Charles Towler

Convention gospel publisher, songwriter, and teacher, Cleveland
Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award (2011)

As a songwriter, publisher, singing school teacher, and quartet singer, Charles Towler (1939- ) has over a long career established himself as one of the leading national figures in gospel convention singing. This type of participatory religious music, making use of seven-shape, or “Doremi” notation, has been sustained in protestant churches throughout the South for over a century. As a publisher Towler was associated with two Tennessee firms important to its history—the James D. Vaughn Company of Lawrenceburg, and the Tennessee Music and Printing Company of Cleveland—and has published over 70 convention songbooks. In over 50 years as a songwriter, he has composed and published some 450 original songs, including the classic “His Blood Has Made Us One.” He spends many weeks annually teaching the sight-reading skills essential to the tradition, and he also travels widely performing with his Gospel Heritage Quartet and promoting the new songbooks of his own Gospel Heritage Music company.

Governor’s Arts Award profile