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Spreading the Word, one song at a time

He’s a northern guy with a southern drawl and a velvet voice. Fred Walter has southern gospel in his soul.

Fred Walter in the Omni studio in Nashville, recording a Southern Gospel album. Fred has been bringing Southern Gospel music to west central Minnesota for many years.                          Contributed photo

Fred Walter in the Omni studio in Nashville, recording a Southern Gospel album. Fred has been bringing Southern Gospel music to west central Minnesota for many years. Contributed photo

Fred Walter loves Southern Gospel. “It ministers to my heart. It’s a message or a sermon in a song. It has theological meaning, and I sing to share my faith in Jesus with others.” In a song entitled Suppertime, Fred speaks of his mother before his voice turns into song:

“Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were woven around suppertime when mom would come to the back steps at the old home place. And she’d say… ‘Boys come on in, it’s suppertime.’ Oh, how I’d like to hear that once more. But times have woven the realization of the truth that’s even more thrilling… and that’s when the Lord comes to the portals of glory and says, come on in, it’s suppertime. And we’ll all gather ‘round the table with the Lord Himself and the greatest suppertime of all…”

In visions now I see her standing yonder,

And her familiar voice I hear once more.

The banquet table is ready up in Heaven,

Suppertime upon the golden shore.

Come home, come home.

Come home, it’s suppertime.

The shadow’s lengthened fast.

Come home, it’s suppertime.

We’re going home at last.

Fred Walter as a graduate.  Contributed photo

Fred Walter as a graduate. Contributed photo

Fred grew up on a farm located about eight and a half miles from Osakis, in Pope County, and he graduated from Villard High School. He was #13 in a family of 14 children with parents who made church and music the central part of life. Both parents played the piano, and Fred was influenced by the southern gospel songs he heard from a very early age on, “My dad and uncles had southern gospel records, and I learned early that these songs have good words with a meaningful message.”

Lucky to have the opportunity to attend a few concerts as a boy, Fred’s love for the genre grew as he matured from boyhood to manhood. “I saw J.D. Sumner, heard him sing, when I was a little boy,” Fred explained, adding, “J.D. had the lowest bass voice in recorded history. Many may not recognize his name, but you may recognize the voice. He was part of the group known as The Stamps. Elvis Presley loved J.D. so much that The Stamps provided Elvis’ background harmony for several years. In fact, Elvis had The Stamps sing for a half hour, southern gospel, before all of his concerts. Sometimes Elvis would sing Southern Gospel during his concerts.” Fred had the privilege to hear J.D. in Osakis during the summer of 1998, shortly before Sumner passed away in December of that year. Fred also has fond memories of the Blackwood Brothers, seeing them in concert for the first time as a teenager in Glenwood.

Shy by nature, Fred’s naturally low voice is perfect for the messages in southern gospel. “It’s not about me; it’s about the message,” he said. “The Lord anoints you to do it. He gives the strength to pass on the message of Jesus in song-form.” Fred sings in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, at funerals and at churches, including his home church, New Life Christian Church in Alexandria.

For more than 30 years, Fred has shared his ministry by bringing southern gospel groups to the Osakis High School. He has also accommodated the requests of people by bringing groups in, depending on free-will offerings to help defray all the costs that go into putting a concert together. A favorite of his, the Needham Family, will once again be visiting Alexandria in June. Fred will “open” for the Needham Family at the Alexandria Area High School on June 18, providing a night full of southern gospel music in the performing arts theater.(See Page 15A for details on this concert).

“I believe the Needham Family is the best family group on the planet. They capture family harmony like none other,” Fred smiled. The Needham Family has been very instrumental in encouraging Fred in his pursuit to share God’s word. “It had been a dream of mine to record my own CD, a dream that started a long time ago,” he explained. When Fred and his wife Debbie planned a trip to Nashville in 2013 it was Debbie who suggested he record something while they were there. Debbie said, “If not now, when?”

“It took me no more than a minute to agree it was time,” Fred smiled as his long southern drawl explained the steps that led to recording his first CD Songs of Heaven, Once the couple began turning the wheels, it didn’t take long for a recording session to be scheduled.

“I called Dave Needham, and he agreed to produce the CD. Dave recommended the Omni Studio on Music Row in Nashville. I wanted to do it right,” Fred explained. Needham reserved the recording room at the Omni, a room not much bigger than a closet. Debbie was assigned executive producer, and Rory Rositas was hired as engineer.

Fred sings to pre-recorded accompaniment. “I had to purchase the music that I would sing, and since I was recording the songs of other musicians, I followed all the legal rules, which included obtaining permission for use, and paying royalties,” he explained. Once in Nashville, it took Fred 10 hours total studio time to complete the recording of his CD. If he mispronounced a word, or if he was off-key by a hair, he had to sing maybe one line over again. The process was worth every second. And, a dream had come true. He hopes that his CD brings joy and, “I hope my CD can be an avenue to hear the word of Christ. When people listen, I hope the songs will encourage you to put your faith in Jesus. The songs have theological meaning.” This writer’s suggestion while listening: have the tissue handy. Fred smiled, “Yeah, there are a few that bring tears. Tears are a language that God understands.”

During their time in Nashville, Fred and Debbie and their two daughters, Courtny and Grace, were given a studio tour. Courtny and Grace did the photography for the CD/album art. Fred’s CD Songs of Heaven is available at Trumm Drug and the Mustard Seed, both in Alexandria, Thrifty White Drug in Osakis, Hidden Treasures in Sauk Centre and the St. Joseph Meat Market in St. Joseph. Fred’s music is also played on radio stations 1490 AM KXRA out of Alexandria and 105.5 Bob-FM out of Albany.

Was he nervous? Fred answered, “Was I fearful? No. I knew the songs. I sing songs the way I’ve heard them sung. It’s what I love, and besides, I’m just the messenger.”

In This Old Place Fred sings…

Cleaning out this old place, everything inside is gone.

We sold the house to a stranger here, my family’s all moved on.

The cedar chest, the rocking chair. The old piano too.

They have moved on to another place.

Remember this is not my home…I just lived here for awhile.

A place to live and laugh and love. Making memories as a child.

Our new home waits on the other side, where our treasures lie in store.

Heaven holds much more.

No need to grieve this old place, for Heaven holds much more.

A humble man who grew up surrounded by Christian men who listened and sang southern gospel, Fred Walter has plans of recording another CD. The playlist is ready. Dave Needham has helped him set up his recording session back at the Omni Studio on Music Row in Nashville. Fred and Debbie have planned on this trip coming up in October. It just so happens that the recording session on Oct. 8 is also Fred’s 65th birthday.

He will be doing what he was born to do…singing southern gospel. And the messages in song may bring a tear or two, in fact, have your tissue ready for Glory to God in the Highest. Fred laughed, “If that song don’t light a fire, your wood’s wet.”

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