Vaughan Quartet Festival of Lawrenceburg, TN

Vaughan Quartet Festival
Vaughan Quartet Festival


The glorious history of Southern Gospel Music comes alive in the James D. Vaughan Museum in historic Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The museum honors the "Father of Southern Gospel Music", James D. Vaughan, who sponsored the first professional southern gospel quartets, established the first southern gospel magazine, recorded the first southern gospel quartets, established the first southern gospel music radio station and taught the South how to sing with the renowned Vaughan School of Music.

The United States Congress has declared and recognized Lawrenceburg, Tennessee as the Birthplace of Southern Gospel Music.

James D. Vaughan published millions of shape note songbooks from this building on the Lawrenceburg Square. The Vaughan music enterprise included music publishing, song writing, radio and the famous Vaughan School of Music, all headquartered on the public square in historic downtown Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. James D. Vaughan, the eldest of four sons, was born near Minor Hill, TN in Giles County on December 14, 1864. He was the son of George Washington Vaughan and Mary Eliza Shores Vaughan. His parents had migrated from the North Carolina Piedmont. His father was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War.

James D. Vaughan attended private schools because they were in session longer than public schools. He received and education much superior to most of the youngsters of that time. After high school graduation, he taught school for several years. Vaughan`s prime interest was music and he went to school under some of the best music teachers in the country.

As luck would have it , there was a man living close by who knew the primary rudiments of music and who taught a music school. Four of the Vaughan brothers attended this school and all learned to sing do-re-mi`s. This was a fore runner of the many gospel quartets that crisscrossed the nation a few years later. James D. and John sand bass, Will sang tenor and Charles sang alto. Later James D. Vaughan attended several Normal schools taught by Professor E. T. Hildebrand and learned to write music and to understand harmony.

James D. Vaughan had several of his songs published by the Hilderbrand-Burnett Company in the late 1890`s and began to collect material for his own song book. In the meanwhile, he continued to teach literary and singing schools in order to make a living. In 1890, he and his wife moved to Sisco, Texas where he continued to school there. Both of their children, Glenn Keiffer and Mable Grace were born while they lived in Texas. There was a massive `Cyclone` at Sisco in 1893 and the Vaughan family lost everything they had. Because of this, the family returned to Middle Tennessee in 1899. In 1900 Vaughan published his first book, "Gospel Chimes" in Minor Hill. At that time he was principal of the school at Elkmont Springs in Giles County, Tennessee.

In 1902, Vaughan moved to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee and founded the Vaughan Publishing Company. The next year, his youngest brother, Charles W. Vaughan also moved to Lawrenceburg. Vaughan`s first business was in the back of the law office of Colonel D. W. Starnes behind the Post Office, which was located on the Public Square at that time. This building was damaged by fire and Vaughan moved to North Military Avenue just off the square. In 1909, Vaughan purchased the building on the south side of the square owned by the Lawrence Bank and Trust Company. The bank had moved to a new building on the corner of the square and Pulaski Street.The Vaughan Publishing Company grew steadily in the early years of the 20th Century. In 1909, the company sold just over 30,000 books, and in 1910 he more than doubled this number.

The steady stream of Gospel song books coming out of Lawrenceburg all looked very much the same. Even with inflation, they could be purchased for 50 cents in the 1960`s. Book sales averaged more than 200,000 per year during the peak of the Vaughan Publishing Company. But Vaughan did not leave the sale of song books to chance. In 1911, James D. Vaughan expanded his music empire and established the "Vaughan School of Music". This school was held annually and grew until it was necessary for instructors to work almost around the clock. Aspiring Gospel singers from across the United States came to Lawrenceburg to receive instruction in all phases of music. In addition, Mr. Vaughan sought out teachers of gospel music from all over the United States and enticed them to work for him. James d. Vaughan operated a newspaper, "The Lawrenceburg Times" until selling out in 1912

On February 9, 1941, James David Vaughan died at his home in Lawrenceburg of a heart attack. His funeral was held in the Nazarene Tabernacle on South Military Avenue in Lawrenceburg. The building seated 500 people but an estimated 7,000 people were at the funeral. More than 3,000 of them were from other cities and states. A public address system was installed to accommodate the overflow crowd. Mr. Vaughan`s son, Keiffer, became the new president of the Vaughan Publishing Company. Finally, the company was sold in May 1964 and all equipment and copyrights to the Blackwood Brothers. The company continued to operate in Leoma, Tennessee for several years until it was sold to a group in Cleveland, Tennessee.

The annual James D. Vaughan Festival comes every July. Some of the best-known southern gospel quartets in America will be in Lawrenceburg, TN to honor the Father of Southern Gospel Music. 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of this great music we know as Southern Gospel. The annual James D. Vaughan Festival is held at the Crockett Theatre in downtown Lawrenceburg, TN. The festival is held to benefit the James D. Vaughan Museum located in beautiful Lawrenceburg.

Main Street Lawrenceburg and the Singing News Magazine sponsor the event.

Schedule of Events

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