Christian singer-songwriter Ray Overholt was "all dressed up" Sunday to make
the trip from his Battle Creek home to Grand Rapids, where he was scheduled
to perform a concert at Faith Reformed Church in Wyoming.
"Isn't that incredible? He never wanted to stop," Becky Davis said of
her 84-year-old grandfather. "When it was time to sing, he was raring to go.
You put him on that stage, and he'd just come to life."
Overholt, known for being Grand Rapids' first TV singing cowboy, died Sunday
as he was getting into the van for his Grand Rapids concert. It is assumed
heart failure was the cause.
The Gaines Township native had a budding career as a Grand Rapids-area
cowboy-country music singer in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He had
a country-western-style radio program and a TV show, "Ray's Roundup," on
WOOD-TV from 1948 to 1952 that included guests Stewart Hamblen and Ray Price.
His music has been recorded by at least 100 artists, including
Kate Smith, Loretta Lynn and Janie Fricke. But in 1958, Overholt hung up
his cowboy hat when a conversion to Christianity redirected his life and mission.
His most successful songs include "Ten Thousand Angels," which
sold 1 million copies by the 1970s, and "Hallelujah Square," nominated
for three Gospel Music Association Dove Awards in consecutive years.
He was a member of the Michigan Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame and
was inducted into Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame.
"You know what's interesting, too, his voice stayed strong," Davis said. "He was
on pitch to the very end."
Several years ago, Overholt suffered a heart attack, underwent triple bypass surgery,
suffered from blindness and complications from the heart attack, including
the loss of one leg.
Millie, his wife of 52 years, would take him to every concert, where she would
sing and play keyboard.
"He did love his ministry," Millie said. "We always enjoyed going everywhere
he was sent. ... He was always a happy person. He always said he wanted
to sing until he came home, and he did that."
Overholt is survived by his wife, Millie, 78; son Ron Overholt; brothers Roger
(wife Loretta) and Don Overholt (wife Bernie); sister Lucy Long (husband Wen);
three grandchildren, including Becky Davis (husband Travis), Tony Overholt (wife Sue),
Ron Gorman (wife Melissa); five great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
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