After 50 years of singing gospel music, the Byrd Family has managed to keep their music ministry a family affair.
Ethel and Darvin "Papa" Byrd started the gospel group in 1958 in Atlanta, after Darvin stopped performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., to pursue a spiritual calling.
Their son and daughter-in-law, Randy and Mary Byrd, are pastors at Bible Fellowship Church and now accompany Darvin. The couple's three children, Sarah Byrd, Joseph Byrd and Becky Dowd, started touring with their parents and grandfather at a young age. They perform with the group when their schedules permit.
"We home-schooled them because we traveled so much," Mary said. "We got to where we were out so many days, I couldn't leave them in school."
Randy said a few of the couple's seven grandchildren also have shown an interest in music.
The Byrd Family recently celebrated their 50th anniversary with Jimmy Snow, a guest from the Grand Ole Opry, at The Belair Conference Center in Grovetown, where the non-denominational church meets twice a week. The Byrds also said they received a plaque from Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver acknowledging the achievement.
"It felt good, because it was a milestone; just the tenacity to be there after 50 years," Randy said.
The Byrds said their gospel music resembles bluegrass and country genres.
The Byrd Family incorporates many instruments into their performances. While Mary contributes vocally, Randy, his father and children play instruments, such as the fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass guitar and guitar.
The family records their music in Nashville and have released between 20 and 30 albums, Randy said.
They have toured the country on their customized tour bus and ministered at prisons throughout the Southeast, and at funerals, wedding and churches.
The group also participates in outreach programs at retirement communities and other locations in Columbia and Richmond counties.
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