By Bob Marovich
The Journal of Gospel Music has learned that veteran quartet singer Pastor Norris Turner passed away yesterday evening. He was 81 years old.
Norris Turner was born March 19, 1936, in Troy, South Carolina, to Johnnie and Helen Chiles Turner. As a youngster, Turner sang with various quartets, including the Golden Stars of Greenwood, South Carolina; the Spiritualaires of Columbia, South Carolina; Therman Ruth’s famous Selah Singers of New York; and the Brooklyn All Stars.
An article by Damian Dominguez for South Carolina newspaper The Index-Journal notes that when Turner was with the Selah Singers, he performed for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, sang on The Ed Sullivan Show and appeared at the Copacabana and Carnegie Hall. He even toured Europe with the Selahs.
After living in New York for a few years, Turner returned to Greenwood and in 1962 joined the city’s Mount Moriah Gospel Church. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he recorded for Hoyt Sullivan’s HSE imprint as lead singer of Mount Moriah’s choir. He also recorded for HSE as a soloist and with the Norris Turner Singers. It was with Mount Moriah circa 1969 that Norris landed his biggest hit: “They Call Me Crazy.”
A popular lead singer, Turner was once offered a chance to sing rock and roll professionally. He turned the offer down after his mother threatened never to speak to him again if he forsook gospel for pop.
Turner entered the ministry in 1981 and served as pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Blair, SC, for 19 years before retiring earlier this year.
A CD on the Gospel Friend label, The Original Golden Stars of Greenwood, S.C. / Reverend Norris Turner, contains some of Turner’s recordings as well as a bio and photos.
Homegoing information is forthcoming. In the meantime, please keep Pastor Turner’s family, friends, fans, and the congregation of Gethsemane Baptist Church in your prayers.