Making music with the family is ministerial work
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For Charles Elroy Chestang, Sr., or Elroy, as his friends know him, Bluegrass gospel music is in his heart and soul. Elroy was blessed with a musical heritage, which included parents who both played guitar and exposed their son to a wide world of gospel music.
Chilton’s Musical Roots
Elroy’s musical tradition continued when he married Sherry Davis of Thomasville. Sherry’s family also included a long line of accomplished musicians, such as her grandfather from Chilton, Jim Ott, who played the violin.
Over time and with the growth of their three children, the couple immersed them in religious activities and music. It didn’t take long, however, for Elroy and Sherry to realize that their children had inherited not only their family’s musical talents, but their passion for Bluegrass gospel music as well.
Very early on, children sang in church. Their eldest daughter, Tabitha, became interested in the double bass, using the one belonging to their church to learn.
Beginning of lessons at 6 years old
Their son, Spanky (Charles Elroy Chestang, Jr.) started violin lessons at the age of six, and his teacher quickly realized that the boy was a child prodigy, who would later learn to play violin. many other instruments. Autumn, the youngest of the girls, grew up in the family group, singing and playing both bass and violin. Now all the children play several instruments.
When Tabatha married Waylon Havens, she added to the musical lineage of the family. A gifted musician himself, Waylon had learned from his grandfather, Warren Pugh of Chilton. Waylon not only played all of the band’s instruments, but he was also an accomplished pianist and keyboardist. Now her four children are starting to follow in their parents’ footsteps, singing and playing instruments in the family’s gospel band.
Full-time jobs but the ministry continues
The Chestang children have chosen to continue to perform in this musical ministry, even with their own family and professional responsibilities. Tabatha graduated from Southern Alabama with a degree in Communication / Public Relations; Spanky graduated from the University of Mobile with a degree in accounting; and Autumn is pursuing an elementary education degree from the University of Mobile.
The Chestangs have been performing as a gospel band for 23 years. In 2008, when Waylon joined the band, they also added Butch Long to the banjo. Butch is now part of their family and they consider him to be “sent from God”.
The Chestangs have traveled widely, performing at churches, festivals and other special events throughout the South. In 2013, they performed at the Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Festival in Indiana. They’ve performed with some of the biggest names in the Bluegrass, even opening for Doyle Lawson and Quick Silver. They’ve also been on the agenda with Larry Sparks, Paul Williams, the Lewis Family, the Larry Stevenson Band and many other Bluegrass greats.
Spanky Chestang a Rising Star
Spanky Chestang has become a rising star of the Bluegrass genre. A gifted writer and musician, he has performed with the James Easter Band, the Louvin Brothers and Joe Isaac and Stacey York. He performed at Jerusalem Ridge, the home of Bill Monroe. He also had the opportunity to present some of his original music in various places.
One of the biggest influences on the band, however, has been the Sullivan family of St. Stephens. In 2007, the Chestangs joined the Bluegrass Association, created by the Sullivans. Each year, Enoch Sullivan invited bluegrass groups from across the country to perform in Nashville. Until 2020, the Chestangs have gone every year, gaining even larger audiences and name recognition.
When the pandemic struck, the Chestangs were unable to travel, so Spanky launched a live show on Facebook called “Lower Alabama Gospel Music.” It airs every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. On the show, Blake and Rickey Chestang join their cousin, Spanky, along with Elroy, Waylon and Butch. Spanky taught his two cousins to play the guitar, and they now have their own Bluegrass gospel band called “Hillspring Drive”. Rickey also co-wrote a few songs with Spanky. “The Chestangs” appear on the show periodically to sing along to traditional favorites.
Be on ‘Alabama Gospel Roots’
Recently the Chestang family received a big surprise! After watching one of their shows live, a viewer called and asked them to participate in the popular Alabama public television show, “Alabama Gospel Roots”. This show airs every Saturday night at 8 p.m., showcasing superb gospel chants from all over Alabama. On December 11, the Chestang family traveled to Birmingham for a recording which will be released in February.
They will close the show, which is quite an honor. Their own Facebook show is now linked to “Alabama Gospel Roots”. For the Chestangs, this experience was a true gift from God, a gift that they pray to lead them to reach even greater reach!
“We love what we do,” Elroy explained, “but we try to serve the Lord in everything we do. The Lord has been kind to our group. He opened many doors for us and I thank him for it!
With energetic acoustic sounds, close harmonies, and honest simplicity, these gifted musicians glorify and honor God. As they minister, Chestangs not only give encouragement and hope to others, but they also share the love of an amazing musical family.
Contact these talented singers at (251) 944-8618 or email them at: [email protected]