The Dixie Echoes announced a while ago that longtime pianist Stewart Varnado is leaving the group. Two separate announcements made on Facebook today bring further change to the lineup of the quartet. Tenor Michael Helwig posted this status this morning (Facebook login required):
I would like to announce that my tenure with the dixie echoes has come to an end. I would like to thank Stewart Varnado for the leadership he showed in the group and the element of professionalism he brought to the stage and to the business end of things.
A short while later, bass singer Mike Jennings posted this status (Facebook login required):
I would like to let everyone know that my time with the Dixie Echoes has come to an end. The Lord is blessing our family with another little one and I’ll be heading home to take care of them. I have met many wonderful people across the country this year, fans and fellow singers alike. I hope to see many of you again. I would like to thank my family for their love, support and selflessness this past year. Please keep our family in your prayers as we make this transition. God Bless.
To refresh our collective memories, it was roughly a year ago that the Dixie Echoes were looking for a bass singer and tenor at the same time, and that’s when Jennings and Helwig were hired. Now, both have departed, on top of the group still looking to fill the piano position. You hate to see such a shakeup all happen at once, at it often leads to a lot of extra speculation by fans of the group. Added to that is the fact that the age of social media often finds news being told before a press release is given by the group itself. It will be interesting to watch what may end up being the biggest “reconstruction” of the Dixie Echoes to come along in years.
Michael Helwig’s future plans will be announced shortly, and congratulations to Mike Jennings and his wife on their expected baby!
Update: For what it’s worth, Stewart Varnado left this comment at SouthernGospelBlog.com:
I’m not starting a group with anyone. I am simply coming off the road. Been very busy this week selling tickets for the Memphis Quartet Show. I look forward to time at home. I do wish Randy & Scoot the best. I had no idea when I turned in my notice that they would be losing more members. However, I will still be with the group thru June 16, at the Suwannee River Jubilee.
I am still in business with Scoot on the Gospel Jubilee Cruise. All is well between me and the Shelnut’s. I don’t want any speculation there. I’ve grew up with them and they are like family to me. They know that if they ever need a fill-in in a pinch, I’ll hop on the bus anytime.
Further update: There has been speculation around the various SG sites as to whether the Dixie Echoes will continue since they are tasked with filling so many vacant positions, and even if they will remain a male quartet. Their Facebook status clears up those questions:
The Dixie Echoes are now accepting auditions for the bass and tenor positions with the group. If you would like to try out, please send a demo and short resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please pray for the group during this time of transition. Dad and I will continue to give our fans the great quality quartet music they’re used to. In 52 years of ministry, God has never failed us, and I KNOW He never will!