guitarist Randall Allison.

Even though there has been success for the quartet, there have been struggles through the years, too.

There have been deaths and members coming in and out of the group. But dedication to Southern gospel music is what keeps them going.

"We've had our share of turnover; we haven't been this way for 30 years," Nichols said. "Both deaths were devastating to us ... when he (former bass singer Don Mangum) died we thought about (quitting) and the reason why we didn't was because he wouldn't want us to."

Even through hardships, the quartet will keep on making albums and singing at old country churches or in front of large congregations 35 weekends a year - just like Sunday, when they celebrate their 45th anniversary at The River Community Assembly of God.

The singing will be the first of a few anniversary celebrations this year, and the group will debut its new album, "The King's Messengers at Lee Arrendale State Prison for Women," released this week.

"It's one of the best King's Messengers albums," Nichols said. "We did a live recording at (Lee Arrendale) women's prison for 550 women. Some of it is new and some of it is the old standards."

The album features 11 songs with one special track, "Forever Faithful," performed by the Lee Arrendale State prison women's choir.

"The main thing is we try to stay as current as we can on the music," Carder said. "We try to identify with everybody that we sing with on their level, and we need to feel their feelings, hurt when they hurt."

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