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Ernest Phipps
and Congregation
Born:  May 4, 1900
Died:  April 17, 1963

About The Artist

Promo Ad - Victor Records - Ernest Phipps - 1927 Kentucky Holiness preacher Ernest Phipps and his associates recorded some of the earliest and best examples of their style of sacred song. He and his group attended both Victor sessions in Bristol. In the first, he was leader of a quartet. The second featured a larger singing group that may have had as many as ten vocalists.

Phipps originally came from the town of Gray, Kentucky, but at the time of his Bristol recordings lived and preached in the city of Corbin, Kentucky. The personnel in the Holiness Quartet in addition to Phipps probably included A. G. Baker, and may have included Ancil McVay and Roland Johnson (the latter two later recorded a single on Columbia). Probably the most interesting song was "Old Ship of Zion" which adapted the tune of "She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain," a great example of the old saying "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?"

The second, a larger singing group, seems to have definitely included Baker, McVay, and Johnson. The others were likely Ernest's wife Minnie, and Nora Byrley, Eula Johnson, Shirley Jones, and Alfred G. Karnes with his harp guitar. There were likely about four or five others. The most notable numbers were "If the Light Has Gone Out in Your Soul," and "Shine on Me." The latter is a combination of the old hymn "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone" with a chorus that speeds up each time it is sung which sounds something akin to a newer rock and roll beat. The song was later covered by Cliff Carlisle.

Over his lifetime, Phipps was married three times. He was still in his teens on May 9, 1918 when he and his first young wife, Mary Hammons, "tied the knot," but she apparently died soon afterward, perhaps in the great flu epidemic.

He then married Minnie Douglas in 1920 who sang on his second session in 1928. The couple had two children, Charles and Helen. During this time, he preached and worked in the coal mines. Sometime between 1929 and 1933, the couple separated and eventually divorced.

Ernest as a single man was drafted into the service in 1944 and worked in an army hospital in Washington state until the war ended. Back in Kentucky he drove a coal truck and went back to preaching.

In 1949, he married widow Zola Mays and helped rear her two children. His later years seemed to happy ones; he enjoyed fishing when he had spare time. However, from 1960, he had serious heart problems. He died in April 1963 after a second massive heart attack. His life has been seriously studied by one-time graduate student, Brandon Story.

Credits & Sources

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5540 A Let The Light Shine On Me
  5540 B Little Talk With Jesus
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  20834 A I Want to Go Where Jesus Is
  20834 B Don?t Grieve After Me
  20927 A Do Lord Remember Me
  20927 B Old Ship of Zion
  21192 A Jesus Getting Ready for that Great Day
  21192 B Happy in Prison
  VI40010 A If The Light Has Gone Out In Your Soul
  VI40010 B Bright Tomorrow
  VI40106 A Went Up In The Clouds Of Heaven
  VI40106 B I Know Jesus Set Me Free

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