Organizers Eddie and Shelia Hixson
Kindred Spirit host band
Cantrells guest group
Mike Hixson on Keyboard
Organizer Eddie Hixson on sax
In the late 1990s a small group would gather at the McDonalds in Dayton, Tn. to sing the old Gospel songs. They brought their instruments and it was hamburgers and hymns.
Eddie Hixson, who has been playing the piano since the late teens, said friends approached him about having a Gospel singing in the Hixson community. He went to the Hardees on Hixson Pike and presented the idea to the manager, who liked it. Mr. Hixson formed the band “Kindred Spirit” and the people packed the eatery once a week.
Two of the regulars were DuPont Elementary School Principal Darwin Lane and State Farm agent Gene Sharpe. Both men were big cheerleaders of the singing and always brought a few friends.
Mr. Hixson said the idea spread and at one time there were over 30 Gospel singings at fast food restaurants around the area.
Mr. Hixson said, “In 2010 the singing was moved to the Dairy Queen on Highway 153 but we outgrew that location. The pastor at Burks United Methodist Church welcomed us in April, 2019.”
Mr. Hixson said, “The large room (which holds about 130) is perfect for our singings. There are no steps, its one level and guests just walk in from the parking lot and find a seat. We have coffee, soft drinks and water.”
Pastor Dr. Tony Collins said it’s wonderful to see God’s people gather together and sing the great ole Gospel songs. Dr. Collins said, “They do all the work and it’s gratifying to me to see what’s happening at one of Hamilton County’s oldest churches, I just enjoy listening to some the songs I grew up on and invite everyone to come.”
Mr. Hixson said, “COVID forced us to stop the weekly singings, but we started back nearly a year ago.”
Mr. Hixson said his wife Shelia, who is retired from the Chattanooga Police Department, takes care of all the business. A love offering is taken every week because there are expenses to be met, but the event is always free.
Mr. Hixson said there’s never a shortage of talent starting with the host group Kindred Spirit Vocal Band. He said, "We welcome soloists, duets and trios.”
This last Thursday night guests were the Cantrell Singers who sang the Gospel with familiar tunes like: “I’m Winging my way Back Home” and “I Wanta be more like Jesus.”
Mr. Hixson himself plays a lot of the saxophone during the evening, while his son Mike tickles the keys on the keyboard.
The audience really enjoys Mike. His styles range from Floyd Crammer, Anthony Burger, Jimmy Swaggert and his own special arrangements.
One fan remarked, “Mike is my favorite part of the two hours, just to watch him play and see his facial expressions are a real blessing. The love of Christ shines on his face as he plays.”
Mr. Hixson said, “The audience likes the old songs and enjoy a change from what’s being sung in some of our churches today. A few of our most requested songs are How Great thou Art, Amazing Grace, In the Garden, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus and the Old Rugged Cross.”
The late Dickie Mathews, who backed up many Gospel groups, would often show up and play a few favorites on the keyboard.
Mr. Hixson said, “The singings average about 100 guests each week and they come from miles around to enjoy two hours of good traditional Gospel music. It’s the perfect place for us.”
Mr. Hixson himself has been playing the organ at the Fairview United Methodist Church on Big Ridge for nearly 55 years. He said, “When I started playing I brought in my own organ but the church raised the money and we bought one. I do what I do to honor my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I want to be a blessing to those who listen."