This is Memorial Day Weekend and I can't think of a better time to remember my good friend, Dr. Glenn Draper. (he got on to me for calling him Dr. Draper, he would say “just call me Glenn”).
I never was his student, didn't sing in any of his choirs, but we were very good friends. Glenn was a regular on my radio show especially in the fall and near Christmas when the singers were on tour. They called me one time on the bus from somewhere on the East Coast.
Glenn was proud of his service to our country.
He started out playing the trombone but told me his heart quickly led him to choral music. He directed the “Messiah” at Kessler Air Force base the first time it was sung there. Commanding officers requested his men’s choir to sing when dignitaries visited Kessler. While in the Air Force Glenn had a weekly program on the NBC Radio Network. Kessler officials called Glenn back many times at Christmas to direct the Messiah. One commanding officer said only Glenn could get that special sound out of a men’s choir to sing the Messiah. Glenn shared with me many of his experiences while serving our country in the Air Force.
He and his singers were regulars during Christmas at the White House in both Republican and Democratic administrations. That’s where he struck up a friendship with Lee Greenwood. Glenn took his singers all over the world. They sang with Dr. Billy Graham in the Soviet Union. Looking straight at Ben Haden while visiting Baylor School in Chattanooga, Dr. Graham said when Cliff Barrows retired his choice of a replacement would be Glenn Draper.
Glenn was music director on Ben Haden's Changed Lives. Ben Haden said he hired Glenn while sitting in the back booth at the Southern Restaurant on Dayton Boulevard while eating pinto beans and cornbread. Glenn did most of First Presbyterian Church's music and was a regular in the summer at Lake Junaluska directing their choir. A nearby restaurant has autographed pictures of Glenn and the singers hanging on the wall. While visiting that eatery the owner told me Glenn loved his fried chicken and home-cooked vegetables.
Glenn directed and produced many Christmas concerts with choir and orchestra the first weekend in December at his church. Glenn recorded more than two dozen CD's that were sold during his concerts. I told Bob Elmore one time the convention bureau should appreciate those recordings because they always plugged Chattanooga.
I don't know exactly how it happened, but he met his wife Lounelle while she was a performer on the Jackie Gleason TV Show which took place in Miami.
Hundreds of young people got their musical start with Glenn Draper. He organized a music program at UTC by offering students free Krystal hamburgers and cokes on the Hunter Hall sidewalk. Glenn loved the Lord, his family and country.
My last time to visit with Glenn was our luncheon at the Rib and Lion on Highway 153. He loved B-B-Q. Also present were WDYN Radio manager Tom Sneed and Glenn’s good friend, musician Dr. Tom Hammett. Glenn told us his stories for nearly two hours. After lunch he gave us a tour of his Four Squares office. It was overflowing with pictures of his singers and places he had visited It was really a museum. When I would see him out somewhere he was never too busy to stop and chat with Lounelle saying, “Let’s go we have to be somewhere.” I can’t emphasize how much Glenn loved our country and time serving at Kessler Air Force base.
I miss our radio chats but have so many precious memories of my visits with Glenn. I imagine he's already directed Heavens Choir many times.
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Thanks to Earl Freudenberg for his excellent tribute to Glenn Draper.
As a volunteer at Memorial I got to know Glenn from his visits to the Chattanooga Heart Institute with his beautiful wife Lounelle. I would always kid him it was nice to have his daughter bring him in.
One day Jay Craven was entertaining the people in the waiting room of CHI when Glenn came in. I was fortunate to listen for about 20 minutes as two of the most accomplished musicians in Chattanooga history reminisced about their past performances. I'm sure a few of the stories were actually true! How fortunate we were to have these two enrich our lives for so many years.
RIP Maestros, and thanks for the memories.