The Masters Family

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Formed in 1946, the Family are noted for their country and gospel performances. They comprised Johnnie Masters (b. John Mace Purdom, 27 May 1913, Jacksonville, Florida, USA, d. 21 January 1980; songwriter,…
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Formed in 1946, the Family are noted for their country and gospel performances. They comprised Johnnie Masters (b. John Mace Purdom, 27 May 1913, Jacksonville, Florida, USA, d. 21 January 1980; songwriter, guitar, mandolin, vocals), Lucille Masters (b. Lucille Ferdon, 13 September 1917, Homerville, Georgia, USA; songwriter, vocals) and their son Owen (b. John Owen Masters, 3 February 1935, Jacksonville, Florida, USA, d. 1997; songwriter, guitar, vocals). Purdom, who adopted the name Masters after his mother’s remarriage, learned guitar as a boy and was performing on local radio in 1933. He met and married Lucille Ferdon in 1934, and in the early 40s, they sang as the Dixie Sweethearts on Jacksonville radio stations and made their first recordings for Rich-R-Tone in 1946. When young Owen and, on occasions, daughter Deanna (b. 11 April 1941), began to sing with them, they became the Masters Family. They recorded for Mercury Records in the late 40s and relocated to Knoxville, where they were regulars on WROL. Between 1950 and 1956, they recorded numerous sides for Columbia Records, most being gospel orientated, including their noted ‘Gloryland March’ (James Roberts, of James And Martha Carson, sang lead on some of the later recordings). After 1952, they became the first gospel group to adopt a normal country backing, rather than the limited piano or guitar accompaniment usual on gospel recordings at that time. Owen Masters was badly injured in a car crash in 1955 and his long absence affected the group’s activities. They returned to Jacksonville and mainly played at church venues but recorded again, in the early 60s, for Starday and Decca Records.

The Masters divorced but later remarried. In the late 70s, Johnnie planned for some comeback appearances but when he died, in January 1980, following a heart attack, the idea was forgotten. His widow and daughters Evelyn and Deanna moved to Florida, while Owen settled in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. All members were prolific songwriters and many of their numbers have become country or gospel standards including ‘Medals For Mothers’, ‘Cry From The Cross’, ‘Honeymoon On A Rocket Ship’, ‘That Little Country Church House’, and many others.