The glory days of the Statesmen are now the stuff of legend. We play back the voices of Big Chief, Jake, Rosie, Denver, Doy, and Hovie on old LPs, and watch the few grainy black-and-white video clips that have survived on YouTube.

Yet to this day, there are men still alive who had to turn down a bunk on the Statesmen bus. In this series, we’ll visit with three of them and listen to their stories.

Asbury Adkins

Asbury Adkins grew up in Wayne, West Virginia. It was a highly musical region—he was a cousin of the original Toney Brothers, a distant cousin of Rebels tenor and Booth Brothers founder Ron Booth, and a distant cousin of Harold Lane—all of whom lived in that area.

In Huntington, West Virginia, he sang with the Dixie Melody Boys, the Gospel Harmony Boys, and the Reporters. (This Dixie Melody Boys was the group from which Ed O’Neal’s group got its name). He also sang briefly with the Suwanee River Boys.

After Denver Crumpler suddenly died, Cat Freeman came back briefly. Hovie Lister wanted a tenor along the same lines as Crumpler. “I sounded like Crumpler,” Adkins recalled in an interview with SouthernGospelBlog.com, “so Hovie offered me the job. Before he got Rosie [Rozell], a few of us tried out. But I wasn’t able to take it because of family issues.”

“I would have given my eyeteeth to sing with them,” he recalls, with a touch of wistfulness and nostalgia in his voice.

Here is a video of him singing decades later—long after the prime of most tenors. [EDIT: Broken Link removed.]

After singing with his brothers for several years in the Adkins Brothers Quartet, he co-founded the Colonial City Quartet with baritone Tim Campbell and bass Ralph Linkous. He now sings with his sons in the re-formed Adkins Brothers Quartet. “I still sing the top tenor at 81,” he said, and he’s going strong—”I can still hit the high notes when I want to.”

Coming up: Part 2 (Ben Harris) and Part 3 (Bobby Clark)!