No tears, just worship



The McKameys perform during their concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Nov. 14, 2019. From left are Roger Fortner, Peg McKamey Bean, Eli Fortner, Sheryl Farris, Connie Fortner and Ruben Bean.

In final concerts of illustrious career, McKameys remain focused on praising God

By John Herndon,

I expected to shed a few tears when I went to see The McKameys Thursday night.

Unless you have been totally cut off from the gospel music world, you know that The McKameys, one of the most popular groups to ever share the gospel in song, will be retiring after a concert in Knoxville, Tenn., on Nov. 23. (Ticket information for that final concert can be found at

When they took the stage Thursday at Sand Spring Baptist Church, near Lawrenceburg, it was the last time The McKameys would sing in Kentucky. And I knew it would be the last time I would see this group, which has given us so many great songs of the faith, in person.


Ruben Bean. (All photos by John Herndon)

It could have been a sad time, but Ruben Bean, the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Famer who manages the group, ended any such notion just a few moments into the concert. He said something to the effect of it was not a time for sadness, but a time to lift up the Lord and that was what The McKameys would be doing Thursday night.

I wasn’t expecting to write a review of the concert so I didn’t have a notepad handy. That’s not a direct quote, but the gist of what Mr. Bean said.

And he was right. It was nearly two-hours of heartfelt worship. Mr. Bean’s wife, Peg McKamey Bean, waved her handkerchief and kicked her shoes off during the concert, much to the delight of longtime McKamey fans. Of course, she brought the house down with her rendition of the group’s signature song, “God on the Mountain.”

Every member of the group, including guitarists Roger Fortner and his son, Eli, sang at least one solo, as The McKameys have done for years.


Roger, Connie and Eli Fortner.

Over the years, I have attended gospel concerts when I wondered if the focus was on God or on the artist but with The McKameys, that’s never been a question. When Peg starts waving that hanky or kicking her shoes off, you know it’s because she is so excited about God’s mercy. When Sheryl or Connie break into a solo, there’s no way to explain it other than you know it’s coming from the heart.


Sheryl Farris.

When they delivered “From Dust to Glory,” a song written by Sheryl and on their latest CD, the crowd was mesmerized by the powerful words telling the miracle of Christ’s ministry.

While Roger and Eli are gifted guitarists who often amaze with their talents, their low key style only serves to accentuate the message.

And when Ruben offered an invitation before the group sang “Just As I Am,” there were no theatrics, just a heartfelt plea for all in attendance to make Jesus the Lord of their lives and live for Him each day.

Some might call The McKameys “old school” as their music is decidedly a traditional Southern Gospel or country sound, but their message is as relevant today as it was when The McKamey Sisters began more than 60 years ago.


Peg McKamey Bean waves her trademark handkerchief during a song at Sand Spring.

The McKameys have won nearly every award possible in the gospel music industry. They’ve played to packed houses for years. But the ministry is all about Christ, nothing else. It always has been.

One of my habits at concerts hosted by Sand Spring is to hang around to talk with the artists a few minutes after the crowds thin out. Last night, there were only a few people milling about in the lobby when I introduced myself and thanked her for taking the time to talk for an interview last month ( And I thanked her for the many years of service and for The McKameys’ emphasis on worship.

She could only break into that familiar huge smile and said, “I just think that’s how it should be.”

No tears. Just praising God’s greatness.



Ruben Bean issues a heartfelt invitation at the end of The McKameys’ concert at Sant Spring Baptist Church.




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