Edgar O’Neal of O’Neal Twins, Passes Away in St. Louis

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Special thanks to gospel discographer Bob Laughton for alerting TBGB to Edgar’s passing.

Edgar O’Neal, one of the O’Neal Twins gospel singers, died Wednesday (Jan. 16, 2008) at Christian Hospital after a short illness. He was 70 and a resident of Spanish Lake.

Mr. O’Neal and his late brother, Edward Vazon O’Neal Jr., began singing gospel at age 12. In 1969, the O’Neals were voted the “World’s Greatest Gospel Duo” by the National Association of Television and Radio Artists. Their duet “Jesus Dropped the Charges” won them national acclaim in the movie “Say Amen, Somebody” — a documentary on gospel music pioneer Willa Mae Ford Smith.

In 2004, the duo were inducted into the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame alongside CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin and other gospel figures. The duo recorded nearly two dozen albums, including some for Leon Russell’s record label.

During the 1950s, the O’Neal brothers performed in churches around St. Louis. By 1960, they were performing outside the area.They performed nationally at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Kennedy Center, and locally at the Fox Theatre, American Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, Kiel Auditorium and Westport Playhouse.

In a 2005 interview with the Post-Dispatch, Mr. O’Neal spoke about the early challenges. “We always had bookings and recordings, but when we started, black gospel was not readily accepted with the wide range it is today,” he said. “And the money wasn’t there.”

The O’Neals — with Edgar on piano and both brothers singing — challenged gospel tradition. “The main gospel thrust at the time (was) male quartets, and we were a piano group,” Mr. O’Neal said. “We were considered in a different category from the male singing groups. But then the quartets got into piano. It took some years as we stayed out there before our style took hold.”

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Kossuth Temple Church of God and Christ, 3801 Clarence Avenue. The funeral service will follow at 8 p.m. at Kossuth. Interment will be Friday, Jan. 25 at St. Peters Cemetery.

Among the survivors are his wife, Lillian O’Neal; a daughter, Chandra O’Neal of Spanish Lake; and a brother, William Crawford of St. Louis.

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.


  1. I had no idea he or his brother had passed! I’m very shocked to find out, but am quite sure they are in the presence of the Lord which is the greatest gift of all!

    Do you know when Edward passed?

  2. Edward passed back in the early ’90’s, I believe. I don’t know the exact date, but I remember when my assistant pastor announced it to our church.

  3. I am shocked to hear of both of the O’Neal twins deaths. Just think now they are with Professor Dorcey,Sallie Martin, Mother Smith and all the other gospel greats. God bless them all.

  4. Yeah I just hop Sallie and Willie Mae Ford are not up there arguing about who, what, when, and where the convention of choirs and choruses started!!!! LOL

  5. The O’neals was awesome singers for the Lord but along with All deceased people are in their graves awaiting Judgement Day, not in Heaven as so many people are misled to believe even by many preachers, it is not bibically true.

    • The Scriptures could be (and continue to be) argued either way. In any case, if you’re a Christian, you’ll be with Jesus forever– be it immediately at death or at some point in the future.

  6. Edward passed away December 15, 1990. They were born August 17, 1937.

  7. I’m not a member of the black community but that sure doesn’t stop me from mourning, now, both the O’Neal twins. Ever since I saw ‘Say Amen Somebody’ I absolutely adored this gifted duo. God certainly showered them with talent and graces, didn’t He?

    So this Latin Rite Roman Catholic says, there are two more Saints in Heaven. I’ll be asking both of these good and holy men to pray for me.

    God rest their souls, and comfort their families-
    Kathy Brown, Esq.

  8. i knwon them everysince i was little i attend Kossuth cogic all my life and they was a bad duo

  9. @robmusicman- To absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. That’s scripture, you can’t argue with that.

  10. @robmusicman-we are made up of: body-soul-spirit. The body goes back to dust. The soul goes back to the presence of the Lord (which we call Heaven). And the spirit is asleep in the grave until Judgement Day-they will rise first. And on that Great Day, we all will rejoice with the O’Neal Twins. We will recognize their sweet spirits! I hope that clarifies any confusion. God Bless!

  11. Goodnight Twins See yall again Oneday.

  12. robmusicman…Absent from the body, present with the Lord..2 Corinthians 5:8..it is scriptural.

  13. Quentin Ankum _McKenna

    I will miss you and Chior party Bishop Porter was founded to Church last Morning time when, you have to Gospel Choir.