Instruments:Tenor Vocals, Songwriter
Date of Birth: 1938
Place of Birth: Whynot, Mississippi
Tommy Atwood's induction into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1999 was just the latest in a series of honors and awards. In 1971 he was named the Singing News' favorite tenor and in 1996 was designated a "Living Legend."
Atwood, who hails from little Whynot, MS., outside Meridian, knew he wanted to be a gospel singer from the time he was a boy picking cotton and cutting paper wood.
Atwood's father was a minister and a singer, his mother also sang.
"Dad sang and worked in the shipyards in Mobile," Atwood says. "He bought us an old four-string banjo and guitar and brought them home. There were six of us, and we'd sit around and sing on weekends, and enter contests. We all played instruments. The inspiration began at home."
Atwood, who plays the fiddle, guitar and bass, says he used to play rock ‘n' roll in the style of the Tupelo boy named Elvis, which his family regarded with obvious skepticism.
"But when I gave my heart to the Lord, I decided to pursue gospel music, " he says.
As a singer, Atwood was influenced by the sounds of Denver Crumpler, who sang with the Statesmen Quartet of Atlanta. He says he also enjoyed listening to Bill Shaw of the Blackwoods and Thurman Bunch of the Plainsmen.
Atwood's journey to his 6 ½ year stint with the Florida Boys (1966-72) was circuitous, to say the least. He left Mississippi in 1956 ... and eventually found his way back to Mobile, where he began singing on weekends with the Gulftone Quartet. He left that group to work.
In the mid-1960s, Atwood was working as a supervisor for a freight line in Pensacola and singing on weekends with a group call ed the Harvaleers when he got the call from the Florida Boys.
The Florida Boys, founded as the Gospel Melody Quartet in 1947 by J.G. Whitfield of Pensacola, proved to be a full-time gig. The five-member group - four singers and a pianist - traveled 12 months a year and performed three to five engagements a week.
Atwood's distinctive voice brought a unique level of emotion to songs such as "I Will Serve Thee," "Bible-Lovin' Man," "Welcome Home" and "Depart From Me." The Florida boys recorded 11 of his songs; Atwood or others have recorded 43 of his compositions.
From an article in the Mobile Press Register
July 31, 1999
By Thomas B. Harrison
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame