Joyaires’ ministry is aptly named

The Joyaires, Ernie and Debbie Peters, seek to bring the joy of Christ in their
music ministry. (Photo by John Herndon)

After 43 years, joy in Christ continues to be the message they bring

By John Herndon,

You probably won’t find any artist of any genre with a more fitting name than The Joyaires.

They’ve been singing gospel music since 1979, bringing joy to anyone who hears their message about Jesus and the joy that is found in Him.

“We hadn’t thought about what we were going to call ourselves, so we just jotted down a bunch of names,” Ernie Peters says of how the group came up with its name. 

At the time, the suffix “-aires” had been common in gospel music, undoubtedly influenced by The Jordanaires, who had been a popular quartet, most known as the backup group for Elvis Presley.

Ernie Peters, right, talks with Kentucky Sings’ John Herndon at the 2022 National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (Photo by Stephanie Herndon)

So “Joyaires” stuck and has served the group well ever since. Peters smiles as he explains how the random nature of the name’s origin has made The Joyaires a recognizable name in southern and country gospel music. “In hindsight, I sometimes wish we had spelled it j-o-y h-e-i-r-s but everybody knows us the other way now. But that’s how we came up with the name,” Peters says.

Originally a trio, The Joyaires now consist of Peters and his wife, Debbie. They minister throughout the United States, singing with both tracks and Peters picking one the guitars from his collection. Their repertoire includes a mix of newer songs along with well-known classics.

We caught up with Ernie Peters during the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, not far from The Joyaires’ home in Harriman, Tennessee. He was obviously proud of the duet’s latest work.

“Actually, we have two projects,” he said. “One is a group project called ‘Standing On The Word,” which has been out about a year, and I have a brand new solo project, the first one I have ever done singing.”

The solo album, “I Believe,” was released in early November and Peters says the title cut, a cover of Jimmy Fortune’s song, has been sent to radio.

“Standing On The Word” has been very successful with the title cut, written by Sandy Blythe, breaking the Top 40 in at least one Southern Gospel chart. Another cut, a cover of Gene Autry’s “Silver-haired Daddy of Mine,” climbed into the Top 10 of a Christian Country chart.

Ernie recalled that he had sung “Silver-haired Daddy of Mine” with his father and brother. “When we were getting ready for the project, Debbie said, ‘You need to record that and put it on this project.’ It went to No. 7, so we were pleased with that.”

Ernie Peters plays his guitar during a concert in Lawrenceburg, Ky., Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo by John Herndon)

Another single from the same album, “I’ll Thank You for the Grace,” written by Leonard Fletcher, was climbing the Southern Gospel charts as we talked with Peters. Some of the other cuts include a cover of the Gold City/Ivan Parker classic, “Midnight Cry” and a pair of Christmas songs, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” and “Away In A Manger.”

Peters’ solo project features what he calls “a lot of the old stuff,” including songs written by Kenny Hinson, Dottie Rambo, Squire Parsons and Rusty Goodman. 

For now, the Joyaires are off the road until early 2023 as Peters recovers from surgery to correct a hammer toe. When they are able to get back on the road, the music might include something new but the message is the same as when they began touring 43 years ago.

It’s about joy in Christ.

“We have some wristbands printed up with a verse from Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” Peters said. “So we carry these wristbands. We hope we are joyful to everyone we meet.

“We’re just excited about what is happening. We’re old, but we are having the time of our life. God has been good.”

Ernie and Debbie Peters, The Joyaires, sing at Sand Spring Baptist Church in 2021. (Photo by John Herndon)
Debbie Peters of The Joyaires. (Photo by John Herndon)

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