JAMES PARKS WAITS
(1899 – 1973)
James “Big Jim” Waits was a well-traveled, revered Southern Gospel bass singer during the genre’s most formative years, 1930s –1960s.
“Big Jim” Waits became the first inductee into the GMA Hall of Fame in the Association’s inaugural year 1971, a fitting testament to his stature and reputation as one of the premier bass singers of Southern Gospel’s early years. In that inaugural year only two people were inducted; Waits, who was still alive and therefore inducted into the “living” category, and “Dad” Speer who was inducted in what at the time was referred to as the “deceased” category.
Although Waits hailed from Atlanta, his professional singing career started on Broadway in Vaudeville with the Policeman’s Quartet. Beginning in the mid-1930s, his gospel music career spanned several decades and in the pre WWII days helped bring the quartet sound to the forefront of gospel music. His many roles included stints with pioneering groups: the Morris-Henson Quartet, the Electrical Workers Quartet, the Vaughan Radio Quartet, the Stamps Quartet, the John Daniel Quartet, the Homeland Harmony Quartet and the Rebels Quartet. In the 1950s when the LeFevre Trio transitioned away from the three-member sound to the fuller sound of a foursome, it was Waits who became their bass singer. As his career stretched into the 1960s Waits also performed with the Speer Family and was occasionally brought in to add more low-end oomph to some of the Speer recordings.