Tony Greene, Popular Southern Gospel Singer, Dies at 41

Tony Greene will surely be remembered by High Country residents who attended the annual Singing on the Mountain, held at the base of Grandfather Mountain. Tony is pictured second from left next to wife TaRanda.Tony Greene will surely be remembered by High Country residents who attended the annual Singing on the Mountain, held at the base of Grandfather Mountain. Tony is pictured second from left next to wife TaRanda.

At 4:25 p.m. on Tuesday, September 28, popular Southern gospel singer Tony Greene died in Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, surrounded by family and close friends.

Greene was hospitalized for an infection on September 21, just after performing at the 2010 National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Suffering from End Stage Renal Disease for the past five years, Greene’s wife had donated a kidney to her husband when doctors determined that both of his were no longer functioning. The transplant took place in the summer of 2009 and in the past year, Greene experienced a number of health setbacks and complications that included many stays in the hospital. Through it all, the singer held to his personal and professional commitments—a gospel legacy founded with his father, Everette, who preceded him in death, and his brother and sister.

Greene is survived by his wife of nine years, TaRanda Greene; two daughters, Isabella, age 6, and Jocelyn, age 2; his mother, Carolyn; brother Ronnie and wife Nancy; brother Tim and wife Amy; sister Kim and husband Dean; plus numerous extended family members.

The family received friends on Monday, October 4, at the First Baptist Church in Indian Trail and held a funeral service immediately after. Graveside services were held at Westview Cemetery on Tuesday, October 5, in Boone.

The Greenes and Singing on the Mountain

Greene, nicknamed Buck, would have turned 42 this October 17. His home church was First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. He liked coconut cream pie, the gentle hobby of finding history by reading tombstones in old cemeteries, and eating at his favorite restaurant, Makoto in Boone.

For the Greene family, Boone was considered home, and their name had become synonymous with the annual Singing on the Mountain, an outdoor Southern gospel event held for more than eight decades.

“In 1987, we invited an up-and-coming group from Boone called The Singing Greenes—father Everette, sons Tony and Tim and daughter Kim,” said Harris Prevost, vice president of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Inc. “They were a major hit with the singing audience, and I felt they would be great as our musical host.”

As the story goes, one of the late Hugh Morton’s closest friends was North Carolina music legend Arthur Smith.

“Arthur was the long-time master of ceremonies for the Singing on the Mountain,” said Prevost. “Arthur wrote the gospel songs ‘Acres of Diamonds’ and ‘Guitar Boogie.’ His gospel group was called The Crossroads Quartet, and his secular group, The Crackerjacks. Arthur knew everyone in the music business and for the Singing’s 50th anniversary, he invited Johnny Cash and Bob Hope to come; and they did come, without charge, as a favor to Arthur.”

When Smith retired from his role as Singing on the Mountain’s master of ceremonies, Prevost approached Morton about having Tony become the new master of ceremonies, “and he was a little skeptical about it. I’m sure he thought, ‘How could a teenager replace Arthur Smith?’” Prevost said. “It took only one singing for Mr. Morton and me, Robert and Joe Lee Hartley, sons of the Singing’s founder, and our singing audience to know we had the right person leading one of the great gospel sings in the South. Tony had an incredible rapport with the performers at the Singing. That rapport came about because of his genuine love for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the people singing on the stage and for those in the audience. Tony’s voice was powerful and filled with enthusiasm. He was a consummate musician and singer. Even though he was younger than those he introduced, he had their total respect.”

Fans of the Greenes and of Tony mourn the musician and man they came to know through his vocals and humor.

“Grandfather Mountain was blessed to have Tony and his family as our master of ceremonies, as our ambassador and as our friend for 22 years,” said Prevost. “Losing him was a shock—it was like a dagger through the heart. There is only one Tony Greene. He will be missed and never forgotten.”

‘Stand by the River’

Two of the Greenes’ signature songs are“Stand by the River”and “Jesus’ Rocking Chair,” the latter written by Tim Greene. While the group toured extensively over the years, it started out in this area in 1979, with Tony, Tim, Kim and Everette. In 1980, they recorded their first album. In the ‘80s, the Greenes rose through the music ranks to national prominence, though Kim left the sibling trio in 1989 to form a duo with husband Dean Hopper.

In 1998, Tony’s future spouse TaRanda joined The Greenes; about 10 years ago, Tony proposed to her on the main stage of the National Quartet Convention, the last venue they performed at before he died.

In lieu of flowers, the Greene family is accepting donations made to the Tony Greene Medical Fund, P.O. Box 3046, Indian Trail, NC 28079.

Cards and letters of encouragement may also be sent to the Greene Fund, same address.