Word comes that the truly lifting voice of Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen has passed away. The news comes from Donnie Sumner, nephew of famed J.D. Sumner, that Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen died at about 11:00 A.M. Friday. For Elvis fans, or those who enjoy gospel music, the name of Nielsen is one that can bring a smile from a memory of a song or note that sent shivers up your spine. Nielsen was that good.
Though one always hates to lose the singers that bring such joy we are fortunate to never be far from a recording that brings it all back through our speakers.
If you are not aware of Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen then this post is a must read. You need to know this voice.
In 1961, because of Dad Speer’s health problems, the Singing Speer Family asked Sherrill to join their group. Sherrill, at that time, was singing with the Songfellows Quartet from Los Angeles, CA. Sherrill was excited at the prospect of singing with the legendary Singing Speer Family, a group that were members of the Nazarene Church in Montgomery, AL, where Sherrill and his grandparents attended when he was just a small boy.
Little did Sherrill know that this was the stepping stone to his legendary career (some 50 plus years). While he was with the Singing Speer Family, Jake Hess approached Sherrill about singing tenor for a group that he was planning to organize. In 1963, Sherrill became a member of the legendary Jake Hess and the Imperials Quartet. He traveled with the Imperials until the spring of 1966 where he returned to California and the Songfellows.
In 1967, he joined the Plainsmen Quartet in Baton Rouge, LA. In 1970, Sherrill moved to Atlanta, GA to join the Hovie Lister and the sensational Statesmen Quartet.
In 1973, Sherrill took a new direction by moving to Nashville, TN to organize a gospel group that opened the show for Elvis Presley. Elvis’ love for Sherrill’s tenor voice and gospel music led him to claim the group as his own and Elvis named the group VOICE (after a name he saw on the cover of a religious periodical). According to Felton Jarvis, Elvis’ producer, Sherrill was Elvis’ favorite singer. In 1977, Elvis and Sherrill’s duet, “Softly As I Leave You” was nominated for a Grammy as duet of the year. Sherrill stayed with Elvis until Elvis’ death in 1977.