Photos courtesy of Cedric N. Chatterley
Types of Artistry
Gospel singer and composer
Marshall, NC (Madison County)
One of Melissa Chandler's earliest musical memories is of her father, who played country music, practicing at home. "I would climb into his guitar case," she remembers, "and sing along as he picked." She could hardly have helped but grow up musical, being a member of Madison County's great singing families. The granddaughter of ballad singer Evelyn Ramsey, she is close kin to the Wallins and Nortons and all their singing cousins. "My grandparents always encouraged us to sing at their house, and if you visited someone else's porch there would be singing eventually."
As a girl, she enjoyed spending time with her ballad-singing relatives. "I tell you, growing up with those people was a hoot. I used to stay with Cas [Wallin] and his wife Virgie all the time. We would all go to the festivals together, and it was always funny—Cas would be singing one song in the front seat, Virgie would be singing another in the back. Coming from them it was like the most special gift in the world."
Her father's life-changing religious experience when Chandler was a young teenager influenced her own spiritual path. "Since my dad had never darkened the church door before, we knew it had to be the Lord. I started going [to church], too. We had a large church choir mostly composed of many of my Norton/Wallin cousins, and that's how I began to sing gospel songs."
In Melissa Chandler's singing, one hears her powerful spiritual conviction, her natural talent, and the heritage of the generations of master singers who are her ancestors. She has performed at churches and fairs throughout the South, and has been part of the groups Blood Bought, Mercy & Grace, and the Easter Gap Choir. Her music—much of which is of her own composition—has a strong element of country, and the sounds of a classic country band complement her voice. "I've been asked many times over the years why do I continue with gospel music instead of branching off into country or bluegrass. My only reply is because God has been so good to me, it is the least I can do for Him."
Melissa Chandler is available for performances.