Mosie Lister

 
 


Mosie Lister wrote exclusively for the major gospel quartets of the day. His songs showed a vast range of musical styles, with outstanding melodies framing Bible-inspired, evangelical lyrics. Considering the way gospel music was developing at that time, it’s no wonder that groups such as the Statesmen, the Blackwood Brothers, the Jordanaires, and the LeFevres, among others, recorded as many Lister songs as they could get their hands on.

Mosie also wrote with particular singers in mind. But sometimes the singers had ideas of their own when it came to recording the songs Mosie had written for them. One Lister song, 1952’s “I’m Feeling Fine” was originally conceived as a slow ballad-type number, and that’s how he pitched it to the LeFevres. Instead, however, the LeFevres performed the song in a rollicking, uptempo version and it was so successful that way that the song was done that way by virtually every other artist that subesquently recorded and performed it. Since the song was successful that way, Mosie Lister didn’t mind the alteration too much.

Other Lister songs more closely followed their writer’s intentions, including 1955’s “Then I Met The Master”, recorded by the Statesmen (with Jake Hess featured), and 1953’s “His Hand In Mine”, the title song for a gospel album from Elvis Presley.


Mosie in recent years

A roll call of Lister’s other major songs will amply demonstrate the breadth of his ability and influence, many of these becoming gospel classics still performed today by many artists. They include “How Long Has It Been” (1956), “Happy Rhythm” (1953), “Goodbye World Goodbye” (1952), “He Knows Just What I Need” (1955), “I’ve Been Changed” (1959), “Till The Storm Passes By” (1958), “Where No One Stands Alone” (1955), “The King And I Walk Hand In Hand” (1954), and “While Ages Roll” (1970).


In 1953, Mosie Lister began his own publishing company, the self-titled Mosie Lister Publishing Company, which merged in 1969 with Lillenas Publishing, giving Mosie the time to concentrate on further creative work.

Mosie Lister has lived in the Tampa, Fl area since 1956. He stays involved with the music business to this very day, working closely with the Dove Brothers Quartet last year on their tibute album to him, called (not surprisingly) ”Tribute To Mosie Lister”. The project consists entirely of Mosie Lister songs, and the songs were reportedly arranged by Mosie himself, proving that when it comes to Christian music, his desire is to make it is as intense as it ever has been.

Mosie Lister was inducted into the GMA Hall of Fame in 1976, and the SGMA Hall of Fame in 1997. He remains one of the great names associated with making gospel music what it was historically, and what it remains to this day. When the list of great gospel songwriters is read, Thomas Mosie Lister is right up there, at or near the very top of the list.

 

Thomas Mosie Lister was born on September 8, 1921 in Cochran, GA. Like most of the major figures in gospel music history, he was born into a Christian family that loved music. Young Mosie’s parents were a great influence on the boy’s love for music and his desire to write it. But when his parents tried to teach young Mosie how to sing, it was discovered that he was tone deaf. This would have discouraged most youngsters from trying to make music, but young Mosie refused to let that temporary setback deter his ambitions.

When Mosie reached the eighth grade, he began to take up the violin. This would not only keep him involved with music, but it would also help him learn how to discern pitches. Thus Mosie was able to continue to learn how to make music. By the time he reached 17, his tone deafness had disappeared, and he began to formally learn harmony and composition.

In 1939, he began studying music at the Vaughan School of Music in Tennessee. It was around that time that he did his first singing with gospel quartets, which served to develop his musical knowledge and
abilities even further. In the early 1940s, Lister became one of the original members of the Sunny South Quartet in Tampa, FL…a quartet that spawned the careers of such singers as Jim “Big Chief” Wetherington, John Mathews, Horace Parrish, Lee Kitchens, and JD Sumner.

But when World War II came, Lister opted to serve his country in the Navy and spent four years there, serving in such venues as Key West and North Africa. Upon returning home, he entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute under the Navy’s V-12 program. He studied engineering as well for a time, but was always interested primarily in entering Christian music. To that end, he also studied English and music as well. By the time he left RPI, he was ready to resume his place in the world of Christian music.

He did so by rejoining the Sunny South Quartet for a short time, then joined a brand new quartet, the famous Melody Masters, who also had Wetherington, Alvin Toodle, Kitchens, and pianist Wally Varner. When the Melody Masters decided to take an offer to relocate to Nebraska, Lister decided to remain in the Atlanta area, and he was replaced in the quartet by another future gospel singing great, Jake Hess.

More and more, Lister realized that his future in gospel music would not be as a traveling singer, but as a songwriter. So he began to start writing and arranging music seriously at that point, offering songs and arrangements to any group or singer that would want them.

By 1948, Lister was operating a music store, tuning pianos and continuing to hone his songwriting skills. At that time, a local Atlanta DJ, Hovie Lister (no relation to Mosie), who had played piano for several gospel groups in the years just prior, was putting together his “dream quartet” with the help of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. The two kept in touch, and when Hovie decided to launch his quartet, he offered Mosie the lead singer job.


Mosie accepted the position, but made it clear that he did not intend to stay a long time with the group. He also helped arrange much of the music for the new quartet, called the Statesmen at the suggestion of the owner of the Constitution.

Soon after the Statesmen began singing, Mosie Lister discovered that his throat had problems, caused by a brief bout with pneumonia. It was at that point that he resigned as the lead singer for the Statesmen, never to sing again in a quartet.

But Mosie stayed on top of the happenings in gospel music, and he continued for some time to arrange the music for the Statesmen. Mosie’s skills at arranging music were no doubt important to the Statesmen’s rapid ascendence to the top of the gospel singing world, not to mention his own excellent original compositions.