The Kingsmen are a Southern Gospel music quartet based out of Asheville, North Carolina. Many legends of Southern Gospel (Jim Hamill, Squire Parsons, Anthony Burger, Mark Trammell, Ed Crawford, Ernie Phillips) have been members of The Kingsmen. The group is currently owned and managed by bass vocalist, Ray Reese.
Several groups have used the Kingsmen name over the years, both in sacred and secular music. The most popular secular artists to use the name were the pop group who had a hit with Louie, Louie and the Statler Brothers, who changed their name once Louie, Louie became a hit. Other groups have used altered spellings of the name, such at the Kings Men.
In Southern Gospel circles, a male quartet based in Asheville is the best-known group calling themselves the Kingsmen. Brothers Raymond, Reese, and Louis McKinney formed the group in the 1950s. David Young played for the McKinney brothers in 1957 and 1958 while he was a student at Mars Hill College. Young had his own group called the Kingsmen Quartet based in Lenoir City, Tennessee from 1953 to 1956. Charles Collier and Harold Bailey were also members of the group around this time. Eldridge Fox joined in 1958 after returning home from the military service to play piano. After a year or two, he left to organize a new group called The Ambassadors. He later worked for the Statesmen Publishing Company until he returned home for good in the mid-1960s. He sang baritone in the mid and late 1960s and by 1970-71 bought out the other members, obtaining full control of The Kingsmen. Longtime bass singer Ray Dean Reese joined the Kingsmen in 1967. Reese sang bass for a little over a year. He then left the group for a couple of years to sing with The Journeymen and Kathleen and deliver JFG coffee on the side. He returned to the group in early 1971. A third individual whose name came to be synonymous with the group joined in 1971, lead singer Jim Hamill. Hamill was formerly a member of the Rebels, Blue Ridge Quartet and Oak Ridge Boys. Hamill sang with the Kingsmen for a little more than five years, then left in May 1976 to move Memphis, TN and joined the Senators. However, by the end of that same year he left the Senators and returned to the Kingsmen where he remained until he officially retired in 1996 at the National Quartet Convention.