Friday, January 24, 2014

Retro SGM Radio: Women of Substance Series Featuring Susan Whisnant

{Editor's Note: This series on the Women of Southern Gospel by Lorraine Walker began in the Fall of 2007 and continued into 2008 on SGM Radio website. We hope you enjoy this feature on Susan Whisnant!)

This month we continue our series on the wonderful women in Southern Gospel Music. Legends such as Vestal and Eva Mae made their mark in the past while current artists like Connie Hopper, Lou Wills Hildreth and Elaine Wilburn continue to make theirs. All of them are women who have raised the bar of talent, faith and substance for those in the next generation.

This “next generation” includes women such as Karen Peck Gooch, Kim Greene Hopper and Susan Whisnant, who are now becoming legends in their own time. These true women of substance have not only developed their own talents, style and sound, they are also known for their Godly walk and their personal standards of morality. This month, SGM Radio had the privilege of talking to Susan Whisnant.

The Whisnants began as a family group over 35 years ago and Susan joined the group when she started dating Jeff. The group became a trio, with Susan, Jeff, and Jeff’s brother John. For over 20 years, this trio has seen few changes in their lineup and minor changes in their sound; but for Susan Whisnant fans, the voice and grace of this lady have made The Whisnants legendary in Southern Gospel.

All of the ladies we have been chatting to this point have been sure of their calling to this ministry from an early age. Susan’s assurance came a little later. “I started singing when I was five, with my Mom and Dad, in a quartet called The Melody Singers in South Carolina”, says Susan. “They traveled extensively in their region. I’d get up and sing a song called, ‘After All’. Then I went to college for two years and I continued to sing with my Mom and Dad. We did a lot of Bible Conferences; but as far as doing this for a living, I didn’t think I ever would.”

Susan continues, “Then I met Jeff Whisnant who had been singing since he was six with his Mom and Dad. We started dating and our hearts meshed, and the desire to do something more with this was very much a part of what we were. It was from that point that we said, “Lord, if You will make a way, we’ll go, we’ll do it. Even if it’s not easy, You just lead the way and we are going to follow. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Susan remembers what it was like when it wasn’t easy and The Whisnants were still a struggling young group. She has these words of advice to offer to new gospel artists. “Thirteen years ago at the National Quartet Convention when my baby was ten months old, we had a little 8x10’ booth, and I could not even afford to put carpet in it. Somebody gave me black and white floor covering that we had to piece together. The only thing we could afford was lawn chairs to sit along the side, just Walmart plastic chairs. And I thought, ‘Lord, thank You for helping us be here. Nobody knows us, but thank You so much for letting us be here’.”

“If I could give advice to any group, it is to be faithful where God has placed you. Even when quitting seems easy and it seems like nobody knows you, little is much when God is in it. And if you will be faithful in the little things, before you can even thank Him; He is giving you greater things. You turn around and you just know that it’s all from Him. I encourage every group to just hang in there and stay faithful.”

Susan shared some of her thoughts on the brand new groups in Southern Gospel. “Paid In Full, the group that won the Horizon Group Award this year, they have just stolen my heart. But there are a lot of really great up-and-coming groups right now. There is some great talent out there”.

Susan’s wonderful talent and expression have won her many fans over the years, and her sweet personality has brought her many friends. Young women entering the industry look up to Susan as one of the female leaders in Southern Gospel. To these ladies, Susan offers this advice: “I’m always amazed when girls tell me they look up to me, because there are many women in the industry that I look up to and it just blows my mind. I think Southern Gospel music is the best music anywhere. I think the Lord requires us to dress our best, to be classy, to present it in such a way that’s appealing to the lost. We don’t need to look like the world to present the best Gospel. That’s just how I feel.”

“I think it ought to be done with class”, Susan continues. “’Lord help us always to remember that we are representing the King!’ [Gospel music] needs our best package all the way around: the best talent, the best singing we can give, and the best dress we can wear. Some people say that doesn’t matter, but we are representing the King, and I sure wouldn’t go to the palace if I wasn’t dressed in my best.”

“It’s an honour to be able to see young kids look up to us, it’s really an honour. But I’m just flesh, and I want people to remember: the only difference between them and me is I hold a mic. We are just like them.”

Susan mentions that there are ladies in Southern Gospel that she looks up to as well. “I’m going to say Karen Peck [Gooch]. Even though there isn’t much age difference [between us], I’ve always looked up to her. She presents herself as a lady.”

“Connie Hopper, to me, last night [during NQC] looked like the Statue of Liberty. She is just so classy. She’s an elegant lady every time I see her, without fail. She’s one of my heroes”. Susan continues, “There are some heroes that have really made an impact on my life, those two especially. If I could be like them, it would be an honour.”

Susan Whisnant is not only known for her talent and class, but also for the compassion and love for others that shines from her eyes. She talks about what the Lord has been sharing with her: “People are hurting. People’s lives are falling apart. And a lot of them are going to leave this concert and go home to broken homes. They are going to go home to kids that are wayward; their husband or wife is going to want a divorce; they are going to face death. With that in mind, there is a responsibility that we have as ministers to encourage them and remind them that God has not forgotten us. He hasn’t forsaken us and He is faithful, even when the way isn’t clear. He is faithful.”

”There are groups as well that are down, and I’ve been there. I know what it is to be there and I’m thankful that God has blessed our faithfulness. Not that we are anything special! But I want to be more tuned in to what it is people are going through. I want people to know that we face it too. We go through the same kinds of things.”

Susan continues, “Jeff’s Dad had cancer this year. My Mom has had double knee replacement surgery. We face it. And I don’t want to forget that either. A lot of people forget ‘from whence they came’, and God forgive us for doing that. We’ve got to stay humble before the Lord.”

Like many women balancing a career and a family, Susan shares about the difficulty trying to be everywhere at once. “Women have the heart to nurture, even though we don’t always do it the best. I love being a mommy. I haven’t found the answer about how to balance everything.”

“I do radio promotion, I home school, travel all the time, keep the house up, wash clothes and go to church on Wednesdays when we are home. It’s hard. I do it one day at a time; one minute, one hour, one second, and I can’t think ahead. And that’s how I manage it. And I just pray for God to give strength, grace and wisdom, and to lead, guide and direct. The Bible says, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord”. Sometimes I just dig in and hang on. Don’t know where I’ll end up, but I’m just going on with Him. Having done all, just stand.”

This very real, classy and strong lady of Southern Gospel has a lot to teach the ladies who look up to her. Susan Whisnant bears the mark of a woman of God who has been willing to submit to the Lord and has become a vessel for His love reaching out to others. A true woman of substance, Susan very deservedly takes her place among today’s generation of Southern Gospel legendary ladies.

For more information on Susan and all the Whisnants, log on to:

Written by Lorraine Walker
First published by SGM Radio website, December 2007.
For current features, visit

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