Singing Praises unto The Lord

For all of his eighty-nine years, Mosie Lister has loved the Lord and music. This is the story of how a tone deaf Cochran, Georgia native grew up to become one of the greatest songwriters and performers in the history of Southern Gospel music.

Thomas Mosie Lister was born in Empire,  Georgia on September 8, 1921. His parents, Willis U. Lister, a farmer and barber, and Pearl Hobbs Lister a farm housewife, made sure that music was heard and made in their farm home in the Empire District of Dodge County. When his parents tried to teach Mosie how to sing, they discovered that he could not distinguish sounds. Through his studies of piano, guitar and violin, Mosie's tone deafness improved. Lister spent hours studying song writing and musical theories in his early years. With his musical impediments behind him, Mosie gave his life to God when he was seventeen years old.  Just before his graduation, Mosie won $10.00 as the second place finisher in a fiddling contest at the Macon City Auditorium.

Mosie graduated with honors from Chester High School in the spring of 1940. Not too long after that his family moved to 312 Dykes Street in Cochran.  Naturally his two loves merged into one, singing and writing praises unto the Lord. He attended singing schools, studying under the guidance of Gospel legends Adger Pace and G.T. "Dad" Speer.

Lister once said, "One of my weaknesses is my love of various styles of music, but one of my strengths is that I've always been able to recognize that God made it all. It's not bad unless we make it bad."

Mosie enrolled in the Vaughan School of Music in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee just as he began singing in gospel groups. One of Lister's first professional singing appearances came as a member of the Sunny South Quartet, which included Jim "Big Chief" Wetherington.

Though his singing career was just beginning, Mosie left the music world and joined the Navy in 1942. He served in Norfolk, Virginia, Key West, Florida and North Africa. he served as a soundsman second class.   Mosie came home in 1944 on furlough and did what he did best participate in a local gospel singing event.

Mosie lost his only brother, W.O. Lister, who went down with the U.S.S. Juneau, when she sank on November 13 1942.  

 After returning from World War II, Mosie studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but never gave up his dream of becoming a musician. Mosie returned to Cochran and enrolled in Middle Georgia College, where he studied English and music. He rejoined the Sunny South Quartet, but soon left with Wetherington to form the Melody Masters. The gig didn't work out when Lister decided that his future was not in touring the nation's churches, gymnasiums and concert halls.

Mosie Lister turned to song writing. What followed was Southern Gospel music history. To help pay his bills, Lister opened a music store and tuned pianos. That's when an ironic twist of fate, or a blessing of God, changed Mosie's life forever.

Hovie Lister, who claimed no family relationship with Mosie, was scouting the Atlanta area to find the right three members to form a new Gospel quartet. So, when the time came, Hovie invited Mosie to be the group's lead singer. Mosie accepted. And, the Statesmen Quartet was born.

In the beginning, the Statesmen included Mosie as the group's lead signer. Gordon Hill sang bass with Bervin Kendrick singing baritone and Bobby Strickland vocalizing the tenor parts. The Statesmen made their radio debut on WCON in Atlanta in October 1948.

A bout with pneumonia forced Mosie to retire because of damage to his throat. Hovie Lister reorganized the group in 1952 by bringing in Denver Crumpler to replace Bobby Strickland on tenor. Jake Hess succeeded Mosie. Doy Ott followed Bervin Kendrick. Mosie's old friend, "Big Chief" Wetherington was the group's new bass singer. Hovie stepped to the front, emceed, and played piano.

Hurriedly, Mosie wrote words and music and arranged old tunes for the new quartet. Mosie would never return to the group, which in the opinion of many was the greatest of all Southern Gospel groups.

Mosie didn't leave the Statesmen, but continued to work as the group's arranger and songwriter. Soon his songs were chosen by top Gospel groups of the day, including the Blackwood Brothers, the Jordanaires, and the LeFevres.

Over the years, Mosie Lister's top tunes included "I'm Feeling Fine," "Then I Met the Master," "How Long Has It Been," "Til the Storm Passes By," and "While Ages Roll."

Those songs and many more were recorded by artists including Jimmy Dean, George Beverly Shea, Floyd Cramer, B.J. Thomas, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard.

Mosie's lyrics and music and the Statesmen's distinctive sound had a profound influence on the early career of Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll is often overlooked for his work in the Gospel field. In 1960, Presley recorded his first Gospel album with two of Mosie's songs, "He Knows Just What I Need" and "His Hand in Mine," the title track which garnered Elvis his first and only Grammy award.

Mosie moved to Tampa, Florida in the mid 1950s, where he managed his own music publishing company, The Mosie Lister Publishing Company, which later merged into Lillenas Publishing.

After three decades of singing Gospel music, Mosie Lister, songwriter, singer, arranger, became the Rev. Mosie Lister, an ordained Baptist minister. In 1976, Mosie Lister was inducted to the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. Twenty one years later, he joined the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

At the age of eighty, Mosie was still writing songs, putting together some of his best works into a compilation he calls, "The Light of the World." Today he still lives, waking each day realizing that God still has great plans for his eternal life. Long after Mosie meets the Master, people who can sing and even those of us who can't sing very well, will be singing his classic words and music as they praise the Lord.

Mosie Lister went to see his Father in Heaven on February 12, 2015. He is buired in Spring Hill Cemetery in Maury County, Tennessee. 


Bill Ricks said…
Your blog inspired me to download a few Mosie Lister pieces from iTunes.
wayne2035 said…
I think the most famous song written by Mosie Lister was Goodby World Goodby; it is still being sung and as a favorite of many piano players including me.
Wayne Thompson
niton9 said…
I was inspired to learn more about Mr. Lister after rediscovering "How Long Has It Been?" over the last few days. The song has been very helpful to me, definitely relates to my situation.

I'm thankful for Mr. Lister and his gift for composition and his songs.

Jack Woodford
bluerondo said…
I'm so thankful for Mosie Lister and for his faithfulness in serving The Lord all these years. Though I grew up in a home where Southern Gospel was heard and loved I never really cared much for that style of music and gravitated toward hymns like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and "And Can It Be" and John Newtons and Issac Watts' music as well as some Contemporary music like Phil Keaggy, Michael Card, and other artists in that field. Still, I was exposed to some Southern Gospel, and I've been going through a trial that has had me anxious, scared, angry, and a bit bitter. I didn't want to be in that state and knew God couldn't be pleased for me not trusting Him, since He's never once failed me. It was Mosie's song "Til the Storm Passes By" (apparently influenced by Psalm 57:1) that the Lord used to turn my heart back to where it should have been all along. I wept and cried out to God as I considered where I was and where my hope comes from. Thank you Lord for using Mosie, and thank you Mosie for being a faithful servant of Christ.
reigngee said…
love " Till The Storm Passes By" from Tampa. Anybody knows where he lives now.?.. love to visit him....Please let me know here , better email me .... a lot !..or call me 8134153386
Jean Moon said…
What a beautiful testimony of God's grace and how He used music to bring you back into His will. Thank you for sharing.