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O, let us exalt our dear Lord and proclaim,
In songs of true gratitude, praise to His name!
As songs of the angels in sweetest accord,
Our thanks and our praises shall rise to the Lord.
-- Zion's Harp # 165

Composer Bio Information

Vaughan, James David's bio information

Wednesday, December 14, 1864 - Sunday, February 9, 1941

Born: December 14, 1864, Giles County, Tennessee.
Died: February 9, 1941, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.
Buried: Mimosa Cemetery, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.

In 1883, Vaughan became a music student at the Ruebush Kieffer Normal School. He later formed a singing quartet with his brothers Charles, John and Will. He then worked as a teacher, but eventually moved to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where he founded the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company. In 1910, he hit the road with the Southern Gospel Quartet to promote his songbooks. The move was hugely successful—the company’s sales doubled the next year, to 60,000 volumes. In 1911, Vaughan formed the Vaughan School of Music. In 1921, he expanded his company by opening Vaughan Phonograph Records. He later opened branch offices in Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. The manager of the Jacksonville, Texas, office, Virgil O. Stamps, would go on to form the Stamps/Baxter Music Company. He was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1997. His works include:

* Gospel Hosannas (Lawrenceburg, Tennessee: James D. Vaughan, Music Publisher, 1913) (editor)


* Anderson, p. 204
* Baxter, pp. 13-16


1. All Glory to Jesus
2. God Holds the Future in His Hands
3. I Feel Like Traveling On
4. I Need The Prayers
5. Just One Way To The Gate
6. My Loved Ones Are Waiting For Me


1. He’s My King



James David Vaughan (1864-1941) was a music teacher, composer, song book publisher, the founder of the Vaughan Conservatory of Music and the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company.

Vaughan was born in Giles County, Tennessee on December 14, 1864, the son of George Washington and Eliza (Shores) Vaughan. He died February 9, 1941.

Vaughan is generally considered to be the founder of the genre now known as "Southern Gospel" music. He started the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company in 1902 and in 1910, he was the first to establish a professional quartet and put them on the road for the purpose of selling songbooks. The Vaughan School of Music was formed in 1911. Numerous gospel performers would study there in the following years. In 1912, Vaughan began the Vaughan Family Visitor, an influential publication across the South during the early 20th century.

In 1922, Vaughan founded one of the first radio stations in Tennessee, WOAN, where he broadcasted Southern Gospel music until 1930. He also founded the first record company based in the South, Vaughan Phonograph Records. Vaughan was also involved in local politics, serving as mayor of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee from 1923 to 1927, a position his brother Charles Wesley and son would hold after him.

As one of the most significant figures in southern gospel music, James D. Vaughan was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1997.



James D. Vaughan, “the father of southern gospel music,” was born on December 14, 1864 in Giles County, Tennessee. Vaughan grew up in Middle Tennessee surrounded by the sounds of gospel music. As a teenager, he attended his first singing school and showed an early aptitude for shaped note music. By the age of eighteen, Vaughan was teaching singing classes. Shortly thereafter, Vaughan started his first male gospel quartet with his brothers to advertise his school throughout the region.

After his marriage in 1890, Vaughan and his family moved to Texas. Vaughan began a new aspect of his music career in the Lone Star State after attending a singing school directed by Ephraim T. Hildebrand, operator of the Hildebrand Burnett Music Company. Hildebrand’s visit encouraged Vaughan to try writing his own gospel songs. By 1896, he was a published writer in the shaped note gospel collection, Crowning Day No. 2. After a devastating tornado hit their Texas town, the Vaughans moved back to Giles County, Tennessee, where James became a school principal at Elkmont Springs School.

Upon returning to Tennessee, Vaughan began to publish his own music. In 1900, he published Gospel Chimes, a volume of shaped note hymns. In 1903, Vaughan founded the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Over the next six years, his company averaged sales of sixty thousand songbooks a month.

Vaughan’s most significant business decision came in 1910 when he revived the idea of the professional quartet. He hired a group of four male singers to travel around the local area and sing in churches, singing schools, or anywhere someone would let them perform, in order to promote Vaughan’s music books. In its first engagement at the Cumberland Presbyterian Assembly in Dickson, Tennessee, the Vaughan Quartet sold five thousand songbooks to a crowd of fifteen hundred. The success of the traveling quartet underpinned the beginning of both Vaughan’s media empire and the professionalization of southern gospel music. Within a few years, Vaughan employed sixteen quartets, purchased a Ford automobile for the company, and sponsored trips as far away as Illinois.

Vaughan was a master at marketing his company and created a model for Tennessee’s burgeoning music business. In addition to his professional quartet system, Vaughan started a subscription newsletter known as the Vaughan Family Visitor. Subscribers received spiritual advice along with advertisements about Vaughan’s songbooks and quartet appearances. The Visitor kept Vaughan in touch with his consumers on a monthly basis. By the mid-1920s, the Visitor boasted greater circulation than any other southern music journal and published continuously until the late 1960s.

In November 1922, Vaughan took his music empire further into the modern age by purchasing WOAN, the first commercially licensed radio station in Tennessee. WOAN reached visitors as far away as Canada with gospel music and advertisements about the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company. The radio station coupled with the Vaughan Family Visitor made James D. Vaughan a household name in the South during the 1920s. By 1929, however, the station proved unprofitable and Vaughan sold it. For a short time, he tried his hand at recording with the Vaughan Phonograph Company, but neither radio nor records gave him as much success as his songbooks and quartets.

Over his lifetime, James D. Vaughan wrote more than five hundred songs, printed and sold over six million gospel songbooks, founded the first radio station in the state, and pioneered professional southern gospel music. He died on February 9, 1941, at his home in Lawrenceburg. The community of Lawrenceburg and the southern gospel community remember Vaughan as a pioneer who found his strength in his God. Downtown Lawrenceburg has honored Vaughan with many memorials, including the Vaughan Memorial Nazarene Church and the James D. Vaughan Museum.

Bethany L. Hawkins, Automobile Museum, Nashville

Suggested Reading(s): Jo Lee Fleming, “James D. Vaughan, Music Publisher, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, 1912-1964,” Ph.D. diss., Union Theological Seminary, 1971; James R. Goff Jr., Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel (2002).

Text copyright© 1998 by the Tennessee Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee.
Online Edition copyright© 2002 The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee. All Rights Reserved.


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