One of the most iconic names in Southern Gospel Music, the McKameys, will be retiring later this year. While it will be hard to imagine the music scene without the McKameys, their music and legacy will live on and they will forever be known as one of the most unique and popular family groups to ever grace a stage. I recently had the honor of talking with family matriarch, Peg Bean, about the group and reflect on their retirement, their legacy and the indelible mark they will leave behind when they walk off the stage for the last time…
James: So how does it feel to almost to be retired? Are you ready for this?
Peg: I think so! Ruben and I are feeling retirement, more so than the younger ones. (laughing!) My prayer is for them because they haven’t decided what they want to do. They are waiting on the Lord still and there are a lot of opportunities out there for them. That’s a hard place to be, waiting on the Lord. But I, actually, am looking forward to being off the road because we have traveled so many miles over the years!
James: What are you and Ruben planning to do because I know just sitting at home isn’t in the plans!
Peg: No, surely not. We’ll work at the office for awhile to tie up lose ends there. We’ll liquidate the bus and office building and we’ll definitely be busy with those things for awhile.
James: The McKameys started in 1954 with the 3 sisters, Peg, Dora and Carol. Looking back over 65 years, what is the one thing you cherish the most over all these years?
Peg: The most precious thing I cherish about being on the road all these years is the people. The people have been so gracious to the McKameys and even the industry has been gracious to us as well. It’s a real privilege and honor to sing to the people we have and have the people who have helped us all these years. We’re thankful and so grateful!
James: Hind-sight being 20/20…is there anything you would have done differently?
Peg: I don’t think so. Ruben and I took our hands off everything and allowed the Lord to handle everything. We admitted to Him that we didn’t know what to do without Him. He has guided us, and for that we are grateful. We didn’t have any idea which way to go. Like I said earlier, we’ve had a lot of help from the industry people and probably one of the first people to help the McKameys was Eddie Crook. He called Ruben and told him that he’d like to make us a record and so we went down there and recorded our first project with him. He let us be ourselves and let us kind of call the shots. He helped us book dates that we would have never been able to obtain. After he thought he had taken us about as far as he could, Eldridge Fox and Mickey Gambill sat down with Ruben and myself and we talked about a contract with them and we’ve been with them ever since. We appreciate them so much!
James: It’s a rarity for a group to stay with a label like you guys have. For your entire professional career, you guys have only been with 2 record labels…Eddie Crook and Horizon Records. You guys have basically stuck with the people who have stuck with you!
Peg: Yes that’s the truth! We’ve been very happy and I think they’ve been happy. It’s worked really well and I think it’s been the hand of the Lord.
James: With numerous #1 songs, hit records, awards, etc. what has been the greatest highlight in your 65 years of singing?
Peg: There’s been many highlights during all these years. One highlight would be the first time we ever sang at the National Quartet Convention in Nashville. In fact, Eddie Crook was responsible for that. He bought some time that allowed us to sing @ 1am in the morning at the convention and it opened a lot of eyes to our kind of music and our style of singing. Then, myself being inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and then Ruben being inducted this year is definitely a highlight. Each #1 song was a highlight for the McKameys and having 34 #1 songs so far is a record and we’re thankful for that. Little extras the Lord has given to us that has kept us encouraged along this journey.
James: You had mentioned just a moment ago how Eddie Crook helped introduce your style to the industry. All groups want to minister in some capacity, many times there is an expected amount of entertainment. The McKameys were always a little different in your approach and much more emphasis was put on the ministry aspect.
Peg: We were taught by our parents that #1 is the Lord Jesus Christ and it’s our job to lift Him high. We have done that through our songs. We’ve always chosen songs that point to Him. We’re nothing but dust and He is mighty and great and we want to lift Him high with each song.
James: Your sister, Carol, was a vital part of your ministry for years. I know the fans would love an update on her and how she is doing?
Peg: Carol has a great love for children. When her and Jess married, they went 5 years before having a child. She was at the point where she thought they would never have a child, so she loved everybody else’s children. Then the Lord opened her womb and she had her first boy, then another followed and another followed and she wanted a girl so bad that they adopted a girl. She has raised her children and grandchildren and now she is raising her great-grandchildren as she loves babysitting them. Carol and I were raised in a family of 12 children with a preaching daddy and a praying mama and we always had a little one running around. But Carol had sacrificed a lot to travel with the McKameys and sing her heart out and is thrilled being home with those babies!
James: Speaking of Carol adopting a little girl, a lot people may not know that you and Ruben adopted 2 boys back in the early 1970s. What are they up to?
Peg: The boys are doing great and both of them are married. Michael, he’s the oldest, he was 5 years old when we adopted him and he’s in Illinois and has been there for like 20 years. Brian is in Knoxville and he’s given us a grandchild. We all get together on Christmas Day here at the house and we’re still a close family.
James: You guys have released your last recording earlier this year called “The Crown”. Tell us about this recording and what it means to you?
Peg: It was bittersweet for us. I think it’s a tremendous album. Eli does a great job on the song “God is Good”. Roger sings a great song simply titled, “Heavy” that talks about the burdens of life and it’s a very unique song. The current single is called “From Dust to Glory” and it really turns me on! (laughing) It is a tremendous song! God has a plan for us from dust to glory and the song puts a shout in my soul everytime I sing it!
James: What advice do you have for any young, aspiring singers wanting to sing gospel music?
Peg: I would say lifting the Lord up through your songs and through your life. That should be a priority because He is worthy of our praise. When you look for songs to record and sing, you should look for those songs that do something for you because if they touch you, they will touch an audience when you sing them from your heart. God can do mighty things if you just let Him work through you. Just sing from your heart and honor God, that’s the best advise I can give anyone. The people that love the Lord will be blessed and the people who don’t know Him will want to know Him.
James: When it’s all said and done, what do you want the McKameys legacy to be?
Peg: I want the people, when they see the McKameys name, to remember how we bragged on the Lord all our days! I think that’s what I want people to remember!
James: What are your plans between now and when you retire?
Peg: We’ll just continue to sing until November 23rd. That will be our last sing and it will be at the City Auditorium in Knoxville, TN. After that, the bus won’t be going out anymore. We’ll also be doing a matinee at the National Quartet Convention with just the McKameys and it will give us an opportunity to sing and share from our hearts with the people.
To see where you can see the McKameys one last time before they retire on November 23rd or to order their latest CD, “The Crown”, check them out at:
To learn more about the history of the McKameys, check out this mini-documentary on You Tube: