Anna Carter

Gospel singer with the Chuck Wagon Gang
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The Independent Online

Effie Carter (Anna Carter), singer: born Noel, Missouri 15 February 1917; married first Howard Gordon (died 1967; two sons, one daughter), second 1969 Jimmie Davis (died 2000); died Fort Worth, Texas 5 March 2004.

Anna Carter was a long-time member of the family gospel group the Chuck Wagon Gang. The act was formed in 1935, with fine four-part harmony singing firmly rooted in the Southern "shape note" tradition. In time the Chuck Wagon Gang moved from the secular world of country music to become gospel icons.

She was born Effie Carter but took the name Anna as it seemed more "radio-friendly". She was one of the nine children of David "Dad" Carter, a sometime railroad brakeman and sharecropper who in the early 1930s moved his family to Texas. In 1935 he and three of his children, Jim, Rose and Anna, began performing as the Carter Quartet on KFYO Lubbock. Anchored by their father's warm baritone, and by the bass vocal and guitar playing of their brother Jim, Rose and Anna (soprano and alto respectively) shared lead duties on western-flavoured songs such as "At the Rainbow's End". Within a year they had moved to WBAP Fort Worth, acquiring a new name, the Chuck Wagon Gang.

In 1936 they made their recording début for the American Recording Company (later Columbia), cutting country discs. Radio audiences, however, preferred their gospel material and by the early 1940s this had become their primary focus. They became so popular that, when their sponsor, Bewley Mills, offered a picture of the group to anybody who sent in a coupon from one of its bags of flour, it received over 100,000 applications.

After the Second World War they recorded in earnest (over 400 sides in all), and at the instigation of a blind preacher, broadcaster and promoter, the Rev J. Bazzal Mull, toured throughout the South, proving a major draw wherever they appeared. In 1953 Jim Carter left their group, to be replaced by Anna's husband, the electric guitarist Howard Gordon, and in 1955 Dad Carter retired. The group, with various personnel changes, performed on radio shows, became regular fixtures on American television and recorded best-selling albums including The Chuck Wagon Sing the Songs of Mosie Lister (1960) and He Walks With Me (1963).

In 1965 Dad Carter died while preparing to take part in a one-off concert in Oklahoma City and two years later Howard Gordon followed him. Anna Carter performed for a while alongside her son and daughter and then, in 1969, married Jimmie Davis, a country and gospel legend who had also twice served as Governor of Louisiana.

Paul Wadey