Three Bridges might be retiring, but the joy will never end

Three Bridges delivers a high-energy concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in August, 2021. From left are Jeremie Hudson, Shannon Smith and Elliott McCoy.

Acclaimed trio entering last month on the road

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

The joy is still there for Three Bridges. It always has been.

And even though the group known for its high-octane songs and concerts will be coming off the road in December, the energy – and joy – will long remain in the memories of gospel music fans.

We caught up with Elliott McCoy, the founder of the acclaimed trio, and tenor Jeremie Hudson at the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., several weeks ago. We were unable to talk with the third member of the group, Shannon Smith, at the time, but he graciously talked about Three Bridges, its ministry and what the future might hold via Facebook Messenger earlier this week.

Three Bridges founder Elliott McCoy at Sand Spring Baptist Church in August 2021. (All photos by John Herndon)

Times have been somewhat bittersweet since McCoy announced that the group was retiring at the end of 2022. There have been thousands of performances, hundreds of songs recorded and sung and, most importantly, countless lives touched by a sound unlike any other in the gospel music industry.

“We have 22 years of traveling with Three Bridges,” McCoy said. “I have been singing for 58 years.”

McCoy had discussed the history of Three Bridges with KentuckySings.com during a 2019 interview. 

A few months later, the group’s world, and the world of music, regardless of genre, turned upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic. While Three Bridges stayed as active as it could, the pandemic got the trio out of its routine and McCoy says it took several months for the group to get back in rhythm.

For McCoy, a Pike County native, rhythm has always been a driving force behind the music.

“I liked rock-and-roll. I liked rhythm and blues,” he smiled, recalling his early exposure to gospel. “The Statesmen did that. They did black gospel songs and brought them to (traditional gospel) and it worked!”

It’s no coincidence that Three Bridges fans saw a striking resemblance to the Statesmen and groups such as The Imperials when the trio took the stage. As the trio’s website says, the group’s “music is rooted in Traditional Gospel, Southern Gospel and a touch of soul music.”

Smith explains, “Elliott says that the Statesmen were a big influence on him and, of course, Jeremie and I sang with The Imperials and they were a big influence on our lives throughout our childhood and teen years, so I suppose it only stands to reason that those influences would show up.”

Jeremie Hudson has been with Three Bridges for 13 years.

And there has never been any doubt about Three Bridges being filled with the spirit whenever the trio sings. “I am 77 years old and I thank God I have some energy,” McCoy smiled. “But I will tell you that when we sing, we give it everything we’ve got. It takes a lot of energy.”

That distinctive characteristic flows partly from McCoy himself. “We hear that kind of thing all the time,” Smith said. “I guess it’s just in our DNA! Sincerely, I think it has been true regardless of the personnel in the group so I think it is part of Elliott’s anointing as the group founder and owner. He is one of the most consistently joyful people I’ve ever known and I think that rubs off on the group members.”

But that positivity also stems from a firm belief that Three Bridges singing in God’s will. “It is important that while you are singing and while you do what you are doing that you fulfill a calling,” Hudson said. 

“We all have taken very seriously God’s call on our lives and we truly expect the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself through our singing,” Smith added.

When Three Bridges sings, one can’t help but be uplifted. McCoy says that is by design. “One thing that we never do, we don’t sing sad songs,” he said. “The Bible says the joy of the Lord is your strength so we want to bring joy to people who attend our concerts. We want them to go out feeling good.”

Three Bridges will be going out feeling good about the ministry of the last 22 years. The trio was honored at the NQC for its contributions and received a standing ovation, but as the final concert, scheduled for Dec. 18 in Wilmington, N.C., draws closer, there are many different emotions.

Even though Covid slowed the group, Hudson says it was not a factor in the decision to retire Three Bridges. “It really wasn’t that at all,” he said. “At the end of last year of the first of this year, we began to feel that God was shutting this door and moving us in a different direction or even a new chapter.”

Smith says there have been some tough moments since the retirement was announced in the spring. “We’ve sung together as Three Bridges for 13 years and Jeremie and I were with The Imperials together for six years,” Smith said. “You don’t spend that much time working together without becoming very close and truly loving each other as brothers!

“I will miss the camaraderie that we’ve forged over the past 13 years – 19 with Jeremie – and I will certainly miss the Three Bridges’ fans if I don’t see them somewhere along the way. 

Shannon Smith sings during a concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in August, 2021.

“I WON’T miss Elliott’s playing Facebook videos on his phone at three in the morning and I’m sure he won’t miss my snoring!”

With the retirement announcement coming earlier this year, the group has had some time to ponder the future. McCoy won’t be in a traveling ministry anymore but Hudson and Smith are leaving their options open.

“I’m probably going to take some time off and see where that takes me,” Hudson said earlier this week when we followed up on the NQC interview.

Smith will be doing some solo work. “I have some solo singing or speaking events schedule and I’m adding more regularly,” he said. “If anyone is interested, you can find me on Instagram and Facebook at @officialshannonsmith and also my website at www.officialshannonsmith.com is coming very soon. Or call the office at 615-212-2200. That’s the only concrete plans at the moment.”

Those futures are unknown but there’s little doubt when talking with the members of Three Bridges that they have faith that God will lead them into new chapters of service.

What is known is that Three Bridges’ influence on gospel music fans for the last 22 years is beyond measure. 

Three Bridges farewell concert a possibility

When we talked with members of Three Bridges at the National Quartet Convention, they mentioned the possibility of a farewell concert sometime in early 2023. When we caught up with Shannon Smith earlier this week, he noted that such an event is still a possibility but had not been worked out.

“The plan is still to finish up on Dec. 18,” Smith said. “However, there is talk of a farewell concert in the Nashville area sometime in the early part of 2023. Hopefully, that can be worked out.”

National Quartet Convention president Clarke Beasley (left), presents Elliott McCoy with a plaque commemorating Three Bridges’ ministry in southern gospel.
Three Bridges sings during the group’s final performance at the National Quartet Convention, September 30, 2022. From left are Elliott McCoy, Shannon Smith and Jeremie Hudson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s